Three options for family hiking when it’s clear, crisp and cold

The Chuckanut Ridge Trail near Bellingham takes hikers through the woods and offers stunning views east to the Twin Sisters and Mount Baker and west to the San Juan Islands.
The Chuckanut Ridge Trail near Bellingham takes hikers through the woods and offers stunning views east to the Twin Sisters and Mount Baker and west to the San Juan Islands. krelyea@bhamherald.com

Winter can be funny in Whatcom County. One week it’s pouring rain incessantly, and the next it’s clear, crisp and cold – three great ingredients for getting outdoors. The rule of thumb for hiking with kids is keeping it manageable, which means choosing trails that aren’t too long, taking frequent snack and toilet stops and dressing for the weather – particularly in winter, when cold children make for miserable hikers. Here’s three picks for fun hikes with little ones.

Monument Park

You’ll have to cross the border – twice – to reach Monument Park since it’s located in Point Roberts, so be sure to pack passports or Nexus cards. The 8.23-acre park got its name from the granite obelisk that represents Border Marker No. 1 on the U.S.-Canadian border. Interestingly, that obelisk was made in Europe back in 1861. Monument Park overlooks the Georgia Strait from a small bluff and has an easy walking trail down to the beach, through a forest of Douglas fir. The trail has five switchbacks and descends 135 feet with gorgeous views on the way down.

The southwest-exposure beach is a great venue for a picnic on a sunny day, with lots of private nooks and crannies. Be warned, though, there are no facilities here so pack in and pack out everything you need. To get there cross the Peace Arch Border, follow the signs on Highway 99 North to Point Roberts, then cross back into the U.S. and look out for 217 Marine Drive.

Chuckanut Ridge Trail

The Chuckanut Mountain Recreation Area consists of 60 miles of trails snake through the dense forest – way too far for little feet. But if you park at the Cyrus Gates Overlook, you have quick and easy access to a great three-mile trail on Chuckanut Ridge, one that’s mostly flat. The well-worn ridge trail offers an easy hike and is a great choice for invigorating views and just enough meandering up old and down sandstone rocks to accelerate your heart rate.

The mountain is dotted with second growth Douglas firs, hemlocks, Sitka spruce and western red cedar and the trail passes steep cliffs below which you’ll likely see full winter creeks tumbling 200 feet below. Look northeast to see the peak of Mount Baker and the Twin Sisters Mountains, while Raptor Ridge lies to the east. To get there, look for the North Chuckanut Trailhead signs from Chuckanut Drive and consider picking up a Chuckanut Recreation Area map from Fairhaven Bike & Ski or at the Bellingham Visitors Center at 904 Potter St.

Terrell Marsh Trail

If you’re short of time but desperately in need of some outdoor activity, Birch Bay State Park is a great venue and in the winter it’s likely to be yours and all yours. Terrell marsh is one of the last saltwater/freshwater estuaries in northern Puget Sound so the birdlife will be interesting. Keep your eyes peeled for migratory waterfowl, bald eagles, herons and songbirds.

The trail is a short one at just half a mile, but it’s a beautiful one, dotted with Douglas firs, western red cedars and birch trees. Kids will enjoy the signs along the trail that describe the sights you’re encountering, and dogs are allowed here. To get there exit at 266 off the I-5 north, turn west on to Grandview Road and drive seven miles to Jackson Road. Head north on Jackson and west on Helweg road until you reach the park.