Steep and Lush
As close as this hike is to downtown Bellingham, this hike feels very far removed from the city. The parking area is forested. If not for the sound of cars racing by on I-5, it would really feel remote at the trailhead.
The trail rises steeply and relentlessly. In summer, when we hiked this trail any warm weather is accompanied by high humidity. So be prepared to sweat, if you’re so inclined. Fortunately, the entire uphill is forested, so there is lots of shade. Also, the higher up on the trail you get the less freeway noise reaches you.
After about 1.75 miles and 1,300 feet of climbing, the trail finally levels out. It’s at about this point that I stopped hearing I-5 noise altogether. It is at just about this point that you reach a trail junction with the Cedar Lake Overlook. This is a short out and back trail that climbs an additional 250 feet in elevation (unless you want to take a sketchy descent to Cedar Lake that looks like an ankle breaker). We looked all around and could not see Cedar Lake from the lookout. However, there is a stunning view of Mount Baker from the lookout.
From the trail junction with the Cedar Lake Overlook, continue southeast to the Cedar Lake trail junction. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how Cedar Lake looks. I was with the group to went up to Cedar Lake Overlook while the rest of our group went to Cedar Lake. We met at the Cedar Lake trail junction and the group that went to Cedar Lake was not impressed. If I had it to do all over, I would have gone to Cedar Lake just so that I can say that I saw it.
From the Cedar Lake trail junction, continue on to Pine Lake. This is a fun little trek through rolling terrain until you finally get your first glimpse of the lake, albeit a bit obscured. Not only is the tree cover thick, but the vegetation closer to the ground is pretty thick too. Down by the lake is a catwalk since the edge of the lake is very muddy. The reminds me the catwalk on the Alakai Swamp Trail in Kauai, except that the vegetation is very different. Pine Lake is a pretty lake and it is worth your while to walk the entire catwalk. The best views of the lake are at either end of the catwalk.
Turnaround from here to get back to the trailhead. It is for which is worse – the uphill or the downhill. I did not shoot photos on the uphill so I pretty much just hiked. I shot a lot of photos on the downhill, so I was able to break up a pretty steep descent with a lot of photo opportunities. Nevertheless, with photos aside, the downhill is a little too steep and was very hard on my feet. I much preferred the uphill hike.
What I like most about this hike is how lush the forest is. The forest that I usually visit is in the Sierra Nevada, where there is lots of bare earth under the forest canopy. Don’t get me wrong because nothing in my mind tops the Sierra Nevada. However, the abundant precipitation (which by the way would drive me crazy if I lived in it all year around) results in tremendous beauty on the mountain that this trail climbs. From the dense forest to an abundance of ferns, moss and mushrooms, the entire trail is beautiful. Bellingham Residents are truly lucky to have this gem.
Check out the Official Route.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.