There are few better settings for a lazy afternoon of bouldering than a beach flanked by blackberry bushes overlooking Bellingham Bay. Located within 15 minutes of Western Washington University's campus, Clayton Beach is the perfect place for aspiring and experienced climbers to disappear for a while.
Clayton Beach is known as one of the more popular bouldering crags in the Bellingham area. It's sort of a "choose-your-own-adventure" set of problems along the beach and coastline, mixed in with a handful of established and recognizable problems. The holds are great, and there are quite a few overhanging problems.
What Makes It Great
As the tide goes in and out, you can explore both the northern and southern ends of the beach and find some fun, interesting, traverses, with an occasional overhang over some (very) shallow water, depending on the tide. The importance of heading to this spot during low tide is key if you want to have the opportunity to work on more than three or four problems.
Though the beach is sandy, a crash pad is definitely recommended. We caution climbers to be wary and careful with the rock. The Honeycomb Sandstone creates this awesome visual coastline of bouldering problems, as well as some of the most natural hand holds you can imagine. Just be careful to avoid weak holds, stick to the stable stuff, and don't abuse the beauty of this Honeycomb Sandstone...because this rock is so addictingly fun. You'll see.
Clayton Beach is also a fantastic place to bring a group and enjoy the sunset!
Who is Going to Love It
The beach is popular for climbers and non-climbers alike, so don't be shy! Really, the exploration is up to you.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Word of mouth directions can be tricky here your first time. The best (free) parking is along Chuckanut Drive (Highway 11), directly across from the Fragrance Lake Road (road, not trailhead). There is shoulder parking along Chuckanut on the west side across from the park, both on the curve (100 yards north of the park entrance) and on the straight (just south of the park entrance). There are stairs almost directly across from the park entrance on the west side, and a sign directing towards Clayton Beach (this is on the south side across of the park entrance). As there are a handful of weaving single-track walking trails that lead away from the beach, it is simplest to not go down off of Chuckanut Drive any other way than the stairs. Go down the stairs, take a left over the small bridge, and follow the main path as it heads toward the beach, seemingly parallel with Chuckanut Drive for a time. It will take you to the train tracks after about 5 minutes of walking. You can cross them directly and find yourself on the northern tip of Clayton Beach, but it is suggested to follow the tracks south for a few minutes then cross - you'll see the long beach, cross over, and have plenty of bouldering options to your left and right!
Parking on the northern curve, there is a sign warning about the high theft area. You may even see broken glass. Unfortunately, those people exist who will break into a car, so take your valuables with you. If you are wary of break ins, you can park in any of the Larrabee State Park parking lots along Chuckanut Drive - choosing this option requires a Discover Pass, though. The walk is also longer. Perhaps the best parking lot if you have a Discover Pass is at the Lost Lake Trailhead.