Beat the Heat and Cannonball into Summer

Summer is here, bringing with it the promise of long days, endless miles of hiking and…you guessed it: Those hot summer afternoons beneath a northwest sun.

So where are you supposed to go to beat the heat? Some of the best swimming holes are surprisingly close at hand to those of us who call Bellingham home. Whether you’re looking to hike into a swimming spot, find somewhere easy to take the kids, or go for a night-time dip, there are a lot of alluring options. Now that the summer sun is finally overhead, it’s time to take advantage and cannonball into the water.

Here are a few of the area’s finest – and closest – places to cool off when the summer heat kicks in.

Lake Padden

Taking a dip in Lake Padden is a true Bellingham tradition, and a sure sign that summer is here. The park is a great place to go for those who want to do it all – in addition to swimming in the lake, there’s a dog park, a playground, and a baseball field. The park wraps 160 acres around a huge lake that has multiple docks for boat launching or jumping into the water. Getting to Lake Padden is easy. It’s located on Lakeshore Drive, which is right off of South Samish Way. Use the East entrance to find the best parking to access the swimming areas.

Whatcom Falls Park

Whatcom Falls: An urban beauty. Photo by Melanie Grew
Whatcom Falls: An urban beauty. Photo by Melanie Grew

Come to Whatcom Falls Park for the swimming – and the scenery. Check out at least four different waterfalls. For the courageous, there are small cliffs with drops ranging from 20-40 feet  for those who want to make an entrance when jumping into the water (every year a few ‘courageous’ folks end up in the hospital, so be smart!). Whatcom Falls is favored among swimming holes because it is easy to get to – it’s right in town! A picturesque stone bridge bisects the creek below Whatcom Falls itself, providing a fantastic view of the tumbling water. There are picnic areas available for eating (at 241 acres, it’s a big park) before going swimming, but don’t forget to wait a half hour before jumping into the water! Whatcom Falls Park is located just three miles from downtown Bellingham. Best access for the falls (and the swimming holes) is by turning off Lakeway Dr. onto Silver Beach Rd.

Fragrance Lake

Fragrance Lake:Summer bliss in the Chuckanuts
Fragrance Lake: Summer bliss in the Chuckanuts. Photo by Melanie Grew

A two-mile hike leads up into the Chuckanuts, affording a great chance to build up a sweat before jumping into Fragrance Lake. The lake is a visual delight, perfectly mirroring the trees and ridges surrounding it. The scene is breathtaking – it almost looks as though someone carefully painted each and every tree’s reflection in the water to double the beauty of the setting. After enjoying the whimsical view, swimmers can alter the real life painting by taking a dip in the cool water.  The Fragrance Lake trailhead is located just before the entrance to the campground at Larrabee State Park on Chuckanut Drive, about seven miles from downtown Fairhaven.

Teddy Bear Cove

Teddy Bear Cove: A hidden gem. Photo by Melanie Grew
Teddy Bear Cove: A hidden gem. Photo by Melanie Grew

Teddy Bear Cove is a hidden gem of Bellingham. Not only is it beautiful with centuries of crushed clam shells that paint the sand white, but there is also bioluminescent algae that glows in the dark at night in the summer and early fall. At night, the algae surrounds swimmers, making the water look like a sparkling reflection of the night sky. The bioluminescence is best seen during a new moon. The mile-long hike that leads to the cove is well worth the time – swimmers will find small tide pools, graceful madrone trees, and of course that wild algae for those who choose to come at night. Day or night, the cove provides stunning views of Chuckanut Bay. Access is from the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead on Chuckanut Drive. Hike 0.2 miles up the Hemlock Trail to the Interurban Trail, then head south for about 0.5 miles and cross Chuckanut Drive to the Teddy Bear Cove trail. It is 0.2 more miles down to the beach.

Enjoy these sweet swimming spots and make the most of our beautiful summer. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!

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