Lots of gravel/dirt in an urban area. Fun mixed trail that includes the squeaky new sections of the Bay to Baker Trail.
Smith & Hannegan have wide shoulders, but may also have heavy traffic. Guide & Smith intersection needs to be taken seriously. Marine Drive has a some narrow spots without shoulders, especially the bridge.
If you park anywhere on the loop other than my driveway, the main loop itself adds up to about 22 miles of mixed gravel, dirt and pavement. I haven’t added up the miles of each but it seems mostly pavement, followed by lots of gravel and then only maybe a couple of miles of dirt. Also, depending on weather and time of year, those couple of miles of dirt along the Nooksack can get a fairly muddy making it difficult to ride with purely street tires.
A couple of words on tires for this route as well as NLT #1 because both routes share that section of trail along the Nooksack. I’ve ridden both the Forte Greenway K as well as the Schwalbe Hurricanes and they both worked well. I rode it another time on a set of Maxxis Gypsy’s which didn’t work so hot in the mud, but they are a super tough tire when it comes to glass etc. that is present along Smith and Hannegan roads. Overall, I prefer the Hurricanes because they are really just tough road tires, but with enough knobby on the edges to get by in a little mud.
As far as a bike for this type of mixed route, I ride it on a mountain bike with the extra chainring on the front that makes it a bit easier to do the hill on Smith between the Guide and Hannegan.
I think one of the easiest places to jump on this loop, especially if you are driving, is at the intersection of Smith Rd. and Northwest Rd. There is a large parking lot at the old N. Bellingham Elementary/Windward High School.
If you park anywhere on the loop other than my driveway, the main loop itself adds up to about 22 miles of mixed gravel, dirt and pavement.
- From the Smith and Northwest intersection ride East on Smith Rd
- Continue on Smith straight through the intersection at the Guide
- Ride up and over the hill.
- At Hannegan Rd. turn right/South towards Bellingham
- Eventually turn right onto Division St. just past the Builders Alliance
- Go up a short rather steep hill before turning left onto Irongate Rd.
- Irongate Rd. takes you down a short but steep road that dead ends at a trailhead on the right.
- The trail is the Squalicum Creek section of the Bay to Baker trail
- Riding this section of trail takes you past Sunset Pond before arriving at James St.
- Continue riding the trail as it leads you under I-5, don’t forget to stop and read the signage.
- The trail makes a quick jog across Birchwood Ave. and into Cornwall Park.
- Ride through Cornwall Park, cross the guide and begin down Squalicum Way.
- As you pass under Northwest Ave. look for a short Little scramble path up to the right. This connects to a nice gravel path heading West.
- Ride this section of the Bay to Baker trail through Squalicum Creek Park keeping on the main trail as you look down to the playfields on your left.
- Keeping on the main trail has you riding alongside railroad tracks through an industrial area.
- After crossing W. Illinois St. Look for a Right turn that takes you up a short hill and into Little Squalicum park.
- Take a Right on Marine Drive
- Follow Marine Drive North.north and out of Bellingham.
- The road narrows and the shoulder disappears.
- You will pass Marine Drive Park on your left, stop if you want a great view of Bellingham Bay.
- Continue on Marine Drive following it through a junky depressed area before the road takes a hard right and then a left at the intersection which keeps you on Marine Drive.
- Just before bridge look for parking area/trail on right which is the beginning of the dirt section of the Tenant Lake to Marine Drive Trail.
- This section of trail South of Slater 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. 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 dirt section may not be passable.
- 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.
- Keep following the nice path North along the Nooksack.
- Reaching the south end of Hovander turn Right/north towards Tennant lake
- Pass fragrance garden or stop if you’d like
- Continue on paved road out of park
- Right on Hovander Rd.
- Over tracks and continue on as road turns left and becomes Smith Rd.
- Up over freeway and back to Northwest Ave and hopefully your parked car.