Spectacular views across Bellingham Bay to the San Juan Islands and beyond reward visitors of this Interurban Trail. All they have to do is find a clearing along the wooded path that runs a fairly level course across the Chuckanut Mountains between the historic Fairhaven community and Larrabee State Park.
The mostly packed gravel and dirt trail combines the corridors of two former railroads that serviced the area before reliable roads were built in the Pacific Northwest. The longest segment follows the Bellingham & Skagit Interurban Railway, an electric trolley that ran passengers and freight from Bellingham to Mount Vernon from 1912 to 1930. Another trail section in the north follows the railbed of the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad that ran coal trains to and from Sedro-Woolley in the late 1800s through the turn of the 19th century.
At the southern end, the route starts at the Clayton Beach trailhead in Larrabee State Park. The state park was the first in Washington, created with a donation of 20 acres by the Larrabee family in 1915. Several foot trails cross the forested park, but the Interurban leaves from the northwest corner of the clearing. A second-growth forest shades the gentle path for a couple miles until an opening offers vistas to the west that stop many travelers in their tracks.
After passing a waterfall, visitors are faced with a decision at the California Street crossing, about 4 miles from the Clayton Beach trailhead. A missing railroad trestle across a deep canyon formed by Chuckanut Creek means either traveling a mile by road or taking 0.75 mile of steep singletrack through Arroyo Park. Prudent travelers turn left onto California Street, right onto Chuckanut Drive, and right again at a trail sign at Old Samish Road. Even so, they have a couple of switchbacks to tackle on the groomed gravel trail that returns to the railroad grade.
Those on foot or with good bike-handling skills can dive into the steep narrow trail across California Street and take the right fork. Entering a mossy forest that echoes with babbling Chuckanut Creek, they emerge at a long wooden bridge. Two left forks lead to the Old Samish Road crossing and a return to the groomed trail. A spur trail up here reveals pilings from the missing 500-foot trestle reincarnated as a bench.
Approaching the fringes of Fairhaven (now part of Bellingham), the trail crosses 20th Street to follow the sidewalk beside Julia Avenue for a short distance, passing the Rotary Club trailhead. The trail forks to the right at 18th Street and follows the Padden Creek Greenway to the end at 10th Street and Donovan Avenue. The Larrabee Trail (Lower Padden Trail) continues to the waterfront along Bellingham Bay.
To reach the Clayton Beach trailhead, take Interstate 5 to Exit 250, and travel west approximately 1.5 miles on Old Fairhaven Parkway/State Route 11. Turn left onto 12th Street, and then bear left onto Chuckanut Drive/SR 11. After 5 miles, turn left into the Clayton Beach trailhead parking lot at Larrabee State Park. A Discover Pass is required to park here.
To reach the Rotary trailhead (Fairhaven), take I-5 to Exit 250, and travel west on Old Fairhaven Parkway/SR 11. Look for the Rotary trailhead on the left in approximately 0.9 mile, just past 20th Street. (The Fairhaven endpoint is 0.6 mile west on the trail.)