Nooksack Loop Trail – 1st Loop


Lots of gravel/dirt in an urban area.


Marietta section is creepy on anything less than a bright sunny afternoon.

I bet most of you have never heard of the Nooksack Loop Trail (NLT).  And if you haven’t, it is likely because it doesn’t really exist yet, at least not in it’s entirety or anywhere even approaching entirety or anywhere that someone might mistake it for a loop trail.

The Nooksack Loop Trail is by no means a new idea. Whatcom County’s Parks and Recreation Department has been planning for it since 1973 and has carried over these plans into as late as its 2008 Open Space plan (as the below maps attest). The trail is composed of segments from former trail efforts such as the Coast Millennium Trail, the Nooksack River Trail, and the Bay to Baker Trail.

I think that overall the Nooksack Loop is a very good idea, but at the rate it is progressing I don’t think I will live long enough to ride the completed trail.  So in the meantime I am having to make do with what parts are available and just enjoying them for what they are now.   And now is fluid because while the Bay to Baker section is getting improved by Bellingham, the Ferndale to Bellingham section along the Nooksack is deteriorating near Marietta.  It’s funny how the trail condition can affect your feeling of well-being while riding the trail.

The homeless sleeping next their shopping carts in the Squalicum area seems sad, but the encampment in the woods near Marietta and the trolls under the Slater Rd. bridge both give me the heebie jeebies.  So in one respect I enjoy the challenge of riding the deteriorated rough trail section along the Nooksack, but in another respect the roughness and homeless don’t really lend themselves to the overall vision of the NLT.

A few years ago, while preparing for the Tour de Whatcom, I approximated the NLT route as best I could just to add something a little different into training.  It was fun, but it was really a road bike route as there wasn’t enough dirt/gravel to justify riding anything but a skinny tire bike.  However, enjoying what is, is better than sitting around lamenting what isn’t, and it wasn’t bad overall if you like riding.

Recently I’ve taken a couple of shorter routes that both have a section of the future NLT.

At just under 10 miles the Ferndale – Marietta Loop is half dirt/gravel, half pavement and kind of fun except for a couple of spots.

  1. I park at Pioneer Pavilion in Ferndale.
  2. Out of parking lot and then North along the river via River Front Park.Cross the river on the Mainstreet Bridge and take an immediate hard right on a gravel road just before Kindercare
  3. The trail will be marked as part of the NLT, from there you continue south along the river trail
  4. Keep right at intersections as you pass through Hovander.
  5. As you leave the park proper the wide flat gravel trail will give way to a more rough dirt trail that is easily traveled on any bike.
  6. Slater Rd. is a hazard on this route that should give you great concern if you have kids along with you.  A rough trail is one thing, getting hit by a 60mph car is another.  There are 3 ways to traverse  Slater.  1. the safest way in my opinion because it has the greatest visibility for approaching cars., keep on path to parking area and then dismount and walk across Slater when it is safe.  2.  is going straight across the road at the bridge, but this has very poor visibility as well as you have to lift your bike over guard rail.   I don’t really recommend this unless there is virtually no traffic.  3. is to scramble under the bridge, however you have to be able to scramble while carrying bike and you might run into the locals who may be living under there.
  7. South of Slater the trail could be considered single track.  It’s a bit rough but easily rideable.  Some of the narrow tracks are deep and can be slick when wet.  Be careful.  Also watch out as you get closer to the bridge at Marine Drive.  River flooding has eroded the trail in many spots.  There are several deep holes that may getcha if you aren’t careful and depending on water level this last dirt section may not be passable.
  8. Marine Drive – back on pavement, ride the bridge west across the river.
  9. Ferndale Rd.  – Turn North and ride this straight section back to Slater Rd.
  10. Slater Rd. – go straight across and continue North on Ferndale Rd. Again, this road crossing is not one to be taken lightly.  Visibility is good but it is still a fast road to cross.
  11. Continue north on Ferndale road.  This section doesn’t have much of a shoulder but so far has seemed pretty slow moving.
  12. As you come into Ferndale you will pass the water and sewer as well as Star Park and then Pioneer Park and then you should be back at your car.

Obviously as a loop route you could park anywhere along the route, but both Slater Rd. and Marietta give me the creeps, Hovander is behind gates that I’d hate to be trapped behind and you need a pass for the Ferndale boat launch parking.  Pioneer Pavilion/Park seems right.

A longer loop that happens to start at my home (there are other options) is a bit more challenging with a distance of 26 miles,.  It includes the new Squalicum Creek section of the Bay to Baker Trail.  Check out In My Life – NLT #2

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