Explore Scenic Bellingham and Whatcom County Like a Local

Outdoor recreation is the number one reason so many adventurous folks choose to live in Bellingham and Whatcom County. Situated between the Salish Sea and the North Cascade mountains, Whatcom County is a land of towering peaks, serene forests, countless trails, and endless outdoor opportunities. Whether you’re interested in hiking, exploring public parks, paddling, snow sports, or simply taking a scenic drive, there’s something for everyone here. 

Safely Getting Outside

When spending time outside in Bellingham, it’s important to recreate responsibly and always be prepared with a map and your 10 Essentials including water, rain gear, and sunscreen. 

Larrabee State Park

Washington’s first state park, Larrabee State Park has been a local favorite since its opening in 1915. Over 100 years later, this 2,748-acre camping park offers 8,100 feet of saltwater shoreline on Samish Bay.

Home to camping, hiking, mountain biking, and scenic waterfront views, Larrabee State Park and Chuckanut Drive are #1 on our list of 10 Must-Dos in Historic Fairhaven.

Explore the park with a hike to Fragrance Lake or an easy walk to the beach. Then, continue down Chuckanut Drive to Taylor Shellfish for fresh oysters — or head north into Fairhaven for even more dining options.

Travel Tip: A Discover Pass is required for parking.

Hovander Homestead Park

Visit the countryside farm at Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale for access to easy walking trails and a breath of fresh air. This rural county park encompasses a sprawling 350 acres and features everything from farmyard animals to a fragrance garden and boardwalk at Tennant Lake. It’s the perfect place to walk the dog, stretch your legs, and let the kids run around outside. Climb the wildlife viewing tower for views across the wetlands to Mount Baker. 

With access to a huge red barn and historic Victorian home (a National Historic Site in fact), Hovander makes our list of the Most Instagrammable Spots in Whatcom County

Semiahmoo Spit

Between Birch Bay and Blaine, Semiahmoo Spit is a mile-long beach and one of our favorite spots for a sunset stroll or an afternoon of world-class birdwatching. The spit is also excellent for beachcombing, riding your bike, or enjoying a picnic. Plus, if you’re looking for somewhere to stay (or eat and drink), Semiahmoo Resort is located nearby.

Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Best for solitude and serenity

For those in need of a forest bathing experience, Stimpson Family Nature Reserve delivers 350 acres of undisturbed old-growth. This ancient forest features Douglas Fir trees that are over 400 years old! Walk beneath the lush canopy to access two loop trails. Both are fairly short, offering over 4 miles of hiking trails in total. With its natural serenity, Stimpson is included as one of Whatcom County's 10 Best Walking Trails!

Chanterelle Trail

Best year-round moderate hike

If you’re looking for a trail that checks all the boxes, the Chanterelle Trail may be the one. Open to hikers and mountain bikers year-round, this trail is great for kids, leashed dogs, and just about anyone looking for a good hike within Bellingham city limits. It’s moderately challenging (4.8 miles round-trip with 1,000 feet of elevation gain) and offers options for extending your hike or making a loop. And, of course, the payoff is oh-so-worth-it. From the overlook, you’ll enjoy expansive views across Lake Whatcom to Lookout Mountain, Bellingham Bay, and beyond. 

Pine and Cedar Lakes

Best challenging lake trail

A Bellingham classic, the trail to Pine and Cedar Lakes is no joke. Gaining 1,400 feet in 5 miles round-trip, it sounds pretty moderate. But don’t be fooled by the numbers — this trail is a local training ground for bigger, more challenging mountain climbs. That’s because most of the elevation gain happens in the first mile or so.

Once you make it up this steep initial ascent, the trail eases up and leads to two picturesque lakes nestled in the evergreen forest of the Chuckanut Mountains. These are just a few local favorite hikes near Bellingham.


Picture Lake and Artist Point

It’s hard to beat the views at the end of the Mount Baker Highway. Mount Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake is a timeless portrait of Whatcom County and the North Cascades — one of those classic scenes everyone should see at least once. You can experience this incredible viewpoint year-round. Take a walk on the 0.5-mile paved trail that encircles the lake or you can simply stop for a quick photo. With a name like Picture Lake its no wonder we also ranked it #1 on our list of Most Instagrammable Spots in Whatcom County!

A few more miles up the road, Artist Point marks the end of the highway. From this mile-high parking lot, you’re surrounded by the mountains of the North Cascades. Take in views of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, and Table Mountain from the parking lot, or go for a hike if conditions allow. During winter, you can also snowshoe to Artist Point!

Oyster Dome

Perhaps the most famous hike near Bellingham, Oyster Dome is another can’t-miss destination. Located on Blanchard Mountain (part of the Chuckanut Mountains), the dome is a 2,000-foot rock perch overlook with 180-degree views of the Salish Sea and San Juan Islands. If you’re not up for a hike, the view from the parking lot at Samish Overlook is nearly as good as the dome.

Travel Tip: Discover Pass required for parking.

Diablo Lake Overlook

Located high above the turquoise waters of Diablo Lake, this overlook is an absolute must-stop on the North Cascades Highway (SR-20). Snow-covered peaks drop precipitously to the glacier-fed lake, whose waters are actually a dammed section of the Skagit River. The striking color of water combined with the mountain views makes this location one of the most photogenic places in the state of Washington. 

Travel Tip: Visit in July and August when the water is most turquoise. 

Snow Sports 

During winter, Whatcom County transforms into a snowy playground. Most of the action happens near the end of the Mount Baker Highway at the Mount Baker Ski Area. Whether you’re into skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing, there’s something for everyone. 

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Mt. Baker Ski Area is legendary for its powder and annual snowfall. It has the longest season in Washington State and is known for getting the most snow in North America. During the 1998-1999 season, the ski area set a snowfall world record with 1,140 inches! Snowboarders and downhill skiers enjoy a variety of terrain, day lodges, ski lessons, and rentals.

If cross-country skiing is more your speed, you’ll find excellent resources on the Nooksack Nordic Ski Club website.

Snowshoeing

Whether you’re new to snowshoeing or a seasoned winter trekker, Whatcom County offers a variety of trails for all abilities. 

Need gear? In Bellingham, you can rent snowshoes, skis and more at Backcountry Essentials.  

Whatcom County’s 100+ miles of saltwater shoreline and freshwater lakes offer plenty of kayaking opportunities. We have over 22 water trails in the county, from Lake Samish and Lake Whatcom to Point Roberts’ Lighthouse Marine Park, Semiahmoo Resort, Larrabee State Park, and Birch Bay State Park. We also have two companies that offer recreational kayak excursions: Moondance Kayak and Dragonfly Kayak Tours.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
Visitor Center Located at I-5 Exit 253 - Check Hours
904 Potter Street, Bellingham, WA 98229
Phone: 360-671-3990
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