Whatcom County has one of the best collections of city- and county-owned parks in the state. In Bellingham  alone there are more than 35 places that qualify as parks, including green belt areas, fitness areas, and trails. These parks range from less than half an acre to over a thousand acres. Details at 360/733-2900 or www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks .
Beautiful Samish Park (I-5 exit 246 south of Bellingham, 360/733-2362) is a 39-acre county park along Lake Samish with swimming, fishing, boating, picnicking, hiking, and a children’s play area. Rent canoes, kayaks, hydrobikes, paddleboats, or rowboats.
Whatcom Falls Park (1401 Electric Ave.) near Lake Whatcom has hiking trails, tennis courts, a playground, a picnic area, and a state fish hatchery on 241 acres.
With 12 acres on the lake itself, Bloedel Donovan Park (2214 Electric Ave.) has a swimming beach, boat launch, playground, and picnic area.
Lake Padden Park (4882 Samish Way) has over 1,000 acres of hiking and horse trails, a golf course, picnic areas, and a playground, plus swimming, fishing, and nonmotorized boating on the lake.
Thirty-eight acres of practically untouched canyon wilderness is yours for the hiking at Arroyo Park on Old Samish Road, with nature and horse trails and creek fishing.
Overlooking Lake Whatcom, Big Rock Garden Park (2900 Sylvan St.) includes a hundred varieties of rhododendron and azaleas, along with dozens of Japanese maples. Surrounded by suburban sprawl, this is an oasis of tranquility, with forests and outdoor sculptures.