For nature enthusiasts, the Pacific Northwest offers a bounty of destinations to satisfy any outdoor inclinations. But for locales with a true smorgasbord of outdoor activities year-round, all less than three hours from Bellingham, a good bet is British Columbia's Manning Park.
People enjoy nature there any season, with beautiful subalpine flora decorating the park in the summer, and bountiful trails for hiking, skiing, mountain biking and horseback riding all of the time.
Named for E.C. Manning, Canada's chief forester in the 1930s, E.C. Manning Provincial Park is easily accessible. With more than 1 million visitors a year, it's the third-most popular park the province - and it's no wonder why.
"Manning Park is one of those destinations with so much to offer people who love the outdoors," says Ruth Edwards, manager at Manning Park Resort, the park's only resort accommodation. "The hiking, the ski hill, the wildlife and black bears in the summer - it's all great, and all in one beautiful area."
For a full list of outdoor activities, trails and park news, go to env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks and click on "Find a Park."
HOW TO GET THERE
Manning Park is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Whatcom County. To start, cross the U.S.-Canada border at Sumas - don't forget to bring your passport - then follow the Trans Canada Highway east toward Hope. Once in Hope, drive east on BC-3 some 40 miles to reach the park.
WHERE TO STAY
Because it's a provincial park, hotels are few and far between. But visitors can enjoy a fully equipped all-season resort, rustic cabins, or one of the area's many campgrounds.
Manning Park Resort
7500 Highway 3
The year-round resort offers modern amenities, including dining facilities, a fitness center, a heated pool with hot tubs, an outdoor skating rink and daily naturalist programs, all less than two miles from the park's popular lakes.
Eastgate Manning Park, B.C.
Larger groups who desire beautiful views while staying close to one another will enjoy the contemporary chalet by the Similkameen River.
River Rock Manning Park Cottage Rentals
Eastgate Manning Park, B.C.
For a more rustic experience, rent a River Rock cottage or settle in at Cougar Ridge Bed and Breakfast.
THINGS TO SEE
Visitors to Manning Park know the main attraction is nature. The park offers a stunning display of life in the wild, ranging from lush rain forests to grasslands, plus alpine timberlines and pastoral subalpine meadows.
Rein Orchid Nature Trail is known for its orchids and other bog flora, best seen during the summer.
BlackWall Peak and Three Brothers Mountain let people enjoy subalpine meadows that can be reached by a partly paved, partly graveled road. The flowers are at their peak late July to mid-August.
Lightning Lake Chain Trail offers a pleasant stroll along four lakes: Lightning, Thunder, Strike and Flash. The full route is a six- to seven-hour hike. Wildlife is abundant, including beaver, mule deer and numerous birds.
Whether you're a beginner in need of a bunny slope or veteran seeking a groomed trail, Manning Park is a haven for dry-snow winter sports. The park has miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiers, plus designated trails for snowshoeing. For experienced downhill skiers and snowboarders, visit Gibson Pass Ski Area, a private recreational area inside the park.
WHERE TO EAT
There are several places to dine after you've worked up an appetite outdoors.
Pinewoods Dining Room
The full-service dining facility inside Manning Park Resort is known for its French onion soup.
Bear's Den Pub
For casual eating, the Bear's Den Pub offers a chance to grab a beer and some fried fare while listening to live music or shooting a round of pool.
Alpine Day Lodge
After a winter's day on the slopes, you can enjoy some healthy choices and cold beer at the lodge in the middle of the snow action.
Lindsey Peacock is a freelance writer and editor in Vancouver, B.C.