Bellingham is a city known for its extensive trail network. Virtually any location in city limits is within a short bike ride of a trail that can make you feel like you’ve suddenly left urban life behind entirely. In this respect, we’re very spoiled. But unique to Bellingham is that it’s possible to traverse the entire city while hardly setting foot on asphalt. Using six different trail systems, a person can travel diagonally from the northeast corner at Northridge Park to the southwest tip at Woodstock Farm—all while mostly avoiding pavement.
The wild idea of plotting a path across the parks of Bellingham came from the eccentric mind of Daniel Rommel. An avid hiker and lover of the town, he has made summer goals that include the outdoors. One objective was to visit every park in Whatcom County (Lighthouse Marine Park in Point Roberts is the last on his list). Another was to find a route through the city that avoids sidewalks and streets. If you’ve got a day to devote to it, this is a great way to see Bellingham through a different lens.
As mentioned previously, the start of the trek is Northridge Park, east of Barkley Village. A crisscrossing network of trails provides for a good day trip on its own, but the route across town follows the Klipsun Trail for a short while to a junction with Railroad Trail. Take a left and follow the former rail line south, admiring the variety of trees and shrubs. In late summer, keep an eye out for blackberries to snack on.
The next stop is Whatcom Falls Park. You’ll find miles of trails here and it’s another destination worthy of a longer visit. You can wander up to see the falls themselves, take a dip in the cool water, or just admire the creek as you make your way west along the trail. When you exit the park at Woburn Street, cross over and find a short trail that connects you to the Civic Field Trail. Follow these up to Lakeway and the longest paved section of the route. This is a good chance to take a refreshment break and stop for a beer at Whole Foods or restock on snacks there or at Fred Meyer.
Now, it’s just a short jaunt on sidewalks over to the Sehome Hill Arboretum. These trails connect the York and Sehome neighborhoods, as well as Western Washington University’s campus. Stay left to make your way southward through several dips and rises on the trail. The trail is not well signed in some sections, so you’ll have to use your instinct. If you’ve done things correctly you’ll wind up at Bill McDonald Parkway near Sehome High School. You can also drop into the Haggen if you need snacks or beverages.
From here, a short trail takes you from Sehome High School to the Connelly Creek Trail and past Joe’s Gardens where you can pick up some fruit for the remaining trail. Head south to Happy Valley Park, then turn right to follow Old Fairhaven Parkway for about two blocks. You’ve now arrived at the trailhead for the Interurban Trail, the final section! You still have quite a bit of walking left to do, though. At the trailhead, go left and head south through alternating treed sections and brighter, cleared areas.
After roughly a mile, you’ll reach Arroyo Park. “Arroyo” is Spanish for creek, and you’ll immediately cross Chuckanut Creek. Not as mighty as Whatcom Creek earlier in your trek, this is still a chance to cool off. Arroyo Park is one gateway to the Chuckanut Mountains and I could spend an entire article on the hikes you can reach from this point. For now, though, follow the signs for the interurban trail to your right. A half mile more and you’ll see a spur on your right that crosses Chuckanut Drive and spits you out at Woodstock Farm and the edge of Bellingham’s city limits. You’ve made it!
At Woodstock Farm you can admire the stunning view of the bay and the islands, or you can head straight down to the water. There’s a protected and shallow inlet, and if you packed your swimsuit (you will never regret packing a swimsuit) now is a great time to reward yourself with a dip in the sea.
One of my favorite things about hiking is that it forces you to see things differently. By removing the traffic grid, it becomes easier to see how things are naturally connected. Especially in Bellingham, where creeks and hills are obstacles to efficient transportation, we sometimes forget about them when we drive. I hope you get a chance to hike a section of this, or the whole thing, so you can better appreciate this city.