East of downtown Bellingham just over the Alabama Street hill unfolds sprawling Lake Whatcom—the city’s vast drinking water reservoir ringed by lakefront homes, parkland and an inviting 6.2 miles easy trek into the wilderness.
As you arrive at the trailhead at the far side of the lake, urban Bellingham fades away, and Lake Whatcom Park beckons. On your left, a forested cliffside cascades upwards. Overhanging tree branches and endless ferns surround you in a sea of green. Every few hundred feet, a gurgling stream or waterfall cuts through the dense brush. To your right, the calm waters of Lake Whatcom stretch into the distance.
The shoreline begins only steps from the trail and the routine lapping of water against the rocky shore creates a peaceful soundtrack as you venture deeper into Lake Whatcom Trail, also called Hertz Trail. It winds along against the shoreline for duration of the hike. The wide path and lack of elevation gain makes it great for a shortlegged companion, whether that be toddler or dachshund.
On an overcast April day, you may have to dodge the occasional puddle but you may also have the trail to yourself. It tends to get quite busy during the summer months as it is popular for both families and mountain bikers.
My favorite spot is about a mile in. A large waterfall runs alongside the trail, creating a stream that feeds into the lake. A wooden bridge crosses the stream and leads you further down the trail. Instead, I suggest continuing past the bridge. This will lead you to the water’s edge and a small beach lookout with expansive views and a bench to enjoy them.
It’s a gorgeous little escape. After a stop here for a picnic or some rock skipping, you can return to the trail and meander along the water until just past the three-mile marker. At this point, the trail ends and you will head back the way you came.
The trailhead is just outside of Bellingham, about 30 minutes from downtown. From the top of Alabama hill, take a left on North Shore Road and follow it along the coast of Lake Whatcom until the residential areas disappear behind you and you reach signs for Lake Whatcom Park.