One of the best things about the Pacific Northwest is that many cities will have parks and trails within city limits. Bellingham, WA is no different and has a plethora of places to walk with your dog! One such place is Lake Padden, a lake that’s surrounded by miles of well maintained trails and many, many trees.

Quick Notes Before You Go

Fees and Parking: No fees; there are three different parking lots on site

  • To access the off-leash trails, use the east entrance and follow the middle road to the very end. (When you turn into the east entrance, there’s three different ways you can go. The far left goes to the golf course and the far right turn goes to the boat launch).
  • There are a few parking places in the east entrance but the dog off leash is at the very end, near the baseball field.
  • If you have a horse and trailer, there’s a gravel parking lot off the far west entrance.

Location: 4882 S Samish Way, Bellingham, WA 98229

Mileage: 2.6 mile loop trail around the lake and 5.1 miles of multipurpose trails

Elevation gain: 400ft

Highest point: 800ft

Trails: the trails in this park are well maintained and easy to follow; it does get very muddy here during the winter though! Many of these trails are easy to moderate to walk or hike.

  • To find a map of the park and its trails, go here.

Best time to go: year-round; it is open all year but as mentioned, make sure to have good shoes during the muddy/rainy days!

  • There are also several days throughout the year where running races, triathlons, or special events occur

Great for: kids, families, dogs, horseback riding, biking

  • In addition to walking around the lake and trails, you can also go biking and during the appropriate months, go fishing, swimming, boating, and other water activities. Non-motorized or electric motors on boats only

Bring: good shoes, a leash (as only part of the park is off leash), poop bags

Things to Know:

  • The City of Bellingham has a few animal related regulations. These regulations apply to any city park (like Lake Padden) and you can find them here.
  • While there’s a good chance that you’re not going to run into a horse and their rider during your time at Lake Padden, it’s still a good idea that your dog be under voice control, within sight, and that you have a leash. At least in my opinion and even if your dog is good with large animals, it’ll be safest for everyone involved if your dog is on leash while around any horse and their rider so that the animals aren’t spooked.

This is easily one of my favorite parks in Bellingham, Washington. There are several miles of trails and part of the park is an off-leash area for dogs! During the winter, this park can get pretty muddy and there have been some very icy spots during the rare cold snaps. But even with that, this park is still such a great space. The off-leash trails to the southeast of the fenced in dog park allow for a great mini hike with well behaved pups and there’s even a spot for dogs to dunk their feet into the lake during the summer months!

Because of how many trails there at the park, you can spend anywhere between a few minutes to a couple hours here. Milo and I once accidentally hiked for 75 minutes in the off-leash area! Many of the trails, especially the off-leash ones, do involve some hills and rocky/muddy terrain but there’s a flat section of the trail from the dog off leash park to the swimming area. This section hugs the lake and is much easier to walk.

I do want to mention that there are special events and horseback riding at this park on occasion. Many of the special events take over the park but may not close it; you should be able to check the City of Bellingham’s website for events. Many occur during the summer and for much of the year, this park offers a place to get into nature with the occasional ‘hello’ to a stranger.

For horseback riding, Lake Padden is one of the few parks within Bellingham city limits that allows horseback riding. I don’t recommend trying these trails as one of your first times riding a horse (as anyone who has been on or around a horse would probably also recommend). But if you’re looking for a fun day adventure with your own horse in the city, this is a great place! There will be people around and odds are you might come across people on bikes, kids, and dogs; but for much of the trails, there’s a good chance you’ll spend most of the time not around other people.

When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time around horses and during that time, I actually went to Lake Padden to do some trail riding with my instructor. This was years and years ago but I do remember having a whole lot of fun! It was really cool to experience this park in a new way.

In addition to other people, dogs, and many even horses, you can often see all sorts of animals and can regularly hear all sorts of birds! There are often geese and ducks swimming on the lake throughout the year (but especially during the spring and summer). Blue herons and cormorants are just two other birds that also call this place home. On sunny, warm days, you might be able to see turtles sunbathing on a log if you look in the right place at the right time! And during some parts of the year, you can also go fishing here.

Overall, I just love Lake Padden and it’s one of my favorite places to take dogs, especially since Rooster seems to love splashing around in the lake and then watching the ducks while laying in the grass. And the off leash trails allow for more energetic dogs to run around. If you’re in the area and looking for a regular place to take your dog, Lake Padden is a great place to go.