You don't need to go all the way to Mount Baker for your hiking fix. From the lofty heights of the Chuckanuts to beach-combing on Padilla Bay, Bellingham is just minutes from an incredible diversity of trails.
Try one of our suggestions below or share your local favorite in a trip report.
Is it really a 30-minute drive? Your starting point and traffic may make these 5 minutes or 40 minutes away. And if you're taking a bus, it may take quite a bit longer to reach the trailhead. (Be sure to double check routes and schedules.)
Location: Chuckanut Drive -- south of Larabee State Park
Mileage: 5.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1050 feet
A local favorite, you won't find solitude on Oyster Dome. What you will find are fabulous views high over Puget Sound and out to the Olympics, big boulders to play on, a great workout, and bats. It's a place that fuels the imagination and can refuel you on a winter's day.
The trail should be snow-free most of the winter, but you'll want to watch for ice, especially on the boulders. The route follows the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) as it heads into the Chuckanuts — a small patch of mountains tucked in between Puget Sound and I-5 south of Bellingham.
Location: North Cascades, near Sedro-Woolley
Mileage: 45 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 60 feet
Looking for someplace to stretch your legs? This 22.5-mile rail trail has the feel of walking down a country lane as it follows the abandoned Burlington Northern grade connecting the towns of Sedro Woolley and Concrete. It's great for recovering knees and can be accessed from three trailheads off of the North Cascades Highway. No matter how far you make it, you'll start in the fertile farmland of the Skagit Valley and meander back and forth between the Skagit River and the highway. In winter, keep your eyes peeled for tundra swans and snow geese poking about in the fields.
Stimpson Nature Reserve
Location: South of Whatcom Falls Park
Mileage: 4.9 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 feet
Public Transportation: Yes
Explore this wonderful example of low-elevation old-growth forest. In addition to wandering among giant trees, you will find small waterfalls, vibrant wetlands and quiet ponds. This is a wildlife preserve and with a little patience you can see some of the many creatures that thrive in this special area. An easy three mile loop takes you past an active beaver pond and an enormous old growth fir tree. No bicycles or pets are allowed on this family friendly hike.
Fragrance and Lost Lakes
Location: Larrabee State Park
Mileage: 5.5 miles; 9.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 950 feet; 1950 feet
Two well-loved trails in Larrabee State Park maintained yearly by WTA volunteers lead you through the varied wonders of this local treasure. From the mossy ferns that grow under a towering canopy to beach views, these two trails will trick you into thinking you're far from civilization.
Fragrance is a sweet 5-mile roundtrip outside Bellingham that climbs above the Sound for vistas encompassing Samish Bay, Lummi Island, and the San Juan Islands. A hiker-only trail leads to cedar and Douglas-fir encircled Fragrance Lake.
Add on a side trip to Lost Lake for a few more miles. (WTA is helping build a new trail, the Rock Trail, that will also lead to Lost Lake from the Cyrus Gates Overlook.)
Location: Between Bellingham and Burlington
Mileage: 4.0 miles, round trip
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
When Bellingham is blanketed by fog, this may be the one to try for sun. This trail takes the south route up to a Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNNST) segment that runs from Alger through Squire Lake Park has a divergence to the top of "Alger Alp". You'll use old logging roads to reach the summit. The hike starts in the valley and then climbs along a ridge line until it swings around the alp and reaches the summit. You may encounter hang-gliders taking off from the top, and if the weather cooperates, you'll have views of the Olympics, the Islands, Skagit Valley, Lake Whatcom and Mount Baker as you go up the Alp.
Location: Puget Sound and Islands - Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Mileage: 4.4 miles, round trip
Elevation Gain: 30 feet
The trip to Padilla Bay will take at least a full 30 minute drive, but this shoreline destination is a place of wonder. A birdwatcher's paradise, the Padilla Bay Shore Trail is your best bet for viewing wildlife and the stunning scenery. It makes for a fine winter option, even in the fog or rain. But when the wind is blowing, you'll want to bundle up.