Skagit and Whatcom counties border Canada to the north, North Cascade Mountains to the east, and Puget Sound with the San Juan Islands— viewable from coastal roads — to the west. This makes the area particularly scenic.
There are several roads that every motorcyclist and sports car driver know about in the region. Some of the roads are nationally renowned. The North Cascades Highway crosses the “American Alps” with fantastic views of peaks and glacial-fed lakes (some natural others created by dams). Chuckanut Drive (State Route 11) connects Skagit and Whatcom counties along a very scenic coastal drive that further established the city of Bellingham as a supply point for Canada’s Fraser River Valley. State Highway 9 also passes through both counties and is well known to area motorcycle and car enthusiasts. Highway 9 is great for those seeking an escape along the rural beauty of the area with curves that reach into your soul like a good blues guitar, evoking exhilaration when well-executed and disappointment when perfection is not attained.
There are many other fantastic routes in the Northern Puget Sound region. To find them, you need to talk with locals. As a local, I’ll share one of the many hidden gems.
Mosquito Lake Road is a short off-shoot of Washington State Highway 9. Mosquito Lake Road is on the north side of the town of Acme. It connects with Highway 9 on the north side of the bridge that crosses the South Fork of the Nooksack River. This is a popular swimming and fishing area. The crisp water slices a shallow swath making it a refreshing place to take a dip on hot summer days.
Mosquito Lake Road is 15 miles of bliss along the middle fork of the Nooksack River from Acme to Welcome. The Road has numerous technical corners that will send you wide if you’re not careful. It is the technical nature and dips in the pavement along some of these corners that makes the route so enjoyable. At least for motorcyclists who seek opportunities to test their cornering finesse. After caressing the shores of Josephine Lake and Mosquito Lake the road crosses the middle fork of the Nooksack River.
The recently rehabilitated bridge is listed on the National Register of Historical Places as the longest pin-connected highway bridge in the state (according to Jared Paben in the Bellingham Herald’s April 20, 2011 article “Whatcom County receives national award for Mosquito Lake Road bridge project). The bridge was built in 1915 and in 1951 it was disassembled and moved 30 miles to its current location. It is a beautiful bridge expanse that will evoke your inner photographer. A river access point under the bridge provides a good viewing point away from traffic.
Beyond the bridge the corners widen as they meander through the mountain valley. The bucolic views of mountains and small pastures continue six miles until Mosquito Lake Road terminates at the Mt Baker Highway (State Highway 542) at the foot of Sumas Mountain. The road makes a rather abrupt turn as it approaches the railroad tracks near Hwy 542. Don’t let the views pull your attention from the road in this area.
Mosquito Lake Road is a particularly exhilarating stretch a pavement that avoids one of the boring straight stretches of State Highway 9. It is a good alternative to the larger road with less traffic. Since Mosquito Lake Road connects Highway 9 with The Mt Baker Highway (State Highway 542) it is also a fantastic route to such places as Artist Point to enjoy the incredible scenery of Mt Baker and the North Cascades Mountain Range.
If you are particularly adventurous, a jaunt down Forest Service Road (FR) 38 will satiate the dirt explorer in you. The forest service road is not marked particularly well from Mosquito Lake Road. It is the road that juts out sharply from the the main road near the gravel pit. FS38 quickly passes the rather unseemly gravel pit and rises up the canyon above the middle fork of the Nooksack River. The road travels approximately 10 miles into the Mt Baker Wilderness.
Trees line the road and sometimes even cover it as if creating a tunnel through the forest. The tall trees don’t allow much plant growth on the forest floor. This provides a fairly deep view into the surrounding woods from the road as you ride. Slowing down may allow you the opportunity to catch a glimpse of wildlife. Slowing will also allow you to catch the wheels devouring pot holes that are found throughout the length of the road. After the tunnel of trees, the road comes to a “Y” intersection. Take the high road to remain on FS38.
At times the road meets with the steep drop offs and the trees fade away to allow decent views of the river valley. To the southwest both the North Twin and South Twin of Sisters Mountain can be seen.
There are many camping spots to be found along FS38. Many are single spots that require a tight turn around down a trail if they’re already occupied. This is a good location for motorcycle camping. Fishing in the numerous creeks and Nooksack River could even provide the evenings meal.
The road passes a few trickling falls. Wallace Creek provides a particularly pretty falls under a bridge. There is a good spot to pull over past the bridge. The bridge is on a “S” section of the road. Be ready for 4×4 traffic to buzz by. It is a fairly remote area, but moderately popular with outdoor enthusiasts.
The road comes to a dead end at the Ridley Creek trailhead. For riders on dual sport motorcycles, there is a trail near the deadend that shoots up the hill. The trail winds its way near Marmot Ridge. This trail is plenty wide for small 4×4 with short wheelbases and is perfect for dual sport motorcycles. My V-Strom handles the moderate “whoops” with ease. The heavy bike was a bit of a pig to turn around when I came to a couple camping on a corner of the trail figuring no one else would be able to make it up to this point. The ability of single-track vehicles can sometimes astound Jeepers.
At the bottom of each whoop is evidence of water flow. Be aware that in the spring and early summer there is likely a good amount of mud from the snow melt.