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Trail Riding in Bellingham: A First Visit Must-Do List. 

Posted by John Canfield on
Trail Riding in Bellingham: A First Visit Must-Do List. 

So you’re coming to town. You’ve heard the tales. Loam deep enough to feel like you're powder skiing, control becoming an experiment where you trade grip for speed, then trade common sense for more speed.

 


Alas, you’re going to have to look elsewhere to get the skinny on them. There are far too many people who’d bury me in those deep, dark woods for posting directions to that sort of trail. This guide isn’t meant to reveal Bellingham’s steep and deep, rather suggest a weekend that captures some of the great experiences Bellingham has to offer.


Friday- "The Pre-Party" 

You get off work and jump in the car, you already packed last night. Good thinking. You're not just good looks after all. Bellingham isn’t that far, so you’ll be there in time for dinner. You roll into town ready for a bite then check into the airbnb or whatever and head directly to Structures Brewing in Old Town. There is plenty of parking nearby, so you secure your bike(s) with a lock that suggests you intend to maintain possession of them, then head in. You’re here for the beer and a simple, albeit delicious fried chicken sandwich. Structures is famous for all their beers, but I’m partial to their Czech-style lagers, West Coast IPAs and Stouts. If they have a stout on, it is my first choice nearly every time.

Trail riding mountain bikes with dog

Saturday- “The Local”

Waking up, you tuck into a lovely fancy-pants coffee and breakfast at Camber on Holly Street or Old Town Cafe just around the corner if you’re looking for something more substantial. You likely drove right by it last night, and sort of remember it, but look it up anyway to be sure. Yeah, it’s there.


You’re doing two rides today, but don’t freak out, alright? They’re not too much to manage and you can always bail on the second one. You don’t HAVE to follow this guide to a T. You knew that, we’re moving on.

Riding with fanny pack or hip pack in the woods of Bellingham

Your first stop is parking at Whatcom Falls Park. From there you’ll ride up Birch Street to the trailhead. It’s a nice way to warm up before you hit dirt and not very far. Head up Miranda, then Ridge, and finally Cedar Dust trails. You’ll notice about half way through Cedar Dust there are myriad squiggly lines on the map to the right. These are the Cedar Dust Jumps, and you’d be smart to pick one that matches your ability and give it a go. Take a second lap if you’re feeling saucy, why not? 


With the taste for air running in your veins, or the taste of blood in your mouth, you follow the climbing trail back to where you split off of Cedar Dust and keep on keepin’ on. You’ll connect back to the road and using a map (Trailforks is a great option in Bellingham), pick the one that takes you up a section of road called “The Wall”. It’s called that because it’s steep. You knew this and felt clever piecing this riddle together as quickly as you did.

 You’ll get to the T at the top of the road and head left. A map comes in handy here as you aim you, and your bike toward the top of SST called Golden Spike. Most people call this SST now, so you’ll know you’re in the right spot when you see the sign that says “SST”. You might have guessed that you’re riding SST. It’s a descending trail. Here's a video of someone riding it. The jumps are smaller and not consequential unless you’re bad at going off of smaller jumps. Then they are consequential. 


SST is one of the most popular “locals” trails in Bellingham. Nearly everyone in town has a soft spot for it, and it’s because it’s varied, fast and fun as hell. From various points along the route you can jump off, do more climbing and find other trails, but we’re not done with our guided ride, partner.

Remember there is a whole second ride I have lined up for you today. 


You get to the bottom of the trail and think to yourself “man, that was fun”. Which of course you’d be correct in thinking. To validate these feelings, you present this sentiment to friends with you or strangers. They nod in agreement.

Thrills and Spills Mountain Biking

You ride back down toward your car, hang a right on Electric and swing by DaVinci to get a sandwich and tater tote that match your hunger. I can’t help you much beyond that. There is a donut shop a few doors down, but you already had breakfast… Well if you're certain, I’m not going to… No, I’m not judging you! I didn’t say anything! Fine. 


It feels weird having our first fight like this. No, I’m not hungry- thanks.


 

Afterward, you return to your car and head toward Galbraith again, only a different location this time. You’re going to head to what’s generally called the South Side. There is a parking lot on Samish Way across from Galbraith Lane you’re going to aim for. Galbraith Lane is your entry point to this end of the park. From here, you’ll head back into the forest along the road, hanging a right on Gate and Switch. Ask a local where the name comes from. I’ve already run this conversation pretty far afield and don’t want to bore you now that you’re a thousand words in.


From here, you’ll connect back to the Tower Road, which takes you to the tippy top of the riding area collectively known as Galbraith Mountain. You won’t even get close to Galbraith Mountain proper, so don’t expect to ride to its summit. You have a lot of options, but you’re doing the classics today. Off the summit, you’re riding town Evolution, which folks just call Evo. Evo is short for Evolution which is a noun.

Riding through Galbraith

 After Evo, you’re going to ride U-Line, which is short for Unemployment Line which is a concept that no one under 30 understands. It has jumps that are big, but you can roll the ones that look like you can roll, and likely should ride around if you’re uncertain.  If jumps are not your thing, Pump Track is your next best option. After either of these, you’ll aim yourself down Atomic Dog taking you to the bottom of the hill and pretty close to the tail end of Bait and Switch which takes you back to the car. 


Congrats! You had a pretty full day of riding without being insane about it. Head over to Transition Outpost and talk to the locals over a pint of local beer. 


Afterward, check out dinner at Carnal if you are feeling fancy, Accomplice if not. 


Sunday:- "The Adventure"


I get it, you can’t ride all day today because you have to get home and make dinner, unpack, fix the thing thats leaking, call your mom, etc. You woke up at a normal-ass time today because you didn’t drink that much last night and are feeling a little tired from yesterday but not exploded. I’m not offering any breakfast ideas today because I gave you three yesterday and you’re not that needy. 


We’re going to take you on an adventure that isn’t too long and you will probably like. If you don’t like it, that’s not ideal. You shouldn’t be taking advice from strangers anyway.

Today, you’re driving out on North Shore Drive to Lake Whatcom Park. This will take about 20 minutes, so pop on some tunes and enjoy the beautiful drive around the lake. Park in the lot then head up Lower Chanterelle Trail. This is a multi-use trail so don’t mess with any hikers or you may get stabbed by one of them.

Once you get way the hell up there, nearly 2000 ft (probably will convert to metric), you’ll use your trusty trail map and find Brown Pow, which is a reference to loam I guess. Enjoy this trail. It’ll be as close as I’m able to show you what a loamy trail is like and ideally you get to the bottom and want to buy one of my fanny packs because you are feeling such gratitude. 

Matthew Delorme Photo

Keep in mind that today the trail is quite a bit more difficult than the tame ones I put you on yesterday, so be smart and take another lap at Galbraith if this doesn’t seem like your speed. No one here is going to judge you.


From here, the choice is yours! Take a dip in Lake Whatcom (the very Northern Tip has a small park with shallow water that can get quite warm in the summer. You could then sell your house, abandon your job and family then move to Bellingham. Maybe you can just be full in the experience that you scratched the very surface of what our town has to offer and start planning your next trip. 


Some final notes here: If you’re interested in hiring a guide to show you around, please reach out to Dig Deep Mountain Bike Tours. The owner Ike is a great guy with a real love for showing people around via mountain bike. Secondly, if you enjoyed your visit, consider donating to the folks who keep the whole trail scene alive and running, the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. Even a small donation will get you my undying gratitude. Consider becoming a member. These dues will help advocacy and trail building efforts in the area. If you do, I'll tell you where the secret trails are next time! 

WMBC MTB Logo

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