Sometimes, Seattle Backpackers, you just need to get away. But not too far – you’ve only got the weekend this time since most of your vacation days were spent sipping Mai Tais on the beach in Hawaii. We understand. Fortunately, Bellingham is only 90 minutes north of Seattle (in ideal traffic conditions) and is home to several backpacking options, as well as three unique breweries to quench your thirst after a night or two in the mountains.

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Lily and Lizard Lakes

Just south of Bellingham, the Chuckanut Mountains host two pairs of designated campsites: Lily and Lizard Lakes, and Pine and Cedar Lakes. The easier of the two hikes is Lily and Lizard, nestled beneath Blanchard Mountain’s highest peak. At 2300 feet Blanchard is no Everest, but its low elevation allows for hiking and backpacking year-round. The most direct approach to Lily and Lizard is from the Lily Lake trail located off of Barrel Springs Road in Alger. From here, the roundtrip distance is 8.2 miles including visits to both lakes.

The trail meanders gradually uphill through typical Pacific Northwest landscape—dense tree cover, fern dotted embankments, mossy tree trunks, and small run-off streamlets crossing or paralleling the trail. At 1.5 miles the trail comes to a junction. Bear right to continue on the lake trail, avoiding Max’s Shortcut (unless you seek to intensify your workout). At 3.3 miles a signed junction forks left for Lily and right for Lizard. Both lakes have campsites, though Lily seems to be the more popular of the two. From Lily Lake, Oyster Dome is a must-see side trip featuring panoramic views of the San Juan Islands. Watching the sunset from Oyster Dome is an extraordinary experience – just don’t forget your headlamp or flashlight for the 1-mile walk back to camp.

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Pine and Cedar Lakes

North of Blanchard, Chuckanut Mountain harbors Pine and Cedar Lakes. From I5 exit 246, take Old Samish Way 2.5 miles to the signed trailhead. From here the hike is 4.2 miles roundtrip with 1500 feet of elevation gain. Approximately 1000 of those feet are gained in the first mile, so come prepared for a good little workout. An alternate route beginning at Arroyo Park, via the Hemlock Trail, is much easier (and longer). Choose your path wisely. Both trailheads begin on old logging roads that gradually narrow into footpaths. Follow signs to the lakes, where skinny boardwalks skirt Pine and circle Cedar. Accessed by boardwalk, Pine Lake’s tiny peninsula features the best campsite.

 

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If you’re thinking of grabbing a beer and bite to eat after backpacking in the Chuckanuts, Bellingham has you covered with three fantastic microbreweries.

Boundary Bay Brewery

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Boundary Bay is nearest to the mountains and has long been a Bellingham favorite. The brewery opened in 1995 and has since been recognized with over 70 awards, including Best Brewery in Washington State five years in a row (Northwest Brewing News). Always packed in the evenings, Boundary has something for everyone: a full bistro menu, family friendly dining, and fantastic beers. Try the Scotch, IPA, or a seasonal, especially Cabin Fever during the winter months.

Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen

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Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen has been serving “heavenly beer and food” in Bellingham since 2008. Chuckanut made a name for itself in 2009 when, only one year after opening, they claimed Best Small Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival. Renowned for their crisp, clean lagers, Chuckanut focuses on quality, consistency, and sustainability in their brewing. Their kitchen features a full-service menu and all-ages restaurant, with seasonal “locavore” dishes which source ingredients from local suppliers. Try the Kolsch, Pilsner, or Vienna Lager for the full experience.

Kulshan Brewing Company

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The newest kid on the block, Kulshan Brewing Company opened in 2012 and is named after Koma Kulshan (Mount Baker). Not to be outdone by its elders, Kulshan has won its share of awards including Best Brewery two years in a row in Cascadia Weekly’s annual “Best of Bellingham” people’s choice competition. The brewery itself isn’t equipped with a kitchen, but opens a space in its lot to many local food trucks including Bellingham favorite StrEAT Food. For beer, check out Kulshan’s popular Bastard Kat IPA, Midnight KDA (Kascadian Dark Ale), or seasonal Kitten Mittens winter ale.

 

 

 

 

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