Fall Foliage Walks in Bellingham and Whatcom County

Fall is an amazing time of year for walking and hiking in Bellingham and Whatcom County. Cooler temperatures, warmer colors, and fewer crowds make for ideal wandering conditions. During autumn, it's easy to find both solitude and colorful foliage. 

Before setting out on an autumn stroll, you’ll want to be prepared for fall weather! Bring layers, rain protection, and remember to always recreate responsibly. For longer hikes, be sure to also check trail conditions and parking permit requirements ahead of time. 

Sehome Hill Arboretum

Rising from Western Washington University’s (WWU) campus, Sehome Hill Arboretum is a fall favorite for students, staff, and the general public. Over 6 miles of trails wind through the forested park, whose bigleaf maple trees provide plenty of crunchy leaves underfoot. Don’t miss the sandstone tunnel, carved out in 1922 to allow vehicle access. And no trip to the arboretum is complete without a stop at the 80-foot observation tower. Consult the park map to find your way to the top. 

Park in the off-street gravel lot on Arboretum Drive (north end of 25th Street) for a longer hike north through the park or drive to the end of Arboretum Drive and park atop the hill for easy access to the tunnel and observation tower. 

WWU Outdoor Sculpture Garden

From the arboretum, take one of the many trails leading down to the WWU campus. Home to more than 36 outdoor sculptures, Western’s collection is celebrated as one of the top university collections in the entire United States. Wander the red-brick campus in search of art and color. Or plan ahead by visiting the WWU Outdoor Sculpture Garden site for a handy map, descriptions of each installation, and multimedia tours.

Lake Whatcom Hertz Trail

Running for three miles along Lake Whatcom’s shoreline, the Hertz Trail features covered bridges, quiet beaches, and calming fall colors. This railroad-turned-trail once served the Blue Canyon Mines at the south end of the lake. Today, it’s an easy hike for all ages. Walk along a soft path of orange and yellow maple leaves in the fall on this scenic lakeside stroll. 

See the Whatcom County Parks & Recreation Page for information about closures. 

Chanterelle Trail

If you’re looking for a longer hike from Lake Whatcom Park, try the Chanterelle Trail. Originally built as a 2.4-mile (one way) trail to an overlook above the lake, this trail was extended during the summer of 2019 for an additional 2.6 miles. You can now hike up to 10 miles (round-trip) on the Chanterelle Trail. 

For a loop hike, connect the Chanterelle Trail with the Hertz trail using the new Hertz Connector Trail, completed in 2023. Be advised that this option involves lots of stairs!

Whatcom Falls Park

Bellingham’s favorite waterfall is perhaps best viewed in the fall. As rain returns to the region, the falls swell beneath a canopy of colorful leaves. Walk along several miles of forested trails throughout the park, or simply stop by to see the falls from a 1939-built Stone Bridge — located just a few hundred paces from the parking lot. Learn more about what to discover in Whatcom Falls Park here

Picture Lake

Drive the scenic Mount Baker Highway for 54 miles east of Bellingham to take in one of the finest views in Whatcom County: Mount Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake. With a fresh dusting of snow on Mount Shuksan and an array of fall colors, Picture Lake is especially picturesque during autumn. Walk the 0.5-mile, ADA-accessible loop trail around the lake for views from every angle. This trail tends to get busy, so plan to visit during off-peak times if you can. 

Bagley Lakes

Drive another 0.5 miles beyond Picture Lake on Mount Baker Highway to reach Heather Meadows and the trailhead for Bagley Lakes. Situated in a cirque beneath towering Table Mountain, these sparkling alpine lakes can be explored via an easy 2-mile loop trail. Or you can simply take the views in from the Heather Meadows Visitor Center. Whichever you choose, you’ll be treated to seasonal fall colors galore. This area may be inaccessible due to snow after October — check the latest conditions before setting out.

Interurban Trail

Among the many hiking trails that traverse the Chuckanut Mountains, the Interurban Trail is the most gentle. At 6 miles (one way) in length, this mostly flat former trolley line is wide and well-used by walkers, bikers, and joggers. Running from Fairhaven Village to Larrabee State Park, the trail parallels Chuckanut Drive — another hotspot for Mother Nature’s fall show. Park at the roomy lot in Fairhaven Park to begin near town. Or, drive south on Chuckanut Drive from Fairhaven to access the trail from its Arroyo Park and North Chuckanut Mountain trailheads. 

Chuckanut Mountain Trails

Several hiking trails spur off of the Interurban Trail, reaching deep into the Chuckanut Mountains. At the north end (near Arroyo Park), consider visiting Chuckanut Falls after a good rain. From here you can continue along the Hemlock Trail to Raptor Ridge and Pine and Cedar Lakes for a more challenging hike. Further south in Larrabee State Park, the Interurban Trail intersects with the popular Fragrance Lake Trail — another favorite fall hike. 

Baker Lake Trail

Accessed via North Cascades Highway (State Route 20), 9-mile long Baker Lake is a buzzing recreational hub during summertime. Come fall, it chills out (literally) and brightens with the colors of the season. Take an easy 2-mile (one-way) hike along South Baker Lake Trail to Anderson Point for views across the lake to Mount Baker. Or continue to Maple Grove for an 8-mile roundtrip hike. Watch for vibrant mushrooms along the leaf-lined path. You can even backpack in for year-round camping at either destination. In total, the Baker Lake Trail runs 14 miles (one way) along the lakeshore. 

Lake Hikes in North Cascades National Park 

Some of the most accessible sites in the North Cascades National Park Complex are located within Whatcom County. Visit the Ross Lake National Recreation Area in the park to experience Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, and Gorge Lake. These lakes are actually dammed sections of the Skagit River. You can visit all three lakes (and their respective dams).

Walk across Ross Dam on the Ross Dam Trail to access Ross Lake Resort and an extensive network of long-distance trails. Or drive across Diablo Dam to access the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center — located on the shores of Diablo Lake.

Ladder Creek Falls in Newhalem 

For a relatively easy, family-friendly fall hike, check out Ladder Creek Falls in Newhalem, located on the edge of North Cascades National Park. This quick .5 mile hike is located behind the Gorge Power House and takes you up to a misty waterfall.

All year round, a light show illuminates the falls and surrounding plant life after dusk, creating a spectacle that both kids and parents will enjoy. 

        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.
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