Whatcom Magazine

Whatcom County a mecca for mountain bikers

Accomplished mountain bikers with proper equipment can ride Galbraith Mountain and other trails at night.
Accomplished mountain bikers with proper equipment can ride Galbraith Mountain and other trails at night. The Bellingham Herald

From family-friendly rides on trails through the trees, to downhill runs for riders who love speed and stunts, Whatcom County offers mountain bikers of every skill level a fun place to ride.

An abundance of trails and rolling hills just a quick bike ride from home has helped mountain biking grow in popularity the past decade, turning the county into a mecca for bikers from around the world.

“The best part about mountain biking in Whatcom County is the quality and variety of trails that we have within pedaling distance of downtown,” says Bellingham resident Cody Santiago, who manages Skagit Cycle’s store in Burlington.

Top mountain-biking spots include Galbraith Mountain, the Chuckanut Mountains, Lake Padden, Bellingham Dirt Jump Park and the Interurban Trail. Some of the best places for new people to ride are the local trail system and Galbraith Mountain, Santiago says.

“Galby, as the locals call it, has over 50 miles of single track,” he says. “Everything from beginner to expert is there, so it’s a great place to learn and progress your climbing and descending skills.”

Larrabee State Park also provides a good trail network for riders of all skills.

“You can access those trails via the Interurban Trail that runs from Fairhaven to Larrabee,” Santiago says. “Those looking to bring small kids biking should consider Lake Padden. With easier trails and less elevation, it’s a good place to bring riders who aren’t quite ready for the steep climbs on Galbraith and Chuckanut.”

Whatcom County also offers plenty of ways to become involved in the mountain-biking community. Local bike shops offer “social rides” where people can meet other mountain bikers, and WHIMPS Mountain Bike Coalition hosts numerous events and race, trail-building days, and group rides to ease people into the sport.

“The Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition is a huge asset to mountain biking in Whatcom County,” says Bellingham mountain biker Kyle Hermansen. “ They are constantly working with the land managers to help preserve the trails we have, keep the trails in great shape, and building new trails for all ability levels.”

Mountain biking is now a fixture in the community and part of major local events, including Ski To Sea and Bellingham Traverse. Bellingham is also home to Freehub Magazine, which focuses on the mountain-biking community and supports local companies and riders.

With many great spots to ride in Whatcom County it’s hard to pick a favorite, so the best way to get started is to visit local shops for a trail map and some advice, Hermansen says.

“They will be able to talk to you about the different riding spots, the current riding conditions, and what trails would be best based on your ability level,” he says. “While you’re at it, bring your bike in and have them give it a look over before you head out to the trails. It’s no fun hitting the trail with a bike that isn’t working properly.”

Mountain-biking sources

WHIMPS Mountain Bike Coalition: wmbcmtb.org

Freehub magazine: freehubmag.com

MTP Project: mtbproject.com