This past week, I took an Amtrak train from Seattle to Bellingham, where I spent a few days exploring their urban trail system. I stayed at an AirBNB near the historic neighborhood of Fairhaven.
My original intention was to walk from the AirBNB and hike the Chuckanut mountains, a mile and a half to the south. When I discovered that there were no sidewalks on the street that would take me there, that added another couple miles to the walk just to get to the trailhead (note to self: check Google Street View when planning future trips!).
My first day there was a half day, so I used it to get myself oriented and to try to find the trailhead. The second day, having already walked the icy trail to the trailhead and seeing that it was near freezing and with thunder, rain and strong wind in the forecast for the day, I decided to stay closer to town where I might duck into a cafe or store to dry off for a bit should I want to. So for that day, and the next, I explored the urban trail system instead of the mountain.
My view for much of the trip:
I created a version of this route in case anyone wants to follow in my footsteps. You can view the route map on plotaroute.com – here you can view the route, elevation profiles and even download the GPS track.
Starting at the Amtrak station, this is a version of the walk I did, edited so that it makes sense to do in one day. It will give you a taste of historic Fairhaven, the waterfront, downtown Bellingham, some urban trails and a large wooded arboretum.
Though I spent two days covering this, I did explore a bit more and this trip is possible to do in one day. This may even be possible by Amtrak train from Seattle in a single day given that they have an early morning run there and a late evening run back.
Some places I checked out on the way (in the order they appear on the route):
Village Books – bookstore a block off the route, Mill Ave and 11th Street. It shares a building with several other unique local stores.
The Rustic Coffee and Wine Bar – If you would like coffee before hitting the trail, this is a good place to stop, about two blocks south of the bookstore on the other side of 11th. Great (quiet) atmosphere and the best coffee I had in Bellingham.
Woods Coffee – In Boulevard Park (about a third of the way along the waterfront trail between Fairhaven and downtown. There is also another Woods Coffee downtown. If you prefer something familiar, there is also a Starbucks that you will pass downtown. There are lots of interesting looking breakfast places nearby as well (I didn’t eat out on this trip so I can’t vouch for any individual place).
Backcountry Essentials (outdoor store): 214 W Holly Street in downtown. Largely focused on snow sports. Be sure to check out the second floor with reasonably priced used gear and clothing.
Antique Stores – there are several antique stores across from Maritime Heritage Park, on Holly Street. I never buy anything at these places but they are always fun to wander through. Think of it as a free museum visit.
Sehome Arboretum: I didn’t get any photos there, but I will say, one highlight of this trip was going off the main marked trails in the arboretum. I found a footpath off the main road after going through the tunnel at the top of the hill and followed it. It was worth it as I felt totally outside the surrounding urban setting, which gave me a moment of peace and serenity. I was even greeted by dozens of birds as I entered this phase of the walk. Seeing them flutter about always puts me in a good mood.
There were a few trail junctions but as I was off the mapped path without a compass and my phone GPS wasn’t picking up a good enough signal, I relied on my own intuition as to which path to take. I came out of the woods on a residential street just to the north of Sehome Village, my target destination.
Sehome Village – This is just a classic large strip mall. I stopped here because I had a REI gift card to use. There are also plenty of places to stop for lunch, another Starbucks and a grocery store (Haggen’s).
So there you have it. Bellingham has quite a bit to offer those looking for some easier urban hikes. This long loop around the city will give you a sense of quite a few neighborhoods in the city and includes only a couple small stretches on city streets.
Here is also the city’s own guide to urban trails: