Like most of the Pacific Northwest, Bellingham and the surrounding area is full of outdoor adventures. Whether you like the Mountains or the ocean, in Bellingham you don’t have to choose. From the Bay, you can often see the North Cascades, and from the surrounding hill areas, you have stunning views of the San Juan Islands. It truly is the best of both worlds for outdoor enthusiasts, which is why many flock to the area during the summer months.
While the Pacific Northwest, Bellingham included, is often known for its rainy, gloomy weather, Bellingham gets 160 days of sun a year. Most of those days of sun happen from Early June to late September. The moderate temperatures, often in the mid 70s in the summer, make for the perfect outdoor weather. If you are looking to check out the sound and the summits, Bellingham is the perfect place to plan a few adventures.
While the hikes highlighted below are specifically in the outer reaches of Bellingham, there are hundreds of stunning hikes in the area. Whether you are hiking in Bellingham or the greater Whatcom County or using Bellingham as a hub to reach the North Cascades, there are too many hikes to count. The Cascades provide a plethora of unmatched hiking and backpacking trails that are only a quick car trip away from Bellingham. Hikers in Bellingham can experience some of the best alpine hiking in the world while also enjoying coastal hikes in their own backyards.
Oyster Dome is an exceptionally popular hike on Chuckanut drive. On any given Saturday or Sunday in the summer, Chuckanut drive will be lined with cars from hikers headed up to Oyster Dome. Oyster Dome is a 6 mile out and back hike with an elevation gain of 1050 feet. This hike does not have a trail parking lot, so you will need to park on the side of the road on Chuckanut Drive. This is a busy road with limited visibility, so make sure that you park as far off the road as possible.
You will hike in the woods for most of the 3-mile trip, quickly gaining elevation as you go. This is a family-friendly hike, so there are no cliffs as you are making your way to the summit. The hike up is mostly in the woods, providing hikers with shade from the summer sun. Once you reach the top, there are stunning views of the Sanu Juan Islands. The top has a reasonably large opening from the trees where many hikers set up hammocks, eat lunch and take in the views.
Fragrance Lake Trail
Fragrance Lake is also on Chuckanut drive and is another very popular hike in the Bellingham area. Just as the name suggests, Fragrance lake trail leads you to fragrance lake. The lake is an excellent swimming hole with clean, cool water. Some hikers are known to bring floaties with them to spend the afternoon floating in the lake. Parking is limited, so be prepared to park on the road.
This hike is 5.5 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 950 feet, making it accessible to most hikers. It features a wide dirt trail to the top where the lake is located. While many hikers choose to stop when they reach the lake, the trail does circumnavigate the entire lake, providing many different spots to get down to the water. Pack a lunch and a towel because you will want to spend time hanging out here during warm days in the summer.
In addition to the many hiking trails, there are several great walking paths and trails as well. The below trails have paved portions that are wheelchair accessible and offer great views of the Bay and lakes.
Lake Padden is home to swimming areas, a dog park, a baseball field, seven miles of trails. On any given day, this area is packed with all sorts of recreational, from runners, walkers, and hikers to horseback riders, bikers, swimmers, paddleboarders, and kayakers.
The lake Padden features a large section of trail on the north side of the lake that is pavement. The back half of the lake and a number of trails that branch out are not paved, but many of them are exceptionally wide. There is minimal elevation gain on the north side of the lake and only a few hundred feet on the south side. If you are looking for a family day full of activities, Lake Padden is excellent for its trails and other activities.
Bellingham Board Walk
The Bellingham Boardwalk is another popular spot to check out. Spanning from Taylor’s dock to Boundary Bay Brewing Company in Downtown Bellingham, this walking path is stunning. The entirety of the path offers views of Bellingham Bay, and several parts offer walking on docks. The trail begins in the Fairhaven area of Bellingham and expands into the downtown area. This beautiful walking path goes through Boulevard park, where you can stop at Woods Coffee. Gravel trails supplement the boardwalk section through some sections, but you get to enjoy ocean views the whole walk.
Activities near the Water
While you can’t do anything in Bellingham without being near the water, the below activities are for those who want to venture into the Bay. With calm waters and reliable tides, Bellingham Bay is great for water activities of all kinds.
Teddy Bear Cove
Teddy Bear Cove is a beach area off of Chuckanut Drive that is perfect for swimming, beachcombing, kayaking, and more. This area is well-known and is a great way to feel like you have a private beach with a view of the San Juan Islands. While many people know Teddy Bear Cove as a swimming location, there is an even better reason that it made it onto this list.
Teddy Bear Cove is also known for Bioluminescence. Bioluminescence are living organisms that produce light. These microorganisms produce a blue, glowing light in the water in Teddy Bear Cove during the summer months. In particular, during July and August, Bioluminescence can be found in the cove when the moon is at its least dark. In order to see this magical show, head to Teddy Bear Cove on Hot summer nights when there is little light pollution and no wind. These will be the best conditions to try and catch a glimpse of the blue glow.
Some people enjoy night kayaking in this area to catch the Bioluminescence. If you carefully check for ideal tide conditions, the cove gives your protection from the broader Bay and allows kayakers to experience peaceful conditions. Make sure to check the weather, tides and wear a life jacket if you are going to put any watercraft into Teddy Bear Cove at night.
Just up the road from Larrabee State Park is a public boat launch. This area is a trendy kayaking spot because of the incredible sunset views. On clear, warm days, there will be a few dozen kayakers and paddleboarders just off the shore waiting for sunset. This spot is ideal because you do not have to kayak very far to get a view. Just a few hundred feet from the launch will put you in a perfect viewing area for the summer sunsets.
As with any water activity, make sure to check the tide and be aware of which way you are moving once you put it into the water. While most tides are mild in this area, occasionally 12-14 foot tides move in and out of the Bay very quickly. There is a $10 fee to park at the boat launch that is cash only.
Kayaking and Paddle Boarding Bellingham Bay
Kayaking and Paddle Boarding is a Pacific Northwest pastime. Because the weather is only suitable for a short window during the year, June, July, August, and September are very busy water sports. If you head to any body of water in the Bellingham area during the summer, you are sure to catch someone enjoying the water.
Kayaking or Paddleboarding Bellingham Bay is a fun way to spend the day. There are a number of places you can launch from, and the water off of Boulevard park is often very calm. If you do not have access to a paddleboard or kayak, there are a number of companies that do tours and rentals to help you get in the water.
Bellingham has an amazing collection of outdoor activities. The beautiful, mild weather in the summertime makes it perfect for outdoor activities, and the Mountains and Ocean provide a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
Check back into the Clever Neighbor to find out more about things to do in Bellingham.