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Larrabee State Park, South of Bellingham—June 2000

By Brenda Senturia

Larrabee State Park is one of the outstanding gems of the State Park System. Situated straddling Chuckanut Drive, it offers both beach exploring and hiking up the escarpment to the east. Trails lead from the main camping area to two lakes nestled near Chuckanut Mountain. The trail gradients are somewhat steep, but the trails offer opportunities for occasional views of Chuckanut Bay and for botanizing along the way. The distance (one way) to Fragrance Lake is about 2 miles, and to Lost Lake about 4 miles.

From the small parking area on the east (right) side of Chuckanut Drive just across from the main park entrance, the signed Fragrance Lake Trail soon crosses a wide bicycle path (Interurban Trail) and then immediately begins to climb. The forest is mixed deciduous and coniferous with large big-leaf maples, black cottonwood, red alder and Western red cedar, Western hemlock, and Douglas fir. There are also some birches along the way, though many have died. The understory consists of sword fern, salal, dewberry, red huckleberry, and red elderberry. Fringecups are common along the route. At .9 miles, take a trail left to a viewpoint. This is a highlight, both scenically and botanically. I found calypso orchid along the trail. And at the viewpoint there were chocolate lilies and Indian paintbrush on the open rock outcrop. The madrone trees, grand rir and ocean spray here indicate a sunnier exposure than other spots. In the large conifer grove at the viewpoint, I found coralroot as well.

Returning to the main trail, the way continues upward, passing maidenhair ferns, foamflower, stinging nettles and trientalis along the way as the trail follows a small stream. Twinflower and licorice fern are also found. At a trail junction, take the trail to Fragrance Lake (.2 miles) and circle this small, quiet lake. If you still have energy, return to the road before the Fragrance Lake Trail descent, go a scant 0.1 mile downhill to the signed junction to the Lost Lake Trail. This route is longer—an additional 2 miles each way, through mostly deciduous forest (the conifers were cut some years ago). The trail ascends along the shoulder of a ridge and then descends gradually to Lost Lake. At the far end of the Lake, at a trail junction, veer right for ¼ mile to the Lake Edge. The trail to Lost Lake is quite muddy in spring.

To reach the trailhead, drive north on I-5 to Exit 231 (Chuckanut Drive). Cross I-5 and drive 14+ miles to the main park entrance on the left. Pull off just across from the main park entrance and park near the signed trailhead. Driving time is 1¾ hrs. There are bathroom facilities at the Clayton Beach parking lot south of the main entrance.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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