Selected as Trail Town USA in the mid-1990s by the American Hiking Society, there may be no better place to run trails in the Northwest than Bellingham.
Bellingham has been the site for the USA Track and Field Trail Running National Championships each of the past three years, and has lured some of trail running’s elite athletes.
“I stayed in Bellingham for three weeks and loved it,” said former USATF trail running national champion Maria Dalzot in a 2014 interview. “When I finished grad school, we packed up and moved across the country.”
Dalzot said the Bellingham trail landscape is perfect for her distance training, calling the area a “Mecca” for distance and trail running. Bellingham also is responsible for producing some of the best high school cross country running teams in the state.
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But even for the least experienced trail runners, there are miles and miles of trails to navigate.
Local businesses such as Fairhaven Runners and Walkers and BBay Running (formerly Klicks) offer the shoes and supplies needed to get started.
Below are some of the most popular trails to navigate:
One of the most commonly run trails in Bellingham, Lake Padden has an easy 2.6-mile loop that circles the lake. The path ventures through open and wooded areas and is relatively flat with an exception of a few hills along the south side of the lake. The entire loop is well-maintained. For a bigger challenge, runners can take some of the offshoot trails that lead up to Galbraith Mountain. The single-track trails are more strenuous and offer a some steep switchbacks. Great for runners with dogs.
Mileage: 2.6-mile loop trail around the lake; 5.1 miles of multipurpose trails south and east of the lake
Whatcom Falls Park
There are many easy, flat pathways to run in Whatcom Falls Park that make for a casual, comfortable run. Trails are wide and mostly covered with gravel. Dogs may be off leash along a stretch of the waterline trail. Whatcom Falls Park’s trails contain many entry points, giving runners several distances from which to choose.
Mileage: Mostly short runs ranging from 0.5 to 1.0 mile
Boulevard Park offers some brilliant scenery with a boardwalk that juts over Bellingham Bay, giving runners great views of the San Juan Islands. The gentle grade gravel trail is 2 miles long and connects downtown Bellingham with Fairhaven. Starting downtown, it ends at the Fairhaven Village Green. This trail is great for someone looking for a short, scenic run. Dogs must be on a leash.
Mileage: 2 miles
Running in the Arboretum provides many options. The Douglas Fir Trail and the Huntoon Trail are the main pathways, but both offer several connecting trails allowing one to run for more than 30 minutes before finding the same trail. The gem at the top of the Arboretum is an overlook tower that offers great views of Bellingham and even Mount Baker can be spotted on a clear day.
Mileage: More than 6 miles of trails
Galbraith offers the ultimate trail runner’s paradise with an endless amount of trails that weave through more than 50 miles of terrain. Many of the trails are heavily used by mountain bikers, so make sure to be on the lookout. Running is best on the north end because the trails are in both directions. Many of the Galbraith trails don’t include a lot of climbing, but there is enough differing terrain to make a challenging run.
Mileage: More than 50 miles