Bellingham is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, but it manages to remain one of the best-kept secrets in the country. A moderate climate with diverse terrain offers infinite activities, from kayaking to cycling to mountain climbing. Mount Baker stands regal in the city’s backdrop, a snow-covered volcano ripe for winter sports and summer hiking. Extensive trail networks offer year-round biking, hiking, and trail running, and our largest lakes, Padden, Whatcom, and Samish are perfect for kayakers and SUP. Perhaps one of our best assets is proximity to the beautiful San Juan Islands, replete with sublime camping opportunities.
The town’s most famous race, Ski to Sea, is a ball-busting trek from the slopes of Mount Baker to the waters of Bellingham Bay. But you don’t have to be a hard-core athlete to partake in Bellingham’s bounty, with flat trails to bike and hike, calm waters to paddle, and soft mossy campgrounds for fireside relaxation. Whatever you choose, it’s about reverence for nature and a shared sentiment of how lucky locals are to live here.
Bellingham is a place where it’s not too hard to find blissful seclusion, but if you want support, you’ll find it in in groups like the Greater Bellingham Running Club, Whatcom Association of Kayak Enthusiasts, and Mt. Baker Bicycle Club.
Trail: Bellingham has more than 50 trailheads to choose from, and trail running is so popular you might wonder if everyone in town is a runner. Our abundance of accessible flat trails are perfect for biking and lend themselves to work commutes and transit, particularly from Fairhaven and the university area to downtown via the Interurban Trail and the South Bay Trail. Then there are the trails more suited to hiking and more advanced trial running: Chuckanut Ridge, with its magnificent vistas and beautiful Fragrance Lake, are both less than 25 minutes from downtown. Mountain bikers love to hit up Galbraith Mountain and Happy Trails for a labyrinth of single-track options.
Water: Bellingham is perched on a bay and offers three big lakes for paddling. Even though the bay water is frigid, you will see (experienced) kayakers paddling year round off the shores. In the summer, Lake Padden becomes a community swimming hole dotted with kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. Lake Whatcom attracts more serious kayakers, but both lakes offer a great place to train for open water ocean kayaking.
Rock: While Bellingham is not exactly known for climbing, more advanced climbing can be found within a two-hour drive to the Gold Bar Boulders or Squamish. But spots like the sandstone boulders at Sehome Arboretum and Clayton Beach draw their share of local climbers. When you can’t get outside, the YMCA and Vital Climbing Gym are good alternatives