For an enjoyable late-summer and early-fall family hike, try the trails at Squires Lake Park on a former homestead south of Bellingham.
Don’t be put off by the steep ascent at the trailhead. You’ll punish your glutes for a few strenuous switchbacks, but the trail widens and levels in less than half a mile. The payoff is a gorgeous view of the still and serene Squires Lake, which is surrounded by trees and has a shoreline that beckons visitors to dabble their toes.
“I love Squires Lake when the big leaf maples’ leaves fall. Magical,” said Holly Roger of Wild Whatcom, an outdoor-education nonprofit. “Needs a couple more weeks. The leaf colors shift and the maple leaves come down, making for lots of fun for kids to kick around on the trail.”
You’ll hike through a mature, second-growth forest of alder, big leaf maple, Douglas fir, Western red cedar and hemlock. Salmonberry and sword ferns dominate the understory, and in the spring you’ll see wildflowers, such as bleeding hearts.
The lake comes into view near an interpretive sign that explains the history and significance of the area. The two-mile trail circles the lake, but the route on the right rises above the water and connects with another trail. Go left and you’ll stay close to the water, where several pullouts with benches offer a place to rest and take in the view, or to watch dragonflies, frogs and water boatmen.
Whichever route you choose, be sure to take the signed side loop to explore the beaver pond. Sit quietly and you might see the giant rodents going about their business or maybe glimpse a kingfisher hunting from one of the snags that rise from the duckweed-covered marsh. Approach the shoreline in warm weather and you’ll disturb legions of frogs that emit a squeeze-toy squeal as they leap into the water.
Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweeting @goMittygo and @DressLikeADuck.
Squires Lake Park
Address: 135 Old Highway 99 North. Take Interstate 5 south to Nulle Road exit 242 and go left under the freeway. Or take Lake Whatcom Boulevard south to Cain Lake Road and turn left onto Old Highway 99.
Information: Free parking, portable toilet, dogs on leash only.
Find Robert Mittendorf’s Out With the Kids column online at BellinghamHerald.com/out-with-kids.