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Bellingham’s growing mountain bike trail network

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Robbie Kane committed during slippery early season conditions on Chuckanut Ridge Trail, Bellingham. Brad Walton photo

By Ian Haupt

It’s overwhelming how many mountain bike trails there are in Bellingham.

Galbraith Mountain, which for years has been touted as having over 50 miles of singletrack, stands as a giant in the Pacific Northwest mountain bike scene. Overshadowing the other trail networks in town, it makes it difficult to head anywhere else on a crisp, sunny Saturday morning. But with less crowds, trails that drain or to just mix it up, Blanchard, Chuckanut and Stewart mountains offer something a little different. And to be a true Bham rider you’ve got to ride it all.

In summer 2017, local mountain bike pro Spencer Paxson, in a self-created challenge, rode all the trails in Bellingham in three days. He tallied 16 hours, 122 miles and 24,000 feet of climbing total. “The grownup kid in me did this without question, but the adult in me (and those around me, I’m sure) wondered ‘why?’” he wrote.

He split the three days up into Level 1: Galbraith. Level 2: Chuckanut. Level 3: Blanchard. Looking back on it got me thinking what this would take today — to ride “all the trails.” Surely, it would total to more than 122 miles.

According to Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition (WMBC), Galbraith now has over 65 miles of singletrack. Paxson notched 60 miles at Galbraith in 2017 on his first seven-hour behemoth of a day. Looking at Trailforks, the growth may seem outlandish. The trail database website says the Galbraith network has a total distance of 108 miles. With a closer look, that total appears to include the logging roads.

The WMBC website didn’t have total mileage for the other local networks. Paxson also didn’t solely stick to singletrack in his 2017 epic, and he rode from his house in town.

Trailforks says Chuckanut has 42 trails totaling for 58 miles. Paxson covered 35 miles with an 8,000-foot gain in five hours. These trails are steep. On his third and final day, Paxson recorded 37 miles in four hours at Blanchard with 6,000 feet of climbing and, according to Trailforks, Blanchard currently has 38 miles of trails.

If one were to do this again today, Stewart Mountain would have to be included. The growing trail system in Lake Whatcom Park has just over 20 miles of trails. It’s a bit of a ride from town, but well worth the views of the lake.

Seems like Paxson’s game is growing. But don’t get too hung up on covering all the trails and needing to make it epic. As he said, “It is not that our adult form of play ought to aspire to being epic and full of grand statistics. The point is to apply the playful approach to anything, ideally a healthy challenge outdoors, and to keep your sense of reality from becoming too stiff.”

We just wanted to show how good we have it. The trails keep coming. Who wants to play?    x