Are you looking for a scenic getaway to the Pacific Northwest? Look no further than Whatcom Falls Park and Trails. This stunning 241-acre park is nestled in Bellingham, Washington, and offers visitors an opportunity to explore lush trails surrounded by towering trees.
Not only can you take in the natural beauty of this area but there are also plenty of activities to do at Whatcom Falls Park such as fishing, picnicking, or taking part in other outdoor recreation.
With so much to see and do here, it’s easy to understand why people come from near and far just for one visit. So if you’re ready for your own adventure at Whatcom Falls Park and Trails then read on!
Overview of Whatcom Falls Park
Whatcom Falls Park is a scenic and serene park located in Bellingham, Washington. It’s been a popular destination for locals and visitors alike since it was established in the early 1900s.
History of the Park
The Whatcom Falls region was dubbed the “Picnic Ground” in the 1890s and was a favorite spot for picnicking, motorcycling, and strolling. Private landowners had planned to sell it off but the inhabitants of Bellingham wanted it to be bought for a civic park.
The City of Bellingham, like other communities at the time, lacked funding for parks. Land purchases were dependent on local donors, and maintenance was done by volunteers. The original forty acres were purchased by the Young Men’s Commercial Club for $12,000, or roughly half its value, in 1908.
Later, the city paid the club back.
The Whatcom Falls Park Club, the Ladies Cooperative Society of Elizabeth Park, the YMCC, and private donors provided pathways, plants, play equipment, picnic shelters, and wooden bridges over the creek throughout the 1920s.
The majority of the park’s current 241 acres were bought with federal funds during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The fish hatchery was erected in 1936 with funding from the Federal Government, State Game Commission, and Whatcom County Sportsmen’s Association.
Workers were employed by Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration to relocate the Chuckanut sandstone arches from a burned-out structure in the city center to the park. The iconic stone bridge was built in 1939 using sandstone.
Disaster Strikes Whatcom Falls
The park was destroyed by fire on June 10, 1999. Over 200,000 gallons of gasoline were spilled into Hannah and Whatcom Creeks when a subterranean pipeline burst. 1.5 kilometers of the creek’s riparian ecosystem burnt in just 30 seconds. Three young lives were lost as smoke ascended five miles into the sky and flames flew 200 feet into the air. The restoration of the burn area is still being worked on by numerous entities, and it will likely take decades to complete.
Because of the damage which the park has suffered, visitors are asked to stay on trails and let the park continue to naturally recover.
Location and Accessibility
Whatcom Falls Park is conveniently located just off Interstate 5 near downtown Bellingham. From the I-5, take Exit 250 which will shoot you out heading east of Lakeway drive. Turn left at the first light onto Kenoyer. From there, simply follow the road to the parking lot. There will be plenty of signs and you’ll see picnic shelters.
You’ll need to pay for a pass before parking in the parking lot.
If you are exploring Bellingham without a car, the closest bus stops are #40 Lakeway and #11 Geneva. Both will leave you with a short walk to the park.
If you’re using a map, the main entrance is at 1401 Electric Avenue where there is also an information kiosk with maps of all available trails in the park.
How Much Of Whatcom Falls Is Wheelchair Accessible?
The majority of the park is wheelchair accessible if you have assistance. The approach to the falls from the parking lot is accessible but quite steep and can be slick.
The rest of the trails in the park are generally hard-packed first or gravel but are accessible with help.
There is very little pavement in the park.
What to Expect
When visiting Whatcom Falls Park you can expect beautiful views of cascading waterfalls surrounded by lush forested areas full of wildlife such as deer, birds, squirrels, and more.
Oh and people. Lots and lots of people if you visit at the wrong time.
There are plenty of walking paths throughout the park ranging from easy strolls around ponds to challenging hikes through steep terrain – something for everyone. Additionally, there are many opportunities for picnicking or relaxing by one of several creekside benches or tables scattered throughout the grounds.
Fishing is also allowed in certain sections (for those younger than 14) so don’t forget your gear if you plan on trying your luck.
With its accessible trails, scenic views, and rich history, it’s an ideal spot to explore nature and enjoy the outdoors. Now let’s take a closer look at the park’s trails.
Exploring the Trails at Whatcom Falls Park
With many five-and-a-half miles of trails and pathways to explore, it’s the perfect place for hikers and nature lovers alike.
Most of the trails in the park are easy to navigate and totally doable with children.
Just be aware that you’ll probably run into bikers (hopefully not literally) so keep your eyes open.
Once you enter the main trail of Whatcom Falls Park you’ll want to follow everyone else down the rocky slope to the bridge. From here you can enjoy a view of the falls.
Many people also cross over the bridge and go down on the other side to get a closer view of the waterfall. Just be careful as there’s no actual trail and it can be very slick.
On the far side of the bridge, the trail connects to Bloedel Donavan Park and you can complete a section of the Railroad Trail or head off of the Whatcom Creek Loop Trail.
Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
In addition to its scenic beauty, Whatcom Falls Park is home to a variety of wildlife species such as deer, coyotes, bald eagles, ospreys, owls, and many more.
Keep an eye out for these animals while exploring the park’s trails as they may be seen along any given path. Additionally, there are designated viewing areas throughout the park where wildlife sightings are most likely due to natural food sources being present in those locations.
Other Activities at Whatcom Falls Park
Picnicking and Relaxing by the Waterfall
There are plenty of spots along the trails where you can spread out your blanket, enjoy a snack, and watch as the water cascades over the falls.
If you’re looking for something more secluded, however, you might be out of luck. Most areas off the trail are quite steep and the park is quite popular.
Nearby Attractions to Explore from Whatcom Falls Park
Bellingham’s Historic Fairhaven District
Located just a few miles from Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven district is the perfect place to explore after a day of hiking and exploring. This charming area offers plenty of unique shops, restaurants, galleries and more for visitors to enjoy.
Take a stroll down the cobblestone streets or take in some live music at one of the many pubs. Whether you’re looking for souvenirs or just want to relax with friends you can probably find what you’re looking for here!
Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway
Just south of Whatcom Falls Park lies Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway – an incredible stretch of road that takes travelers through lush forests and along stunning cliffs overlooking Puget Sound.
The drive winds its way up and over Chuckanut Mountain before descending into Skagit Valley where it passes by farms and fields full of wildflowers in bloom during springtime. Stop along the way to take pictures or simply admire the breathtaking views this scenic route has to offer.
Larrabee State Park
For those looking for even more outdoor adventure near Whatcom Falls Park, Larrabee State Park is located only minutes away on Samish Bay. Here visitors can find miles upon miles of trails leading them through old-growth forests as well as beaches offering spectacular views across Samish Bay towards Mount Baker. Spend time fishing off one of several piers or rent kayaks from nearby outfitters if you’d like an even closer look at nature’s beauty.
In short, visiting Whatcom Falls Park and exploring its trails is a great way to spend time in Bellingham and enjoy the beauty of the PNW.
What’s more, it’s one of the most accessible waterfall hikes in the area!
So if you are anywhere close by, spend a couple of hours taking pictures and wandering the trails, as we do every time we’re in the area!