Nestled just 30 minutes south of the Canada-United States border in Washington state lies the city of Bellingham. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the North Cascades National Park, Bellingham is a paradise when it comes to outdoor adventure. And though there are many opportunities for exploring the land and sea, the city is predominantly known for being a mountain biking mecca. But the city wasn’t always the mountain biking destination that it is known as today. It all started in the mid 1980s when the mountain biking pioneer, Jim Sullivan, moved to the area. He, and a handful of other mountain bikers saw the potential of the city, especially Galbraith Mountain. Soon enough the weekly trail clearings began to grow and a vast network of trails was soon developed. Galbraith Mountain was bought in 2002 and the trail planning and maintenance began to flourish.
Across the city of approximately 80,000 residents, lies an impressive 179 miles of mountain biking trails, which doesn’t even include various hiking and trail running routes. While trails run throughout the city, the most notorious region is Galbraith Mountain. The mountain spans 3,000 acres and boasts over 65 miles of single-track mountain biking trails throughout. Other sections of trail can be found in Larrabee State Park, Lake Padden, and Whatcom Falls Park. With this many trails, visitors will be sure to have a weekend pack full of adventure.
We were inspired by the “carpe diem” attitude of 57hours.com, a service that links up nine-to-fivers with certified guides across the US to help you plan a jam packed weekend in Bellingham. 57Hours represents a philosophy on recreation – you have exactly 57 hours between 3 PM on Friday (a reasonable time to call it early and leave work) and midnight Sunday, to yourself. Those 57 hours are a precious resource, and you’ve got to make the most of them. So in the spirit of 57hours.com, we present to you a curated agenda for exploring the lush yet rugged landscape of Bellingham, Washington over a 57-hour weekend. Here’s the low-down on how to make the most of your 57 hours.
Step By Step Itinerary for 57 Hours in Bellingham
3 PM Friday
Nestled along Bellingham Bay within the Salish Sea, the city acts as a midpoint between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Washington. While Vancouver lies an hour and a half to the north, Seattle sits just an hour and twenty minutes to the south. The short drive from either of these major cities, ensures that you’ll have plenty of time to explore before the sun even begins to set.
Beginners can make the most of their first few hours in the city by exploring the one of the waterfront trails. The South Bay Trailfollows along the waterfront starting in downtown, passing parks and boardwalks along the way. Complete the 4.8 mile out and back trail or continue to south along the Interurban Trail as it enters Larrabee State Park. The wide packed dirt and gravel trail is great for beginners with south viewpoints throughout, perfect for catching the sunset on your first night in town.
Intermediate riders can experience their first glimpse of Galbraith Mountain along one of its finest routes. The Golden Spike, SST, and Back Door Loop is a popular 5.6 mile loop located at the north end of the mountain. Be sure to take in the after completing the initial climb for a sweeping view of the city, Larrabee State Park, and Bellingham Bay.
Experts can follow the same route as intermediate riders to take in the viewpoint over the city before the sun begins to set. The technical terrain begins on the descent where expert riders can put their skills to the test along either Air Chair or Oriental Express, both just over a mile long.
After an initial quick night on the trails, you’ll be wanting to rest up before the weekend of riding ahead. The closest major campground to the city is located just south of downtown in the serene Larrabee State Park. Pitch a tent, park your adventure van, or set up a hammock amongst the trees all while enjoying the dense forest and the sunset outlining the Lummi Island, Orcas Island, and various others throughout the Salish Sea.
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After a well rested night you’re ready for an entire day exploring the best trails that Bellingham has to offer. The crisp morning air wakes you up quickly as you begin planning your day full of adventures. A full day in the city means exploring as many of the trails in Galbraith as you possibly can.
Beginners should park at the south end of Galbraith Mountain, near Lake Padden park. Here lies the main entrance to the mountain and a much easier ascent than the north side. Road 2000, 2200, and 2300 provide gradual climbs to access some of the best beginner trails on the mountain. The options are endless but beginners should pass up riding along Kaiser, Lost Giants, or Catch N Release.
Intermediate riders have nearly the entirety of Galbraith Mountain to explore. Parking at the south end of the mountain provides the quickest access to some of the most iconic trails in town. The goal of the day should be to explore as many trails in Galbraith as possible. Start off with Unemployment Line, Mullet, or Dad Bod.
Advanced riders can start the day off with the iconic 7.4 mile loop following Evolution, Unemployment Line, and Atomic Dog Descent. Stop after the loop or continue back up the mountain to test out Space Wolf and Devilcross for more remote riding.
After a morning full of riding, it’s time to drive, or bike, into town for a casual bite to eat at Black Sheep, offering some of the best tacos in the city. After that it’s time to see what the rest of the trails in the city have to offer.
Beginners can bike along the South Bay Trail before heading east towards Lake Padden Park. Here a 2.6 mile loop circles the quaint lake and offers offshoots for more intermediate trails. Beginner riders can also bike north from downtown to connect up with the Railroad Trail and weave through the city before reaching Lake Whatcom and the gentle, yet scenic, trails of Whatcom Falls Park.
Intermediate and expert riders can take a short drive to Sudden Valley to gain access to the east side of Galbraith Mountain. Climb back up the mountain via Baneberry Trail and then descend along the two miles of single track along Cougar Ridge. For a more technical ascent, test out Rufus Creek Trail or Bottoms Up Trail.
After a full day of riding you’re bound to have worked up a hefty appetite. Shower off at your cozy Airbnb and then head into town to explore yet a few more breweries within the city. While it’s hard to go wrong when it comes to Bellingham breweries, locals frequently visit Chuckanut Brewery, Kulshan Brewing, or Boundary Bay Brewery, each offer delicious food to fuel your hunger and prepare you for another day of exploring.
It’s your final day in Bellingham and the perfect opportunity for a long ride connecting the vast network of the trails throughout the city. If you’re feeling a bit tired from the past two day, parking along the south end of Galbraith provides you with steady climbs to re-explore some of your new favorite routes. If you have a bit more energy, then it’s time to expand your riding outside of Galbraith Mountain.
Beginners can start the day in Fairhaven, just a few miles south of downtown Bellingham. From here Interurban Trail runs south into Larrabee Park, offering a wide and gradual ride. Those looking to ascend up into Larrabee can take the Fragrance Lake Roadthat gains just over 1,300 feet in 2.7 miles. Access to the lake is clearly marked and a hiking trail goes around the lake, though it is rated as intermediate.
Intermediate and advanced riders can choose how much adventure they are looking for on their final day in Bellingham. Head back to Galbraith Mountain or venture over to Larrabee State Park. Bikers can follow the same route as beginners up Fragrance Lake Road and then have their choice on how to descend the amount. The Chuckanut Ridge Trail Descent is six miles long and places riders at the north end of the park. For a more technical descent, explore Double Diamond to Double Down that steeply descends 1,684 feet over 2.4 miles. For a longer route, follow one of the many intermediate trails down the northeast side of Larrabee to eventually connect with Lake Padden Park and Galbraith Mountain.
As your 57 hours comes to a close, you’re leaving Bellingham having taken on some of the most iconic trails, and breweries, the city has to offer. With nearly 200 miles of trails all within fifteen minutes of the city, it’s impossible to experience it all in just one weekend. Rain or shine, the biking community in Bellingham is there to welcome visitors and you know you’ll be back soon. If you’re headed south, take Chuckanut Drive on your way out of town. The road winds through Larrabee State Park with the Pacific Ocean stretching out to the west and the steep lush forest of Larrabee towering to the east. With tired legs, and a mind full of memories, there’s no doubt you will be back soon.
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