A break in the rainy NorthWet weather sends the TrailBear scampering off to Bellingham to survey The Railroad Trail on a day with blue skies and fluffy clouds. The Railroad Trail needs some TLC. There are neither pictures nor reviews on its TrailLink page. TrailBear can fix.
The Railroad Trail turns out to be a nice ride albeit short – 3.5 miles. It’s an old timber rail road that moved the lumber from the sawmill on Lake Whatcom down to the Port of Bellingham. Down is the word. The trail does descent a few hundred feet.
The trail also has split ends. At both ends you have your choice of two trail ends. Facilities are limited to the Blodel-Donovan Park on Lake Whatcom. Here is ample parking, restrooms and water. Give it 4*s for facilities. Besides, it’s a rather scenic lake front park. The other ends are at the Memorial Park on I-5. No facilities other than parking and benches.
The trail surface is something TB calls “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Blacktop.” It’s gravel in an asphalt matrix. There is a thin, variable layer of loose surface gravel over a hard surface - enough for the tires to make That Crunchy Sound yet hard enough below that the rains have not caused erosion. Give it 4*s – smooth, yet crunchy.
The trail is accessible. In fact, TrailBear cannot recall another trail with as much access. There are side trails to almost every street that dead ends against the Right of Way. Railroad Trail is everyone’s neighborhood trail. It sees a lot of walkers, joggers, dog walkers and occasional bikies. It has a unique system of pet poop bins with trail maps on the lids down the length of the trail. Each bin is marked on the map.
The trail signage is excellent and quite detailed. There are mile posts on the quarter mile and good signage at the junctions. Give it 5*s for signage. Combine this with a good quality trail map from the city and you are good to go. Bellingham does a nice job on their trails. Let’s start at …
BLODEL-DONOVAN PARK, GE: N48.76005 W122.41925
Park somewhere in the ample lot, check out the restrooms over at the community building by the tot lot (last ones you will see), water up as needed and work out to Electric Ave. Head north up the ave on the sidewalk, cross the bridge over an arm of Lake Whatcom and look for a trail end and small access parking lot on the other side about 0.1 miles beyond the restrooms. Here is the northern trail end. Cross over, saddle up and head down the trail to …
SCUDDER POND, GE: N48.76096 W122.42377
Formed when a culvert under the railroad embankment plugged, flooding the land behind it, Scudder Pond is a gem. It says so on the info sign. They are right. The pond is a delight and exudes Pondiness. There is even a baritone frog hitting some really low notes out there. Admire, then continue on to …
THE FOUR TRAILS JUNCTION, GE: N48.75636 W122.42436
Four trails meet here in the forest. Take note of which trail goes where. Of the two trails ahead, you want to take the right hand trail to Alabama St. This is the old RR grade. When you return, you will take the right hand trail going back (you just came in on the left hand trail). This will take you down to the bridge over Whatcom Creek with a view of the dam and onward to the other trail end at the parking lot at Blodel Donovan Park. Right now your goal is …
THE ALABAMA ST. BRIDGE, GE: N48.76315 W122.43304
Here are the views on this ride. No, you cannot see forever from here. However, on a clear day, you can see the U.S. San Juan Islands and beyond them, the Canadian San Juan Islands. TrailBear pulls out his 8x30 binoculars and scopes the horizon: The waterfront, Lummi Island, Orcas Island beyond with Mt. Constitution, then Pender Island in Canada and Saltspring beyond it. Beyond that is Vancouver Island. Sailed amid them all, TB has.
Mount up and head off the bridge. Here you find a downhill grade. TB puts it at about a 3% grade or more. Coast down it to the …
ST. CLAIR DETENTION POND, GE: N48.77173 W122.43619
Cleverness is. Fever Creek, which ran under the RR grade, would flood on occasion. The city raised the RR bed and turned it into a dam with the new St. Clair Detention Pond beyond. Sure looks like a lush wetland back there.
These detention ponds work well. Bellevue has a whole system of them: Parks in The Dry and occasionally full of water in The Wet. The ponded water recharges the aquifer and the plants filter out the nasties. Win-win.
The dam is also a trail junction. Check out the sign post for the options. Then downhill for 0.1 miles to the …
BURNED TRESTLE, GE: N48.77197 W122.44015
A sad sight, this. Two bents of a burned trestle remain on either side of the cut. However, they are rather photogenic. The map shows a short spur line up there. Next stop is 0.5 miles to …
THE WOBURN ST. CROSSING, GE: N48.76751 W122.44514
Do not bust this crossing. Stop, get off the bike and smile sweetly at the cars rushing by until they stop and you can cross. They actually do stop for peds. Woburn St. marks the beginning of a sector with a number of street crossings. Some you can jam. Woburn and Orleans you should walk. Continue on with care to …
THE I-5 BRIDGE, GE: N48.76554 W122.46158
A simple bridge over I-5 leads to one of the trail ends at the western end of the trail. Once over the bridge you can turn left and hit the trail end on Lincoln St. There is ample on-street parking in this quiet neighborhood. Go back up to the junction and take the other path. This trail ends at King St., another quiet street with lots of parking. At the top of the street is the …
MEMORIAL PARK, GE: N48.76690 W122.46338
Here is Whatcom County’s memorial to the citizens lost in WW I, WW II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the Iraq War. They show that date as 2003 - _____ so it must include the Afghan War. Still have yet to close the books on that one.
Time to turn around and pedal back up the grade. It was a nice downhill while it lasted. Back to the Four Trails Junction and …
THE BRIDGE OVER WHATCOM CREEK, GE: N48.75699 W122.42231
If you took the right hand trail at the junction, you are now on the bridge over Whatcom Creek, looking at the dam on your left. Continue on, cross Electric Ave. with care and follow the trail up to the corner of the parking lot at Blodel Donovan.
OTHER RIDE OPTIONS…
There is an interesting trail map here at the edge of the parking lot. Below Blodel Donovan is the larger Whatcom Falls Park with lots of trails. Might be interesting.
The map shows that you can bike down to the waterfront from here on the Whatcom Creek Trail. Some of it is side walk and some of it is on-street, but you can get to the Maritime Heritage Park or the top of the South Bay Trail. Conversely, what would be the best route from Memorial Park down to the waterfront trails?
Another thought: Start at Blodel Donovan, ride the RR Trail to Memorial Park, descend one of the side streets – like King St. – to the Whatcom Creek Trail, ascend this trail back to BD for a loop ride.
The South Bay runs into the Bellingham Interurban which runs about seven miles out to Larabee State Park. It’s a good ride. Check out the TrailBear review on TrailLink. Link these trails and you can do some riding.
Scoping the view from the Alabama Bridge