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Fragrance Lake Trail: Everything You Need to Know

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A serene lake surrounded by pine trees. A fairytale forest. Stunning views of a bay. The Fragrance Lake trail, nestled in the Chuckanut Mountains along the northern Washington Coast, offers all of these incredible views, all within a 5.3 mile hike. So if you’re looking for a fantastic trail near Bellingham, you’re in luck- here’s everything you need to know about Fragrance Lake.

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Psssst… looking for another awesome hike near Bellingham? Check out Oyster Dome, less than five miles south of Fragrance Lake!

About Fragrance Lake

Miles: 5.3 miles

Elevation gain: 1,175 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Dogs: Yes, on a leash

Woman standing along a boardwalk on the Fragrance Lake trail near Bellingham

How to Get to Fragrance Lake trailhead

The trailhead is located here along Bellingham’s Chuckanut Drive, a state highway that winds along Samish Bay. There’s about 8 or so parking spots right off this two-lane road, but I’d actually not recommend parking here- with the highway offering a quick getaway, car break-ins are extremely common in this area. 

High Theft Area sign by Fragrance Lake trailhead

Instead, I’d recommend parking across the street in the lot for Larrabee State Park, which is tucked away from Chuckanut Drive and thus, less of a target for ne’er-do-wells. No matter which lot you park in, you’ll need a Discover Pass, which gives you access to all of the incredible Washington State parks for an entire year!

When to Hike Fragrance Lake

One of the best things about Fragrance Lake is that, due to its proximity to the coastline, the temperature stays pretty moderate here year round- and thus, it’s the perfect trail to hike during the winter or spring in Washington.

From late November through February, there is a chance you may run into some snow, especially along the trail’s higher elevations. So if you’re visiting during this timeframe, I’d recommend checking recent reviews on AllTrails for reports of snow and if so, bringing along some microspikes and trekking poles to provide extra traction for your hike.

Fragrance Lake

What to Expect Along Fragrance Lake

You’ll follow signs for Fragrance Lake from the parking lot, immediately starting your climb up into the Chuckanut Mountains. After just a few short switchbacks, the trail is intersected with the Interurban Trail, a 6.6 mile path stretching all the way from Bellingham to the north down to Larrabee State Park. Look to your right and you’ll spot the hikers-only path for Fragrance Lake.

Sign for Fragrance Lake trailhead

You’ll climb deeper and deeper into the forest, amid primeval ferns and towering cedar and Douglas fir overhead, dripping with moss. This area was logged extensively before Larrabee was established in 1915 (the first state park in all of Washington!)- you can see some of the remnants of the giant trees that once grew here throughout the second-growth forest.

About 0.7 miles into the trail, there’s a 0.2 mile (one-way) offshoot to the left for an overlook of the Samish Bay. As you near the overlook, the trees around you will thin, leaving nothing but spectacular views of the endlessly blue bay and the San Juan Islands.

Backtrack to the main trail, where you’ll continue to climb those switchbacks, until you reach a junction 1.5 miles in. If you head to the right, you can access the impressive Lost Lake (for a lengthier 10 mile hike), or continue on straight to head to Fragrance Lake. In just another 0.1 miles, you’ll reach a sign for the loop around the lake. 

Head counterclockwise for the shortest distance to the lake’s shores, where you’ll find several clearings with benches to take a breather and drink in the views of the small lake, surrounded by impossibly green pines.  About halfway around the lake, you’ll find one of the coolest features of the hike, the Fragrance Lake Lookout Tree- an enormous tree (it’s so big, it’s even got its own Google Maps page!) that’s fallen into the lake that’s wide enough that even a klutz like me can walk across it without falling in! 

Woman walking across Fragrance Lake Lookout Tree

Continuing on along the lake, the northern portion of the loop is surrounded by a towering wall of Chuckanut sandstone, covered in moss. This portion of the trail is stunning- it feels like you’re walking through some sort of exhibit landscaped to look like Jurassic Park!

Once you’ve completed the loop, simply retrace your steps and let your feet carry you downhill through the beautiful coastal forest back to your car.

Tips for Fragrance Lake

  • There’s a ton of trails that interconnect throughout Larrabee State Park, so if you want to extend your hike along Fragrance Lake, you’ve got plenty of options.

    Consider the extension to Lost Lake or to the Fiona Ridge trail, for more cardio and forest views. Larrabee State Park has a map of all the trails in the park, but I think this map from AllTrails is actually more helpful (it actually shows mileage and you can use GPS with it!).
Woman hiking along the Fragrance Lake trail near Bellingham
  • In the summertime, some folks haul up inflatable innertubes to float around in the lake (if this sounds like a good time to you, throwing a tiny portable pump in your backpack will make your life much easier) or even just jump right in the lake for a quick swim. My husband and I visited in April and the water felt FUH-reezing- but perhaps it’s much more refreshing come summer. Just don’t forget a towel!
  • What with being in the Pacific Northwest and all, the trail is frequently quite muddy. As such, I’d recommend wearing waterproof hiking boots (like these for men or these for women) to protect your feet from the mud and provide you better traction for when you’re, say, traipsing around a giant waterlogged tree in the middle of the lake.
Pine trees around Fragrance Lake

I hope you have the best time at Fragrance Lake- between the Samish Bay views, gorgeous forest, and the lake itself, it’s one of the most bang-for-your-buck hikes near Bellingham! Do you have any questions about the Fragrance Lake hike? Sound off in the comments below!

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