We frequently visit Bellingham, WA and part of what I like about the town is that it’s very dog friendly.
One of my first stops when we arrive is the Lake Padden dog park where my pups can stretch their legs and work off some energy.
It’s convenient because it is not far from the freeway and is unique because there are options for dogs that need a fence to keep them from running off, dogs that like to hike off leash, and dogs that like to swim.
About the Lake Padden Dog Park
The off leash dog park at Lake Padden was one of the first fenced off leash dog parks in Bellingham and is the most popular.
The Lake Padden dog park includes a fenced off-leash dog run, unfenced hiking trails where you can legally hike with your dog off leash, and dog friendly lake access.
Fenced off leash dog park
The fenced off leash dog park is large and has a separate area for small dogs.
The large dog area is securely fenced on three sides and the fourth boundary is a wetland creek area.
The small dog portion is fully fenced.
There is one double gate to enter the fenced off leash area.
After you enter into the first gate, you have the option of taking a second gate to the right into the big dog area or the gate to the left into the small dog area.
The surface is dirt with a thin covering of grass and weeds.
The most used parts of the big dog area were somewhat muddy.
The back half of the large dog area, and the small dog area, still had most of their grass covering – presumably because they don’t see as much use.
Amenities near the off-leash area include a bathroom, a small covered area with a picnic bench inside the big dog area, and a picnic to sit on in the small dog area.
Eash time I have visited, there were several dogs playing in the large dog area.
But the small dog area is hit or miss – you may have it all to yourself or there may be other small dogs there (or even a potbellied pig, which we saw once).
Off leash trails
There are several trails on the hill to the southwest of the lake that allow dogs to hike off leash, but they must remain under voice control.
If you’re looking for a flatter, less muddy walk with your dog, there is a 2.5 gravel path around Lake Padden but it’s designated on leash only.
Dog swim park
Lake Padden is the only official dog park with a lake in Bellingham so it’s a great choice for dogs that like to swim.
There is a very small, non-fenced, off-leash lake access along the shoreline of the lake.
There is a nice slope into the water and the water was shallow – one to two feet deep – near the shore.
The Lake Padden Dog Park is located just a few minutes from the I5 freeway.
If you are headed north on the freeway, you will take exit 246 and you will take exit 252 if headed south.
Using the physical address of Lake Padden park
The physical address of the park is 4882 S Samish Way, Bellingham, WA.
If you type this address into Google Maps, you will likely hear “you have arrived” after you have passed the park entrance (if heading North) or before you get there (if heading south).
Don’t worry, if you are headed south on Samish way, drive a few hundred feet further and you will see the entrance on your right.
If you are headed north, start looking for the entrance on the left a few hundred feet before the map pin.
If you Google directions to Lake Padden dog park
Beware if you use Google Maps and ask for directions to “Lake Padden Dog park”.
Google directions it will say “you have arrived” while you are still on the main road (Samish Way) and, when you look in the direction of the map pin, all you will see is trees.
Google Maps is not completely wrong – the Lake Padden dog park is there but through the trees.
To get to the off-leash area, use the east entrance into Lake Padden Park off of Samish Way.
If you are coming from the north and heading south (you will, technically, be heading east when you pass the entrance), look for the entrance to Lake Padden Park about a half mile before the Google map pin for the dog park.
You will have to turn around if you pass it.
If coming from the south and heading north, look for the entrance a little past the “Lake Padden Dog Park” pin on your map.
Locating the off-leash portion of Lake Padden dog park
Once you enter the park, drive to the end of the road where the sports fields are and you will see the fenced off leash the dog park on the left.
The dog friendly portion of the lake where your dog can swim will be to your right, across the field.
To get to the off-leash hiking trails, start at the end of the paved parking lot adjacent to the fenced off leash area and head left into the woods.
There will be signs that tell you when you’ve reached the point where you can unleash your dog.
This is a very popular dog park so expect parking adjacent to the dog park to be very limited, especially when the weather is nice.
There is plenty of parking at the park though.
The gravel lot by the off-leash area will hold about 10 cars and there is a paved lot immediately adjacent to the bathrooms with space for about 20 additional vehicles.
If those parking spots are full, you will need to backtrack on the road you came in on, park in one of the many other spots (maybe 100?), and walk to the off leash portion of the park.
Half of Lake Padden Park is forested and the fenced off leash area backs up to this green space.
Various wildlife live in this forested area and have, on occasion, come down into the more developed area of the park.
In fact, one review of the fenced Lake Padden dog park stated that coyotes were spotted within the fenced area twice.
Adn if you choose to explore the off-leash trail network with your dog, you will literally be entering their home.
Be sure to keep an eye on your dog and know what to do if you encounter wildlife.
Always watch your dog and how they are interacting with other dogs at the dog park.
Dog fights can break out within a fenced play area and on the surrounding trails.
Although it’s rare, my friends small dog was attacked by a dog on an off leash hiking trail and died.
Make sure you know how to break up a dog fight just in case.
Lake Padden Park has several options for dogs who like to be off leash – a fully fenced area, hiking trails, and a designated dog access to the lake.
It’s a great dog park to visit whether you are staying in Bellingham for the weekend or just passing though because it’s easily accessible from the freeway.
Definitely stop by to check it out the next time you’re in town.
Always remember to follow the dog park rules and pick up after your dog.
If you want to check out more off leash options, see this article: 7 Off-Leash Options in Bellingham
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.