I'm a big fan of hiking. I don't do it nearly as often as I would like to, but such is life. My personal favorite hiking area is Blanchard Hill. It's got it all: Views, lakes, forested sections and open areas. More variety than any other hike I've found. Located on Chuckanut Mountain, (south of Bellingham between I-5 and Chuckanut Drive) Blanchard Hill is one of the area's most beautiful natural landscapes and offers some of the best hikes and views around. With several trails, Blanchard Hill offers hikes ranging from relaxing and quiet to slightly grueling.
There are multiple trails and access points, depending on the level of distance and difficulty you are looking for. It is possible to hike from the bottom, via Chuckanut Drive, or drive to a lookout about halfway up, then continue to the peak from there. There are a couple of small lakes (Lily and Lizard) along the way, depending on which trails you take.
From the parking area, the trail (part of the famous Pacific Northwest Trail) winds up toward a series of bat caves, and then up to the top, known as Oyster Dome. The views from Oyster Dome are unparalleled. Be warned, it's a tough hike, but worth every sweaty step. The reviews I'd read before my first attempt sounded daunting, but it wasn't too bad. My 11 year-old daughter made it up just fine... She also had no problem sitting right up near the edge at the top. I, however, clung to a nearby tree and occasionally peaked over the side. What can I say, I'm afraid of heights and I love to hike. I'm also afraid of water but love being on boats. To each their own, as they say...
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For more information on Chackanut mountain and Blanchard hill, click here to see a map of the area. To get to the Samish overlook parking area ,take I-5 to the Alger Exit #240, head west on Lake Samish Road. Take the first Left onto Barrel Springs Road and follow it for 3/4 of a mile until you see a large gravel road and a sign that says â€œBlanchard Hill trail systemâ€ Follow that road up the hill. It takes about 20 minutes, or so. You'll pass some parking lots that access trails. Keep heading up. For your first time, your best bet is to go with someone who's been there before. It's pretty confusing- one of those places I know how to get to, but have difficulty describing. It's definitely worth it, though!
Be sure to check out Bellingham's Backcountry Essentials for hiking gear and micro-brews!