I’ve written about the Nooksack Loop Trail (NLT) before here & here, and also likely mentioned it elsewhere. It’d be a great trail to have running around Whatcom County, just don’t see it ever materializing. So until never arrives, I will just keep riding my version of the loop trail. My version essentially follows the trail proposed way back in 1973, but I use whatever roads and trails approximate the loop. Bellingham, Everson, and Whatcom County have added trails in the last years/decades that are part of the trail, elsewhere I just ride the roads. The proposed trail is 45 or 46 miles, I forget which, my version turned out to be 46 in this incarnation. My version of the NLT as well as the real NLT are essentially a big loop that includes Ferndale, Lynden, Everson, and Bellingham.
So the loop I rode today began and ended in Ferndale. I took off early from Ferndale. Early because Monica and I were going to a vodka bottling event in the distillery at Bellewood Acres and who would want to be late for that? So early meant a time buffer for any unforeseen circumstances on the ride.
The first part of the ride is mostly flat. You ride north out of Ferndale along Portal Way, Enterprise, Willeys Lake Road, Birch Bay Lynden Road, and Berthusen Road, as if you were riding up to Berthusen Park. When you hit West Main Street in Lynden turn east, riding all the way through town and turning right/south on Hampton Road towards Everson. If you are making a day of it you might want to stop in at the Lynden Pioneer Museum, I was several hours too early. Lot’s of different road combinations will get you to Everson from Lynden, so follow my map or pick your choose.
The second and very hilly part of the loop begins on Mission Road, south of Everson and continues all the way to the Squalicum Trail at the south end of Irongate Road. There are a lot of hills in this section, lots, including one on Noon Rd as it approaches Van Wyck Road that may be a walking section of the loop depending on your bike and fitness level. I managed this on Whitey, but it was close. The real NLT, should it ever exist, would follow a flat valley through this second section, but until then there are lot’s of hills crisscrossing the flat valley. I should mention that there is a pretty nice trail from Everson south along the first flat part of Mission Road, but it is right along the road so unless the traffic is busy, I just ride on the road.
The third section of this trail which leads through the Squalicum area is along the newest section of trail, yes an actual trail. I’ve got more on this section of trail in this post. It’s really a nice section of trail that cuts out much of the exposure to traffic. You may be exposed to vagrants and homeless sleeping here and there, and a couple of rats in the trail today, but overall it really is a nice trail. Between this section of trail and the last leg that leads from Marietta along the river to Ferndale, you will have to cycle along Marine Drive which is mostly good, but a couple of sections that have very narrow shoulders with bad transitions.
The last leg of the loop is all trail and not rideable in some sections. The trail is meant to be gravel and very rideable, but at the south end, the river has flooded enough times to render it unrideable, unless you are up for a challenge. You can just bypass the river trail by crossing the Nooksack and riding up Ferndale Road, but I think, where is the fun in that? The sum of the trail along the river and Ferndale Road is a route that I call my Mixed Loop, one of my close in favorites. Anyway, ride the river trail north, through Hovander and back to your car.
Overall this loop is a long somewhat adventurous and fun ride. It is best to do it on some sort of a hybrid bike as the trail sections, especially near Marieta, are not suitable for a strictly road bike yet the road miles will be difficult on a knobby tired bike. I rode Whitey, which is a hybrid of sorts and seemed a perfect match for this type of riding.
I realize that this is a long and kind of vague route, so leave any questions in a comment and I will get back to you.