So many hikes, so little time!
Those of us who live in Whatcom County are fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty every day. Many of us take advantage of our surroundings, getting out to bike, hike, paddle and more – but how many of us also get stuck in a rut, going to our old standbys, and not exploring a little further?
Here are three hikes if you haven’t already put them on your go-to list to check out. These hikes are good for little legs because they aren’t too long or include much elevation gain, and are accessible year round. These three hikes are clustered east of Bellingham, near Lake Whatcom. I’ll share some other hikes in future blogs that explore other parts of the county.
Stimpson Family Nature Reserve
From the Lakeway Exit at Interstate 5, the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve trail is approximately 5 miles away, about a 15-minute drive. Don’t let the proximity to town deceive you, this stand of old-growth forest feels like it could be in the middle of the wilderness, miles from anywhere.
Towering cedars and Douglas fir provide a lush green canopy for this trail, which includes two loop options: At 2 miles, the Geneva pond is the shorter of the two trails, with minimal hills, making it the optimal choice for littler hikers. The main loop is 3.2 miles around, and includes some steep inclines. (Hikers note: Choosing to head clockwise around the loop brings more uphill challenge, but going counterclockwise means your last leg of the hike will be up hill.)
The first tenth of a mile on the trail is wide and flat, perfect for strollers or wheelchairs. The flat section ends with a beautiful lookout over Beaver Pond, and is worth the drive even for this short walk, for example if you are entertaining an elderly relative who can’t make it far but still has a love of the great outdoors.
Wildlife is everywhere if you trek quietly and keep your eyes and ears aware. You may spot deer or beaver. I once rounded a corner and came nose to nose with a deer, and my kids and I spotted a beaver in Gevena pond on a winter’s walk. You may catch a glimpse of a downy or pileated woodpecker, and I’ve even been surprised to see an owl!
Note that since this is a nature reserve, no dogs, horses or bikes are allowed on the trail. Also good to note, restroom facilities are available at the trailhead.
Lake Louise Road, Bellingham
From Bellingham, drive east, on Lakeway Drive (I-5 exit #253). Lakeway eventually becomes Cable Street. As it descends the last hill (Lake Whatcom in sight ahead) turn right onto Austin Street; this is at a well-marked pedestrian crossing. This street becomes Lake Louise Road. Look for the trailhead 1.5 miles ahead; the parking lot on the left. A WTA bus stop is directly across the street, making this trail accessible via public transportation.
Lookout Mountain Forest Preserve
Newer to the Whatcom County Parks system, this preserve is just down the road from Stimpson. Built along an old logging road, the small system of trails includes a waterfall and views of Lake Whatcom. More intrepid hikers can follow the service road out of the preserve lands and up to the top of the mountain. (For details, check out summitpost.org.)
The Lower Lookout trail starts near the restrooms and meanders up and down mostly gentle hills through evergreen and deciduous trees. Ladies’ slipper and other wildflowers grace the trail in spring. The trail’s name is a hint that the low spots on the “lower” trail can get muddy in the wet season.
The Waterfall trail is accessed by taking the service road up a scant half mile to the trail on the right. (To the left, the Lower Lookout trail pops out here.) The waterfall is only a quarter-mile uphill from this point. In early summer, the trail is lined with little white flowers, which make the trail look perfectly enchanted. Depending on the time of year, the waterfall might be little more than a trickle, but it’s still an excellent payoff for an easy hike.
Just beyond the start of the Waterfall trail is another, longer loop trail. Marked as a two-mile loop, my kids and I swear it’s longer! Perhaps that is because it takes you through a variety of wooden terrain, including a steep, sustained incline. An offshoot from this trail goes another four-tenths of a mile to view point of Lake Whatcom. I find this trail especially beautiful during the winter.
2357 Lake Louise Road, Bellingham WA
Take the same route as headed to Stimpson trail, above. Continue past this trailhead for another 1.8 miles. The Lookout Mountain trailhead is on the right. A WTA bus stop is located in front of the parking area.
Travel bonus: Both Stimpson and Lookout Mountain trails are near to Sudden Valley. Here you can find both the Valley Market for snacks and gas, and local favorite Tino’s Pizza. This can be a great stop for an after-hike pie, pinball for the kids and a beer for mom and dad.
North Lake Whatcom Trail
This relatively flat, wide trail (also known as the Hertz trail) was once a railroad grade and heads along the lake for three miles – six miles total out and back. You’ll know you’ve reached the end when you run across the No Trespassing sign.
The trail is an easy walk for little legs and also good for bikes. Dogs on leash are welcomed.
The trail features cool, tree-covered mossy spots and other spots where dappled sun shines through the Madrona trees. A lovely waterfall greets you at the one-mile mark.
Along the way you’ll be treated to views of the lake and access to rocky beaches. The kids may be happy just playing with rocks at one of these spots. It could also be the perfect spot for a picnic lunch sitting on a log.
I am particularly fond of this trail in the late summer or early fall when the mosquitoes have died down yet there’s still plenty of sun.
From Bellingham, drive around the lake on North Shore Drive to Agate Bay. Stay to the right and then go left in 2.5 miles to the trailhead. It is just past a bridge over Smith Creek.
These are just three suggestions for hikes near Lake Whatcom. Have more? Leave a comment.