Whatcom hikes: Stretch your legs in spring

Emma Mittendorf and Rebecca Sauter of Sudden Valley climbed the Hillside Trail in 2007.
Emma Mittendorf and Rebecca Sauter of Sudden Valley climbed the Hillside Trail in 2007. rmittendorf@bham.com

Spring is the season of renewal in the Northwest as the days lengthen, persistent winter rains yield to occasional sun breaks, flowers blossom, trees embrace a sweater of green, and creatures of all sorts emerge from hiding. Here are three local hikes to stretch your legs after a winter cooped up inside.

Samish Park

Trails: The Lakeshore Trail is an easy 0.7-mile loop along the waterfront, with seasonal waterfalls in times of heavier rain. The Hillside Trail is a strenuous 1.3-mile climb with views of Lake Samish and the Chuckanut Mountains. It’s wonderful in late in springs as deciduous trees flaunt their new growth and mix with the conifers in an impressive display of various shades of green.

Amenities: Playground equipment, fishing, swimming, day lodge with restrooms, a deck and picnic tables. Boating in summer only. No lifeguard.

Directions: Interstate 5 to exit 246, take North Lake Samish Drive south from the service station, keeping right at the forks until the park entrance at 673 North Lake Samish Drive, just before the bridge across Lake Samish. Parking can be limited on popular weekends.

Squires Park

Trails: A series of trails allow hikers to explore the pond-like Squires Lake and a nearby swamp called the Beaver Pond. A steep trail from the parking area levels after about a quarter-mile and offers a view of the still and serene Squires Lake, which is surrounded by trees and has a shoreline that beckons visitors to dabble their toes.

You’ll hike through 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.

There’s an interpretive sign that explains the history and significance of the area. A two-mile trail circles the lake. Go left and you’ll stay close to the water, where several benches offer places to rest and take in the view, or to watch dragonflies, frogs and aquatic insects. Be sure to take the 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.

Amenities: Parking (can be crowded on weekends and weekday evenings), pit toilets.

Directions: Take Interstate 5 to exit 242, Nulle Road. Go east about a quarter mile to the parking area.

Lake Whatcom Park

Trails: North Lake Whatcom Trail is an easy 6.2-mile out-and-back hike along the lake shore. Towering Douglas fir and other trees line the route, which follows the grade of the old Bellingham & Eastern Railway. You’ll see seasonal waterfalls along the way, and on warm days children can dabble their toes in the shallows. A kiosk features interpretive signs that explain the area’s history and ecology.

Amenities: Plentiful parking, pit toilet, lake access for swimming and fishing.

Directions: Follow North Shore Road east to the dead end at a gravel parking lot.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-715-2805, rmittendorf@bhamherald.com, @bhamMitty