Trails in Whatcom County are begging to be explored as we enter the spring season, with the sun starting to shine and blue skies finally making a return. The area has a lot to offer when it comes to hiking — but many may not be sure where to start.
If you’ve been searching for a good hike, look no further. From the fan-favorite Oyster Dome to the adrenaline junkie-approved Stawamus Chief Trail in Canada, here is your spring hiking guide.
Oyster Dome is a classic. Full of mossy trees and lush greenery, this hike is scenic as well as convenient — only about a 30-minute drive from campus.
It gets your heart pumping right away, starting off with a steep incline and switchbacks. It evens out for a few miles and then jumps back into switchbacks as you get close to the end.
The payoff is worth it for the breathtaking view of the Olympic Mountains and the San Juan Islands that are scattered across the straits. You can see Orcas Island, Lummi Island and Anacortes, and on a good day, you can even see out to Vancouver, British Columbia. When the weather cooperates, you’ll be treated to a beautiful sunset and sunrise views as well.
“It’s definitely one of my favorites in the area. I’ve done it three times now, and every time it’s had something different to offer,” said experienced hiker and Western Washington University Hiking and Outdoors Club officer Oliver Cox.
Another option with breathtaking views is Yellow Aster Butte on the Mount Baker Highway. It is 7.5 miles round trip, about a one-hour drive from Western’s campus, with an elevation gain of 2,550 feet.
The views are breathtaking, with panoramic vistas of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan and the North Cascades. Along the way, there are wild blueberries and many species of birds to observe.
“You’re gonna feel really good about it afterward too because it’s definitely on the more challenging side,” Cox said. “But it’s totally doable. You don’t need a lot of experience with hiking to do this trail.”
There are a few hikes and scenic open spaces around the Bellingham vicinity that are hidden gems. Bear Creek Open Space and Northridge Park are great options for those looking to explore local parks and neighborhood trails.
Bear Creek Open Space is near the intersection of Slater Road and Northwest Drive. There is a gate at the trailhead, and it leads to an out-and-back path that crosses a creek and a bridge, arriving at a vast wetlands area. It’s a spot bird lovers will appreciate.
“It’s a good place to look for shorebirds, ducks and geese,” said City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department Parks Operations Manager Steve Janiszewski.
Janiszewski also recommends the hidden gem Northridge Park for those not looking for something too difficult. The park has a loop that is only about 1.3 miles, perfect for a casual stroll. It is a neighborhood park, and the trail loop is on a hilltop, so you have nice views as well as side trails that branch off to surrounding neighborhoods.
You can take a connecting pathway to the Klipsun Trail if you want to extend your hike, taking you into Barkley Village.
Another hike, a bit farther away but definitely worth the journey, is a must for those with an adventurous spirit. In the town of Squamish, just north of Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, hikers will find Stawamus Chief. It’s a roughly 2,000-foot granite cliff face that rises directly over the town of Squamish. While it’s renowned among rock climbers, there is a trail that winds up the backside of the mountain so that hikers can reach the summit.
“This trail is not for the faint-hearted,” said Evan Redman, a WWU Hiking and Outdoors Club officer. “You end up holding onto chains and even climbing one ladder that’s drilled into the top.”
There are three summits that you can get to. Atop the second summit, you can see the entire town and the ocean directly below while Mount Garibaldi, a dormant volcano, looms nearby, towering over the valley.
The view is incredible and somewhat resembles a Norwegian fjord, with the valley and town nestled on the water below.
If you don’t like heights, you may want to skip Stawamus Chief. If you are doing this hike, take caution because you could get hurt if you slip on certain parts of the trail. There’s a chain to hold onto, but it can still be very dangerous.
“If you’re looking for a crazy adventure, I had a lot of fun,” Redman said.
Finally, as summer approaches, higher elevation hikes that are currently under snow will start to open up as the temperature warms. Although it’s currently closed due to being under snow, you won’t want to miss Heliotrope Ridge Trail when it opens later in the summer. This Mount Baker hike takes you through vibrant flower meadows alongside glaciers and ice. You can even see into Canada.
While you go through these trails, be sure to use the “leave no trace” rule and to treat the parks with care.
“85 to 90 percent of people use the trails and respect them,” Janiszewski said. “But we do have a couple of problems.”
Dog waste, litter and self-made trails called “social trails” are the three most common issues. Make sure to enjoy the trails and leave them looking as good as they did when you got there so that everyone can enjoy the awe-inspiring natural beauty that exists in Bellingham’s backyard.
Genesi Funston is a sports reporter for The Front. She is working towards a degree in public relations journalism. In her free, time she loves to run, read, play basketball and listen to rap music. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.