Although only a 30-mile, 40-minute drive from Bellingham, a trip to Silver Lake Park feels like leaving on vacation. Its campground roads weave between trees and mountain faces, framing a tranquil lake. And the area offers plenty of exploring. Most Whatcom County residents reach it by traveling east on State Route 542 — better known as the Mt. Baker Highway — to Maple Falls. From there, take a left turn to travel north on Silver Lake Road.

About two miles up, the first right turn inside the park leads to the group campground. It immediately crosses the southern part of the Black Mountain Horse Trail, which also accommodates hikers. The trail covers the southernmost part of the park in a mile-and-a-half loop or leads to another trail that heads out of the park towards the Frost Creek Disc Golf Course. As its name suggests, the group campground is laid out to accommodate large groups, with a kitchen shelter that can serve 75 people, and spaces for 33 RVs or campers with water and electricity.

The rented paddle boats are a nostalgic favorite among locals who grew up visiting Silver Lake Park. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

A bit further up Silver Lake Road, on the right-hand side, is the main entrance to Silver Lake Park. Right away visitors will see an information board featuring a map of the park and other notices. Just beyond is the Maple Creek Campground, the largest in the park. Its large loop road leads past four smaller loops, which are home to around 50 separate camp sites. They can accommodate RVs, campers, vans, cars, and tents, and each one offers water and electricity, as well as a picnic table and a fire pit with a grill. The Maple Creek Campground is close to the center of the park, and a short walk will take visitors to the boat launch, picnic area, playground, and beach.

If you have a slightly different idea of what “roughing it” means, Maple Creek is also home to the Cascade Camping Cabin. Best described as a bunkhouse, it sleeps up to five people in an open room with electricity, heat, and lights; any amenities beyond that are left up to guests to provide.

A variety of cabins and other shelters are spread out across the park, as well as facilities for camping in tents and RVs. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

The road forks just beyond Maple Creek and, if you head to the right, runs right through the heart of the park to the Lakeside Lodge. The most obvious feature here is the boat launch area, where a long, thin dock runs out over Silver Lake and gives a beautiful view of the mountains rising up over the water. In the other direction is the beach that is designated for swimming, and it’s also close to a couple of picnic areas and a playground.

The Lakeside Lodge is located in the same building as the park offices and is another rental that can handle larger groups. It sleeps six people in three different bedrooms and boasts a simple kitchen. But don’t let the dishwasher fool you: this is definitely a camping destination and guests will need to supply their own bedding, linens, and kitchenware. Inside, you’ll find a gas fireplace, and outside a dramatic, sweeping view of the lake, the woods, and the mountains.

Two different stables at the Red Mountain sites offer access to meadows and trails that will take riders off into the surrounding woods and hills. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Back at the main road, the path to the right leads deeper into the woods and to the Lakefront Cabins and Cedar Campground. The six Lakefront Cabins are each named after a peak in the Northern Cascade Mountains and are laid out in a curving line along the edge of the lake. Just like the lodge, guests will need to bring creature comforts, but each has a basic kitchen and outdoor barbeque grill. In front of the cabins is a lawn that includes three fire rings, available on a first-come-first-served basis. And, of course, more immediate access to the lake, and views of tree-covered hills towering above.

For those adventurers who might turn their noses up at frivolous features like running water and electricity, the Cedar Campground is just north of the cabins. There are 15 sites perfect for those traveling lighter, in cars, vans and tents, which offer just picnic tables and fire pits with grills.

A close look at the map shows a variety of attractions, including a couple of nice long walks through the woods. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

In addition to these destinations on the east side of Silver Lake Road, the main road also crosses Silver Lake Road and leads to a couple more attractions just off the highway to the west. Gerdrum House is set up as a museum that allows a glimpse into the lifestyle of the homesteaders that travelled to this part of the county, and the Black Mountain Forestry Center houses exhibits that illustrate the area’s long history in logging.

Just to the north, on either side of Silver Lake Road, you’ll find additional attractions. The woods are home to a series of trails open to both horses and hikers. On the west side, the Canopy Loop and Campground Connector trails can be used to move from one area of the park to another, or they can be linked together to form a mile-and-a-half loop. On the east side, the Black Mountain Horse Trail traverses about a mile to meet up with the Red Mountain Horse Trail, which soon leaves the park.

Just beyond the intersection of these trails — and accessible by taking the last left turn before Silver Lake Road leaves the park — is the Red Mountain Campground. There are 28 more sites for all sizes of vehicles, with water and electricity, and a fireside table. It’s set apart from the other campgrounds with the inclusion of two stables available for boarding horses.

Information on booking stables, cabins, and camp sites is available by phone at 360.599.2776, or by email at parks@co.whatcom.wa.us. Reservations open on December 1st every year and the camping season runs from mid-April to the end of October. More details are available at the park’s website.

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