Get Outside in Bellingham, Washington

I’ve bragged before about the town of Bellingham and how I spent a fabulous 4 years living there while attending college. Located in the northwest corner of Washington, right on the coast, Bellingham has its fair share of gloomy, rainy days. But when the sun comes out, the rays of light shine down on a beautiful part of the country. And everyone heads outdoors.

I’ve previously mentioned the Chuckanut Mountains just south of Bellingham, but there are plenty of more local places to catch some sunshine too. Like much of the west coast, Bellingham is a very environmentally conscious city, and this includes maintaining a good system of parks and trails. There are walking and biking paths, forests, lakes, and waterfalls all within the town boundaries.

Boulevard Park
Boulevard Park is probably the most visited park in Bellingham, and it’s easy to see why. With its open spaces, boardwalk out over the water, and quaint little coffee shop, it’s the perfect place to toss a Frisbee, relax, go for a jog, or do some homework. The South Bay trail (which includes the boardwalk) extends along the waterfront in both directions. I went on many a run along this trail during my four years in Bellingham.

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Sunset over the South Bay Trail boardwalk – Bellingham, WA
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Sunset at Boulevard Park – Bellingham, WA

Marine Park
Located just south of Boulevard Park in the historic Fairhaven District is Marine Park. It’s a much smaller park but provides access to a small section of beach and is conveniently located near the Bellingham Ferry Terminal.

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Marine Park – Bellingham, WA

Zuanich Point Park
Located on the waterfront in northwest Bellingham is Zuanich Point Park. Situated on Squalicum Harbor, this park provides spectacular views out over Bellingham Bay. Views also extended southeast across the water, back towards downtown Bellingham and the Western Washington University campus.

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Bellingham Bay from Zuanich Point – Bellingham, WA
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Looking back at WWU and downtown Bellingham from Zuanich Point – Bellingham, WA
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Sunset from Zuanich Point – Bellingham, WA

Cornwall Park
Further north (and inland) is Cornwall Park. This 65-acre park offers a little bit of everything – a playground, sports fields, trails, and a lot of magnolia bushes. Squalicum Creek flows through the park, making for some beautiful scenery. It’s a nice place to relax and soak up nature, with trees and flowers all around and the soft sound of babbling water in the background.

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Squalicum Creek at Cornwall Park – Bellingham, WA
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Magnolia tree at Cornwall Park – Bellingham, WA
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Magnolia at Cornwall Park – Bellingham, WA

Lake Padden
Aside from Boulevard Park, the other most popular place for students is the nearby Lake Padden Park, located just 10 minutes from the WWU campus. Lake Padden Park has basketball and tennis courts, miles of trails, and, obviously, Lake Padden. A relatively flat loop trail encircles the lake and many other trails of varying lengths and difficulties branch off in all directions. When I was surrounded by trees and water, it was hard to believe that the busy streets of Bellingham were just a few minutes away.

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Lake Padden – Bellingham, WA
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Baby ducklings on Lake Padden – Bellingham, WA

Lake Samish
This one’s actually a little bit outside of town, so I didn’t make it here as often. In fact, I only ever came here to watch the WWU women’s crew team, as my friend was a member (and the team was on a record-breaking national championship win streak at that time so they were a lot of fun to watch!). Lake Samish itself is just off of I-5 south of Bellingham, surrounded by forests and the Chuckanut Mountains. It’s a lovely destination for those who don’t want to venture far but are looking to get a little further away from the hustle and bustle.

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The WWU women’s crew team wins their race on Lake Samish – Bellingham, WA

Whatcom Falls & Lake Whatcom
Even though I only went here once (and forgot my camera – oops), this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Whatcom Falls Park. Whatcom Falls Park is located in northeast Bellingham near the giant Lake Whatcom. Whatcom Falls Park is home to playgrounds, trails, and Whatcom and Whirlpool Falls, while Lake Whatcom is a popular location for all manner of water-related recreation.

Sehome Arboretum
One other place I should mention is the Sehome Arboretum, located on Sehome Hill directly adjacent to the WWU campus. In fact, I walked through part of the arboretum every day on my way back to my apartment, and also occasionally went for a run on its trails (or up to the top of the hill). Sehome Arboretum isn’t as popular of a destination, but it was convenient to have trails so close to campus, and the view from the tower on top of Sehome Hill extended out over Bellingham Bay to the west and, on a clear day, Mount Baker to the east. I know I have photos of these views but I can’t for the life of me figure out where they are. Oh well.

Clearly, Bellingham is a city that caters to outdoor enthusiasts. It’s probably the thing I loved most about it, and it’s definitely a place I’d consider moving back to should the opportunity arise. But for the time being, I was graduating from college and moving on with my life, so it was time to bid the lovely Bellingham adieu. For now, at least. One way or another, I’ll be back some day!

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