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Fragrance Lake

Puget Sound and Islands > Bellingham Area
48.6534, -122.4902 Map & Directions
Length
5.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
950 feet
Highest Point
1050 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Moderate
Fragrance Lake. Photo by Steven Payne. Full-size image
  • Mountain views
  • Old growth
  • Good for kids
  • Lakes
  • Dogs allowed on leash

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

The year-round, dog-friendly day hike to Fragrance Lake in the Chuckanut Recreation Area is popular with college students and faculty from Western Washington University in nearby Bellingham, and with day visitors and car campers at Larrabee State Park. On a sunny weekend afternoon you could easily lose count of the number of smiles and “hullos” you’ll exchange! Continue reading

Rating
3.77 out of 5

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Hiking Fragrance Lake

Fragrance Lake is part of Larrabee State Park, which became Washington’s first state park after a 20-acre parcel of land was donated by the Larrabee family in 1915. The park now accounts for a third of the Chuckanut Recreation Area’s 8,000 acres of public land.

The Fragrance Lake trailhead is on Chuckanut Drive, directly across from the main entrance to Larrabee State Park. You’ll find a small parking area to the left just past the ranger station, or, if space is available, there are a dozen parking spots on the east side of Chuckanut Drive. A Discover Pass is required in either lot. A pass kiosk, water and flush toilets are available in the park.

Because the trail sees a lot of boots, it gets a lot of trail maintenance attention from WTA. Apart from one perpetually muddy section, the wide trail does a great job of sloughing off rain. Switchbacks take the bite out of the steeper sections. Many nearby trails allow backpackers, equestrian and mountain bike use, but the trail to Fragrance Lake is restricted to day hikers and (leashed) dogs. There are “kissing gates” at either end of the trail to help with enforcement.

After a mile of steady uphill hiking through old-growth forest, arrive at a junction to a short spur trail that ends at an unexpected viewpoint of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. Back on the main trail, enjoy a brief downhill stretch before the trail steepens on the way up to the lake. At the next junction, continue left for two tenths of a mile and arrive at Fragrance Lake. Whoever was responsible for the name must have been inspired by the tall trees that completely surround the lake, and the rich scents of bark, pine and soil they provide as the breeze wafts by.

Shed your pack and have a snack! There’s a 0.6-mile loop trail along the shore that provides additional viewpoints and privacy. Rockhounds will love exploring the huge boulders on the west side of the lake. If the weather is good and the body is willing, wade in and cool your feet. Or swim out and join the trout for more frigid exercise.

Head back the way you came, skipping the spur trail on the return. Strong hikers with map in hand could continue to Lost Lake to add another 5.5 miles and 860 feet of cumulative gain to their day. A car drop or key exchange hike might incorporate the recently constructed Rock Trail.

WTA Pro-Tip: To replenish calories, pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sandy beach or lush lawns at Larrabee State Park. If you’re headed back north to Bellingham, it’s hard to beat all-day breakfast at the Old Town Cafe. The drive south on Chuckanut Drive passes several spendy seafood options. For lighter fare and more reasonable prices, hold on for the Train Wreck Bar & Grill in Burlington or the Skagit River Brewery in Mount Vernon.

WTA worked here in 2021, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010!

Hike Description Written by
Steven Payne, WTA Correspondent

Fragrance Lake

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.6534, -122.4902 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

See weather forecast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

From Mount Vernon head north on I-5 to exit 231, then navigate the roundabouts to head north on State Route 11/Chuckanut Drive. At approximately 15 miles, turn left into main entrance of Larrabee State Park, or look for trailhead parking on the right. From Bellingham, head south on SR 11 for 7 miles.

More Hike Details

Trailhead

Puget Sound and Islands > Bellingham Area

Washington State Parks

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Square One Chuckanut Recreation Area

USGS Bellingham South

Blanchard Forest and Chuckanut Mtn Trail Systems DNR PDF Map: https://bit.ly/2SaAPL9

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Fragrance Lake

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