Even as the weather cools, we can look forward to the warmth of fall colors. All around the county, the landscape is readying itself to burst into hues of gold and red. Fall has arrived!

Consider visiting a local park or taking a scenic drive to celebrate the turning of the season. Here’s a roundup of suggested scenes for viewing the best fall foliage near Bellingham. Don’t forget your camera!

The Bridge at Whatcom Falls Park

Whatcom Falls is a classic destination for a scenic promenade. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

The upstream vantage from the bridge at Whatcom Falls Park is arguably the most iconic place to view fall color in Bellingham. Come autumn, the copse of vine and big leaf maples beyond the bridge light up in gold. Caught in the wind, their leaves melodically drift into the current below. The park is never short on photographers capturing this beautiful scene. Continue across the bridge in either direction to follow more paths along the Interurban Trail system. To complete the trip’s effect, take the Railroad Trail from the creek to the footbridge over Alabama Street. There you will find the perfect vantage for a glowing sunset over the bay, with the whole of downtown Bellingham stretched before you.

Big Rock Garden Park

Take shelter from the rain and enjoy the views from the memorial gazebo in the center of Big Rock Garden. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

For an outing on a rainy day, warm up to fall color at Big Rock Garden Park. Behind a high, mossy fence in the Silver Beach Neighborhood lies this lovely sculpture garden. The lush, informal garden is replete with natural plantings, and hosts over 100 varieties of maple trees. Stay dry beneath the thickly layered canopy of waxy rhododendrons, maples and conifers. The park’s gravel paths meander between sculptures installed in small enclaves. The collection features both permanent and rotating installations, many by regional artists. Take a moment to rest your gaze from the bench in the central gazebo. Looking out from your seat, appreciate the peek-a-boo views of Lake Whatcom through the foliage. When the maples at Big Rock turn in their seasonal glory, the effect is nothing short of stunning.

Lake Padden

The changing colors of the leaves is a sight to behold.

For an active outing, a trip to Lake Padden can’t be missed. A gentle three-mile footpath loops around the lake and beyond. Padden’s shoreline is fringed with big leaf and vine maples that burn russet orange against a backdrop of sturdy cedars and firs. Their effect is intensified by the reflections off the calm surface of the lake. Setting the scene beyond is the slumbering form of Galbraith Mountain.

Visit this park on a cool fall morning, while a mist still clings to the water’s surface. Consider bringing along your furry friend for the trip, as this park is dog-friendly. A portion of its trails are designated off-leash and a fenced dog park is located on the southeast end of the lake. For those who aren’t able to access the park’s trails, scenic views can still be had from the shore-side picnic tables close to the parking lots.

Local Nurseries

For those wanting to bring some fall color home, the Garden Spot Nursery is offering a free class on Japanese maples on October 6. Learn how to select, prune and care for these marvelous trees with professional horticulturalists. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

Our local nurseries are not to be overlooked to witness beautiful fall foliage. A visit offers the chance to identify plants that attract you during this season. When borders are planted for only spring and summer blooms, they can often lose their interest come autumn. Luckily, there is a wide variety of perennials, shrubs and trees that come alive with color when fall rolls around.

Perusing the gravel aisles of a nursery brings those garden plants up to an accessible level, with no mystery as to their identity. For those with a home or community garden plot, be inspired by the plants that capture your attention. Even for those without, nurseries still offer a chance to connect with and widen your vocabulary of beautiful fall plants. Try visiting Kent’s or Cloud Mountain to see their collection of trees, and the Garden Spot in town for perennials.

Chuckanut Drive

A palette of fall colors appears in this assortment of Heucheras at the Garden Spot Nursery in Bellingham. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

If a pleasure cruise is more your style, take a sunset trip down Chuckanut Drive. Expansive views of the San Juan Islands abound from the historic, winding road. Overarched by a mixed forest of deciduous and evergreens, the drive is scenic in any season. In the transition of autumn, the pops of copper color from the fall foliage have incredible impact against the silver of the ocean. Take a moment to pull off to one of the many overlooks and enjoy the island views. Alternatively, the Interurban Trail that parallels above Chuckanut Drive can be accessed from the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead. This old trolley path puts visitors on an even more intimate trip through the fall’s reddening leaves.

Enjoy a trip through the fall foliage or – better yet – experience them all! Whatcom County is beautiful in every season, and fall is an especially gorgeous time of year. So take the time to wander through the leaves and enjoy all the beauty around you.

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