Take caution and check for road closures due to wildfires in the North Cascades.

Day Hiking in Bellingham and Whatcom County

Bellingham and Whatcom County offer hundreds of miles of hiking trails. From bayside beaches to alpine lakes; from easy urban strolls to strenuous mountain climbs, there’s a hike for everyone here. Many of these trails are available for hiking year-round, while some of the most spectacular can only be reached during summer and early fall. First, choose an area below — organized by proximity to Bellingham and seasonal accessibility. Then select your hike, gear up, and hit the trail.

Day hikers should always prepare by bringing the “10 Essentials" and be aware that some trails require parking passes. Check the Washington Trails Association website for information on driving directions, parking fees, and recent trip reports. Above all, be safe, respect our public lands, and have fun. Happy hiking!

Chuckanut Mountain Hikes (Year Round)

Easily accessible via Chuckanut Drive from Fairhaven, the Chuckanut Mountains are Bellingham’s nearest and dearest outdoor playground.

Because there are so many ways to enjoy the Chuckanuts, the biggest challenge is deciding where to go. Looking for the most popular hiking trail in town? Oyster Dome is it, hands down. Located on Blanchard Mountain (part of the Chuckanut range), the dome is a 2,000-foot rock perch overlooking 180-degree Salish Sea views. Fragrance Lake is another hot spot, located right off of Chuckanut Drive in Larrabee State Park.

If you prefer to escape the crowds, park at the North Chuckanut Mountain trailhead and choose your own adventure. The extensive network of trails here leads to such destinations as Chuckanut Ridge and Raptor Ridge. Bring a good map (Chuckanut Recreation Area is the best) or guidebook to assist with navigation. Also, note that a Discover Pass is required for parking in Larrabee State Park and other state-owned lands.

Mount Baker Highway Hikes (Summer - Fall)

These trails are accessed east of the town of Glacier on Mount Baker Highway. Stop at the Glacier Public Service Center for trail maps, road conditions, and to speak with a ranger. You can purchase a Northwest Forest Pass (required for trailhead parking) here. It’s also a good place to stop for restrooms and to fill up water bottles.

During summer and early fall (typically July - October), an endless array of high country trails are snow-free and hikeable throughout Whatcom County. Head out Mount Baker Highway for access to wildflowers, alpine lakes, glaciers, and scenic mountain panoramas.

For easy access to summer hiking trails, drive the paved Mount Baker Highway to its terminus at Artist Point. From here, you can hike Artist Ridge Trail for a short but sweet taste of alpine glory. Or hike up the steep Table Mountain Trail to take in Mount Baker and Shuksan views from on high. Try the Chain Lakes Loop or Ptarmigan Ridge Trail for a longer trek into the wilderness. Here are a few more favorites accessible from Mount Baker Highway:

Lake Ann Trail

Hike through wildflower meadows and talus-strewn slopes to Lake Ann for close-up views of Mount Shuksan’s thunderous glaciers. This trail begins with a descent, dropping 700 feet into a valley alongside Swift Creek. Criss-cross the creek and streams several times before climbing out of the valley towards Lake Ann. Views of Mount Baker, Table Mountain, and seemingly endless peaks and valleys surround you along the way. Watch and listen for wildlife — the pika are particularly vocal here.

After 4 miles reach a saddle, then descend towards Lake Ann for panoramic views of Mount Shuksan and the alpine lake at 4,700 feet. Listen for the sound of Shuksan’s glaciers — groaning under the heat of the sun — before returning the way you came.

Heliotrope Ridge

Experience Mount Baker’s Coleman Glacier up close and personal at Heliotrope Ridge. At just over 2.5 miles one-way, this trail is relatively short but feels like an adventure due to multiple creek crossings. Along the way, hikers share the path with mountaineers attempting to summit Mount Baker. Come prepared with trekking poles and an extra pair of socks — there’s a good chance you’ll get your feet wet at some point.

Once you’ve reached the overlook, peer out over the sea of glacier-blue ice. This is the Lower Coleman Icefall, part of the greater Coleman Glacier. Those giant ice chunks in front of you are called seracs. Often formed by intersecting crevasses, they can be as big as a car – or even a house. Above, Mount Baker stands tall at 10,781 feet.

Note that creek crossings can be difficult, especially for children and pets. Be sure to read the latest WTA trip reports for seasonal conditions and exercise caution on this potentially dangerous trail.

Skyline Divide Trail

Skyline Divide is simply spectacular. A rolling ridgeline hike offering panoramic views from mounts Shuksan to Baker, it’s a wildflower oasis in early summer and a fiery fall-color kaleidoscope come fall. Marmots whistle as you walk. Views improve with seemingly every step. But this trail’s rewards don’t come without a significant challenge: you’ll gain roughly 1,500 feet in the first 2 miles, and up to 1,000 more along the way. Upon reaching the meadows at 2 miles, you can hike as far as you like along the ridgeline. At 4.5 miles from the trailhead, the path becomes more technical as it approaches Chowder Ridge — a good turnaround point for day hikers.

Come prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, and bug spray. And don’t forget the SUV — the forest road to Skyline Divide is notoriously long and pothole-filled. But oh-so-worth it!

North Cascades Highway Hikes

Hiking opportunities abound along the North Cascades Highway. From Bellingham, head south on I-5 to Burlington, then follow Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway) east for access. Stop at the Mt. Baker Ranger District office in Sedro Woolley or the North Cascades Visitor Center in Newhalem for trail maps and information.

Baker Lake (Summer - Fall)

The first hiking area you’ll encounter along North Cascades Highway is Baker Lake. Head up gravel Forest Road 12 to the Park Butte trail head for access to three distinct trails. Park Butte Trail climbs 2,200 feet to a historic fire lookout with excellent views of Mount Baker. Alternatively, you can turn off the Park Butte Trail onto Scott Paul Trail or Railroad Grade. Scott Paul Trail makes a big 8-mile loop with Mount Baker views —  a quieter alternative to popular Park Butte. Railroad Grade is a climbing route for Mount Baker, but hikers can trek out to High Camp for awesome glacier views. Be especially careful on this trail (not recommended for young children or pets) as there are sheer drops along the narrow ridgeline.

Baker Lake (Year Round)

Baker Lake also offers lower elevation trails for year-round enjoyment. The best of these is perhaps South Baker Lake Trail, an easygoing lakeshore ramble through old-growth forest. Hike to Anderson Point for a 4-mile round trip trek, or go all the way to Maple Grove for 8 miles round trip. The entire trail runs 14 miles along Baker Lake’s shoreline, with views across the lake to Mount Baker.

Newhalem and Diablo Lake (Summer - Fall)

Thunder Creek Trail takes off from Colonial Creek Campground, making a beeline into North Cascades National Park. Multiple destinations await along this trail. Climb steep switchbacks to Fourth of July Pass for peak and glacier views. Or continue along Thunder Creek to McAllister Camp for a solid 12-mile round trip day hike.

For an even bigger challenge, hike Sourdough Mountain. Rising from the shores of Diablo Lake, this lumpy mountain looks like a ball of sourdough. From the restored lookout at its summit you can see for miles in every direction. This one is best saved for experienced hikers, though, as it climbs approximately 5,000 feet in elevation.

Newhalem and Diablo Lake (Year Round)

Further east on the North Cascades Highway, enter the town of Newhalem. You can do an easy in-town hike here at Ladder Creek Falls. Or continue to Diablo Lake for access to a variety of trails. Diablo Lake Trail rises hundreds of feet above the lake, delivering hikers to a view of Ross Dam before dropping to a suspension bridge. During summer, the Diablo Lake Trail can be done as a one-way hike with a ride to or from the trailhead via the Diablo Lake Ferry. 

These trails are held near and dear to many in Whatcom County. Please do your part and leave no trace. Pack out everything you pack in, and pick up any trash you find while you’re out enjoying these beautiful areas. 

        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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