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Elle Ossello | 10.14.2016

Bellingham is an under-explored wonderland for any Pacific Northwest adventurer. This mid-sized college town is full of trendy bars, tasty cafes, and gear shops, and it serves as a gateway to a massive swath of wilderness and protected land from sea level to high in the greater Mount Baker area.

For Seattleites, an escape north toward Bellingham yields fewer crowds and year-round fun. The summers are mild, and with an average of 641 inches of snowfall per year, Mount Baker unofficially measures in with the highest average annual snowfall of any resort in the world. It’s also the site of the world's greatest recorded snowfall in one season—over 1,140 inches (95 feet) fell on the Pacific Northwest peak over the course of the 1998 and 1999 season. Even so, Stevens Pass collects most of the front and backcountry skiers and snow lovers, leaving Mount Baker Ski Resort and the surrounding wilderness typically crowd-free.

Bellingham was originally established in the mid 1800s by a group of miners who struck “black gold” (i.e. coal) just off the coast. Loggers and the gold miners arrived soon after, though coal proved to be the most lucrative venture. Today the industry has waned, leaving behind a noticeably avid outdoor community and a strong collegiate presence.

Though there are hundreds of miles of excellent hiking trails in the area and the sea kayaking is second to none, the high-caliber, extreme endeavors are the major draw for most. In the spring, the whitewater kayaking draws boaters from around the world; once summer hits, the tacky singletrack provides world-class mountain biking conditions; and in winter, the skiing around Mount Baker is expansive enough to leave even the most motivated skier or snowboarder satiated.

The short of it: You really can’t go wrong. Highlights are listed below, but visit the Featured Adventures below the blog to dive deeper.

Best Day Hikes

Just before sunset atop Oyster Dome. Photo by Brandon Fralic.
  1. Dock Butte Hike
  2. Fragrance Lake Trail
  3. Railroad Grade Trail
  4. Oyster Dome
  5. Table Mountain

Best Camping

The view near Birch Bay State Park Campground. Photo by Anthony Kasner.
  1. Birch Bay State Park
  2. Silver Lake Park Campground
  3. Douglas Fir Campground
  4. Boulder Creek Campground
  5. Baker Lake, Panorama Point Campground

Best Backpacking

Lake Ann. Photo by Brandon Fralic.
  1. South Baker Lake Trail
  2. Lake Ann
  3. Chain Lakes Loop Trail
  4. Winchester Mountain Hike

Best Paddling

Views along the Clark Island paddle. Photo by Matthew Williams.
  1. Bay View State Park
  2. Birch Bay State Park
  3. Kukutali Preserve
  4. Sunset Beach, Washington Park
  5. Clark Island Sea Kayaking

Best Winter Exploring

Views from Artist Point. Photo by Anthony Kasner.
  1. Mount Ann
  2. Artist Point

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