Just south of Bellingham, WA and its Fairhaven district, you have access to a unique range of recreational options in the scenic Chuckanut Mountains. “The Chuckanuts” are unique in that they are the only part of the Cascade Range where the mountains come down to meet the sea. There is a well-connected network of trails that wind up and through this mountainous range. You can expect to find people trail running, walking their dogs, mountain biking, and equestrians as well. It is a multi-sport paradise that offers great challenges or access to the simple pleasures of nature- just being OUT THERE.
From the North Chuckanut Trailhead parking lot, you can access the popular Interurban Trail that connects Bellingham to Larrabee State Park and many points of interest along the way. We set our sights on nearby Teddy Bear Cove. The trail from the parking lot off of Chuckanut Drive climbs up briefly and connects with the Interurban trail near California Street. Heading south, you’ll cruise along the flat, wide-open path under the cover of trees. Once you come to parallel Chuckanut Drive look to the right for stairs leading down to the road that will allow you to cross to the trailhead. You’ll see the large sign inviting you to “come on down” the trail to the beach.
The steep trail dives down a series of switchbacks through the forested hillside. Once to the bottom, you’ll cross over the tracks and have your choice of two beaches to take in the beauty where the mountains meet the bay. We chose to go to the north beach first. From the north beach, you can see the lower end of Woodstock Farm and the north end of Clark’s Point. This seems to be the less popular of the two beaches so we had the place to ourselves for a while- it was also a cold January day which helped a bit as well.
We were fortunate to have a bright sunny day- that almost made it feel like we were in some tropical paradise with the mixture of the clear blue/green water and white sandy beach. Upon closer examination, it is not white sand that comprises the beaches at Teddy Bear Cove. The beaches are the consequence of centuries of ground up clam and other sea shells, “Archeological evidence suggests that this unusual concentration of seashell fragments may actually be the eroded remains of shell middens, the refuse piles from centuries of shellfish gathering and processing” Kulshan.com.
After enjoying a snack and watching one of the resident herons look for her own tasty morsels, we headed up and out on the promontory to gain perspective on the place we had just claimed as our own for the afternoon. Looking back down on the beach we could see our names written in the “sand”. The luxury of having the beach to ourselves for that brief time was priceless. We were able to soak in the simple sounds of nature and the smells of the marine world in our midst.
As we explored the trails on the point we walked through a small stand of Madrona trees with their unique peeling bark and smooth undercoats. Our gaze now turned southward over the expanse of Chuckanut Bay, Dot Island, Clark’s Point and beyond to Skagit County. Clouds had settled in on the distant horizon, shrouding the majestic Olympic Mountains that are visible from this vantage point. We climbed down to the south beach watching the wildlife and the changing landscape as the sun shifted through the sky. We went out in search of nothing and found everything we needed in this cozy little cove.
To North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead: Take I-5 Exit 250 and follow Old Fairhaven Parkway / SR 11 west 1.3 miles to 12th Street. Turn Left and follow Chuckanut Drive / SR11 south 1.5 miles to trailhead parking area on the left.
To Teddy Bear Cove: From the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead, hike 0.2 miles up Hemlock Trail to the Interurban Trail, then head south for about 0.5 miles to a spur across Chuckanut Drive to the Teddy Bear Cove trail. It is 0.2 more miles down to the beach.
Map Credit: Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department