These lazy days of summer demand a day at the beach.
Although the Lake Whatcom shoreline at Bloedel Donovan Park and the serene waterfront of Lake Padden are the most popular local sites, area residents have a variety of choices for cooling off.
All have their advantages, but a few lack restrooms or have limited parking.
Nevertheless, they all have cool, clear water - and a place to spread out and call your own. Even better, they're all free.
Choices are more varied outside Bellingham, including North Lake Whatcom Park, Silver Lake Park north of Maple Falls off the Mount Baker Highway, and Lake Samish Park in the rural south county.
"Those are our primary freshwater parks," said Michael McFarlane, director of the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department.
Silver Lake Park has a variety of amenities for both day-use and overnight campers, including tent sites, cabins, restrooms, showers, a picnic area, and rentals for rowboats, canoes and pedal boats.
"The beach gets used locally," McFarlane said. "It's a smaller beach - it's popular for both day-use and campers."
Information about Silver Lake Park, and other Whatcom County Parks, is at co.whatcom.wa.us/parks/parksandtrails.jsp. Click on the link to the desired park for more information.
South of Bellingham is Lake Samish Park, which has restrooms and also offers boat rentals. In addition, there are several scenic hiking trails in the area. But there's one big drawback, McFarlane said: It has limited parking.
"Samish is another popular park," he said. "It gets crowded, and when (the parking lot is) full, it's full."
McFarlane also recommends the Hertz Trail that follows the Lake Whatcom shoreline at the end of North Shore Drive. There isn't much true beach access, but there are plenty of places to bushwhack into the shallows.
"There's a bunch of little trails off the Hertz Trail," McFarlane said. "People tend to find their own way."
Parking is plentiful at the trailhead, where there's a portable toilet. The well-kept trail - 3.1 miles one way - cuts through second-growth forest to an informational kiosk. From there, it follows the path of the former Bellingham & Eastern Railway along the shore. Along the way, you'll have views of the surrounding hillsides with the occasional waterfall tumbling down from Stewart Mountain.
Other places to cool off include the Nooksack River, with access points along the Mount Baker Highway and Highway 9 through the South Fork Valley; Teddy Bear Cove off Chuckanut Drive; and Point Whitehorn south of Birch Bay.
Point Whitehorn offers a sandy beach accessed via a short trail. There's ample parking but only a portable toilet at the trailhead.
Teddy Bear Cove has no restroom facilities. Its best access is by the Interurban Trail - park at the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead near California Street.
McFarlane cautioned that swimmers should take care because there are no lifeguards at any of the city or county parks. Hazardous conditions may exist.
Inside Bellingham city limits, there's Bloedel Donovan Park at the west end of Lake Whatcom. It features restrooms and plenty of parking.
On the south side is Lake Padden, which has restrooms, showers, a playground and picnic area, plus miles of hiking trails and a dog park.
Find more information about both parks at this City of Bellingham webpage.
Not enough for you?
Try wading in the waters of Whatcom Creek at Whatcom Falls Park or dabbling in Chuckanut Creek at Fairhaven Park - where there's also a water park for youngsters.
Whatcom Transit Authority buses serve Bloedel Donovan Park, Whatcom Falls Park, Fairhaven Park and Lake Padden. All are connected by the citywide Greenways cycling and pedestrian trail system. Go to ridetwa.com for bus schedules. Find maps of the Greenways trails at this City of Bellingham link (PDF).
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