Bellingham Inner Loop

If I’ve said it once, i’ve said it a thousand times; I love to ride loops.  Yes, I do.  I even think of out and back rides as kind of like linear loops in that once you turn around, even the terrain seems new; uphill is down, an uphill obstacle becomes a drop, it just isn’t the same ride when you’re traveling the other way.  Still, a real loop has the appeal of committing to complete the whole loop rather than just turning around whenever you please.  It’s mental trickery, but sometimes that’s what it takes.  I guess now that I write it, maybe an out an back has the same commitment appeal as a loop, as long as I commit to a certain destination before turning back for home. 

Someday Bellingham will be the bike loop capital of the world, someday when they manage to connect all the bits and pieces of their rapidly expanding trails system.  Recently I connected a few hunks into a nice loop around the outer reaches of Bellingham.  At 4 hours that loop was a bit longish for a quick ride on a sunny spring afternoon, so I began staring at the Gaiagps app hoping that the perfect loop might appear.  

The loop that appeared is what I call here Bellingham’s Inner Loop and it is easily traveled in 1 to 1-1/2 hours or about 12 miles.  Yesterday I rode it complete for only the second time, this time in the clockwise direction beginning at Little Squalicum Park near BTC on Eldridge/Marine Drive.

  • From Little Squalicum Park begin riding west on the Bay to Baker Greenway, skirting the dog park and continuing on the trail until it drops onto Squalicum Parkway.
  • Continue west on the wide shoulder and cross Guide Meridian into Cornwall Park
  • Ride through Cornwall Park keeping mostly to the right so that you exit on the south side Rose Garden Entrance.
  • Ride to the light and then go west on Illinois and through the bike only entrance into the super bike friendly section of Illinois St.  
  • Cross James St. to Sunnyland School and go south through Memorial park where you will cross I-5 on the southern most of the two pedestrian bridges.  At this point you are on the Railroad Trail.
  • Keep on Railroad Trail as it crosses Woburn, behind Barkley Village, and enjoy the view as you ride across the Alabama pedestrian bridge.  Railroad Trail eventually crosses Whatcom Creek as it takes you into Whatcom Falls Park.  
  • Keep to the south side of Whatcom Creek as you ride west past the fish farm, the falls, restrooms and then the parking lot where you will look for a downhill path to the right near the end of the parking area.
  • Keep on that path and continue right as it follows a pipeline past an industrial facility.  Keep on the pipeline trail heading west.  As the cemetary comes into view on your left, look for a new trail on the right.  The new trail on the right descends to Woburn as a wide gravel switchback trail.  
  • At Woburn, you’ll have to make your way a across the street and north until just recrossing Whatcom Creek where you will find the entrance to the Whatcom Creek Greenways trail on your west/left.  This trail is pretty foolproof until it crosses under I-5 and dumps you onto Meador Avenue
  • Take a right at Meadow and follow it across North State St. onto Kansas St. and keep going until Ellis.  This stretch of Meador is well marked as a trail, but it can also be busy and the path is on the other side of the street, complete with bridge, if you want to stay off the roadway itself, which you might, because the traffic light here has never worked right for me and I often pop up on the sidewalk to use the pedestrian crosswalk button anyway.
  • Keep on Kansas until it dead ends at Ellis where you will be able to look straight through a chainlink fence at the trail and brand spanking new bridge back across Whatcom Creek, but you’ll have to go up Ellis away from the creek for a half a block or so and then cut back to your left and on to the trail.
  • After crossing the creek look for and take the smaller path that cuts back to your right and follows the creek to Cornwall Avenue while the obvious path goes straight and dumps you out onto York St.
  • At Cornwall you’ll need to cross the west side of the street and also to the north side of the creek where the path runs between the creek and a very industrial looking building
  • The path mixes with the parking lot behind Grace Church and Habitat for Humanity but as long as you keep riding along with the creek you will regain the path which will lead you to a weird intersection of Commercial, Girard, and young.
  • The trail picks up across Commercial leading you behind the fenced homeless encampment and across Grand Avenue.
  • From Grand Avenue the trail keeps following the creek under the arches of the Dupont St. bridge and on into Maritime Heritage Park.
  • From Maritime Heritage Park there aren’t any real designated path/trails back up to Little Squalicum Park to close the Loop.  However, riding Holly & Eldridge north is a pretty pleasant ride even amongst the cars, not a bad way to experience just a taste of downtown traffic.  You could also choose to hit the new Waypoint Park on the waterfront just across Holly and Roeder from Maritime Park and then take Roeder north along the waterfront and reconnect with Eldridge by taking the short steep hill up Seaview.  One more way is to take Roeder all the way up to Squalicum Beach Park and hike the short section of beach back to Little Squalicum Park, maybe this could be a trail someday though I didn’t see it in the Little Squalicum Park Master Plan.

There are certainly several variations of this ride as several sections are connected in multiple ways and some sections are not really connected well at all, so with a little imagination you could ride this loop several times, each time being a little different from the last.  Do it, go for it, make some changes, so many ways to make this loop your own.

Route Links: Endomondo, Gaiagps