“A mostly forested and pleasant leg-stretcher in the north half of Bellingham.
— Jim Breezely
This enjoyable loop roughly follows the periphery of Cornwall Park, a 68-acre, semi-natural oasis in a densely populated area. It's ideal for a bit of after-work exercise, to relieve cabin fever during the long winters, or to just commune with the trees for awhile if time is pressing. There are many minor variations possible with the park's extensive trail system.
Start at the trailhead on W. Indiana Street if running to the park. Otherwise, drive to the park's south parking area via the end of Cornwall Avenue, which slightly shortens this run. From the trailhead, run past a vegetation restoration area on the left and quickly reach the park's south access road.
Continue straight across the road, wrapping around a deeply shaded parking area. At a junction, take the gravel trail heading obviously uphill to the right; just enough to boost the heart rate. At the top of the hill, the trail passes Parkview Elementary, then gradually descends to a 4-way junction.
Continue straight from this junction for just a few steps, then take the primitive trail on the left. This track leads to the base of a low sandstone ridge. Hop atop the ridge and continue right/north, along the height of the ridge. Stay high until the ridge peters out on its north end, at which point the route arrives at another junction. Continue north on the paved trail to cross the footbridge over Squalicum Creek and its attractive cascade. Proceed past a large pavilion and play area to reach the edge of the park's north parking lot. Make a sharp left here and recross Squalicum Creek on another footbridge.
At two successive junctions just beyond the bridge, stay right, at which point the trail becomes gravel again. Cross another access road, then stay left at the next trail junction. This trail rolls along for some distance, then descends to another paved trail. Make a right on the paved trail, which delivers one back to the park's south access road. Briefly run the right shoulder of the road and turn right on the trail segment we started on, returning to W. Indiana Street for completion of the loop.
Cornwall Park is a good spot to become familiar with the more common native plant species in the region. Notable trees and shrubs include mature Douglas-fir, western red cedar, grand fir, and a small patch of Sitka spruce; as well as paper birch, Pacific crab apple, Indian plum, red-osier dogwood, beaked hazelnut, vine maple, saskatoon, and western mountain-ash in the mid-story to understory.
Other understory natives include snowberry, western trumpet honeysuckle, enchanter's-nightshade, starflower, fringecup, and false lily-of-the-valley. Birds of interest include winter wren, orange-crowned warbler, varied thrush, Swainson's thrush, spotted towhee, assorted woodpeckers, and the non-native barred owl. From time to time, Douglas squirrels (distinct from non-native eastern grays) make an appearance.