I moved to Sudden Valley in 2018, two years ago. I had dreamed of moving to Bellingham for years, scrolled listings, googled neighborhoods, followed real estate agents on Facebook. Everything was magical to me in this beautiful place in the PNW. I am self employed as a real estate agent, so I could try to sell real estate anywhere, the only thing keeping me from moving was my children, but once they were both out of high school I jumped and ran straight to Bellingham to find my future home.
Sudden Valley has been a neighborhood in Whatcom county since the early 1970’s. Originally a place for Canadians to have a little cabin in the states, over the decades it has become a bedroom community for mostly Americans working in Bellingham and the surrounding area. There is a large range of home sizes from tiny cabins of 800 square feet to mini-mansions over 3000 square feet. There are 7 gates in Sudden Valley. Gates 1 & 2 are between Lake Whatcom and Lake Whatcom Blvd, Gates 3,9, & 13 are between Lake Whatcom Blvd and Lake Louise Rd. Gates 5 and 28 are mountain side of Lake Louise Rd . There are a total of 3157 dues paying lots in Sudden Valley. This includes condos, single family homes, and empty lots, making Sudden Valley one of the largest HOAs in the nation.
Sudden Valley isn’t in Bellingham
If you put “Bellingham” into the search under city on Zillow or Redfin, homes in Sudden Valley will pop up. That’s because Sudden Valley has a Bellingham address, and Sudden Valley students go to Bellingham public schools. But Sudden Valley really isn’t in Bellingham, it is in the county. What does this mean? Lots of things, it is a little further out, we get the Sheriff instead of Bellingham police, and our roads aren’t up to code within the neighborhood. You also won’t see the street lights or the businesses like you do in Bellingham proper. You can read more about the county vs. the city HERE.
Sudden Valley is less EXPENSIVE
Moving here from the desert I always thought I would buy myself a little treehouse in the woods and just enjoy being in the green lush landscape of my new home. My home isn’t off the ground, but it is still my treehouse and surrounded by huge trees.
Wildlife in Sudden Valley
There is more wildlife in Sudden Valley than any place I have ever been, much less lived. There are deer everywhere, and I mean everywhere, all year round, all of the time. Raccoons are everywhere too, even during the day. I have seen a barred owl, and a cougar, as well as a pileated woodpecker, and lots of birds I can’t yet identify.
Beaches of Sudden Valley
Sudden Valley has the best beaches on Lake Whatcom hands down. There might be some private properties with better, but as far as public beaches there are several, they are unique, and they are NEVER crowded.
AM/PM beaches are exactly like they sound, AM beach getting sun in the morning, and PM in the afternoon. There is sand at both beaches, though it is unclear how that got there. You will see lots of children at these beaches, and they are both great launching places for your kayaks. Dogs are not allowed, even on leash, in AM/PM beaches, or the park and trail in between the two.
This gem of Sudden Valley is a secret to even many of the residents that live here. Tether ball poles, fire pits, benches to sit and look out at the water are all here along with a large grassy field for picnics or lying in the sun. Dogs are allowed on leash.
North Point Park/Beach
North Point Park is my all time favorite magical wonderplace here in Sudden Valley. It includes storage for kayaks, a volley ball net, picnic tables right by the water, and hundreds of feet of beautiful beach access. Also North Point is the best beach to watch the sun set from, or on the 4th of July to watch fireworks from across the lake. Dogs are allowed on leash.
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Sudden Valley has a beautiful marina on the shore of Lake Whatcom. Sudden Valley marina allows for 88 boats to be wet moorage slips, and another 165 to be stored for a fee. The marina is the one money earning place in Sudden Valley, but the fees are still very reasonable for both dry and wet boat storage.
Off leash Dog Park
Sudden Valley has an awesome off-leash dog park directly adjacent to the marina. This off leash dog area is big, and gives the water dogs lots of room to play fetch or just rough and tumble in the water. Don’t forget to pick up after your pup! The off leash dog park is for all dogs, but there is an additional off leash park for small dogs only by the Dance Barn.
Sudden Valley Pools
Sudden Valley has two pools that are open to residents and the public alike from Memorial Day to Labor Day usually. Both pools are outside and a huge hit for families and adults alike. There is a small pool called “The Quiet Pool” which is back behind the public library. Usually children don’t use the quiet pool, and it is a place for adults to relax. The bigger pool is where the children are, and there are lifeguards present during their swim.
Sudden Valley Public Library
There is a small Whatcom county public library in Sudden Valley. It is highly used by residents, and a wonderful little place to fill a rainy afternoon. The staff is very helpful, and anything they don’t have on the shelves they will order and have for you within a day or two.
Sudden Valley Dance Barn
The Dance Barn has to be one of my most favorite places in Sudden Valley. First of all I just adore the name of it. I imagine old fashioned neighborhood get togethers and dances happening upstairs where the board meetings take place. Downstairs they have quite a decent gym, which full locker rooms including showers and places to get dressed and ready for your day. The gym and the pools are free to residents. Passes are only free to one person per property, then there is currently an $8 charge for every member living in that home for their recreation pass. The public must pay a per use fee to use the gym and the pools.
Other Sudden Valley Amenities
There are tennis courts, basket ball courts, softball fields, and a golf course on Sudden Valley property. Everything is free for members to use except the golf course. There are also trails in Sudden Valley, not all of them mapped! The best trails are the one around Lake Louise, and the one on the peninsula between AM/PM beaches, both absolutely worth taking.
Sudden Valley HOA
The Sudden Valley HOA has quite the reputation. When I got into contract to buy my house here in Sudden Valley I was warned off by real estate brokers, my brother who lives in Winthrop, people who I met from EVERYWHERE. Often their reasons were the HOA. The main reason was just that there is always division in the community, always strife, always issues. I have certainly found this to be true, and I have been appalled regularly by the behavior of the board members. A little over a year ago I wrote THIS about Washington state law and Sudden Valley’s HOA. Since then we have passed a new by-law to not raise dues more than 7% a year. We have also gotten 3 new board members that are very fiscally conservative and are calling out a lot of the behaviors that make members so frustrated with the HOA. It is my hope that by November of 2020 the board will have an additional 3-4 members, and therefore the majority, of fiscally conservative directors. Once this happens I believe the trust and the future of the community will be looking much brighter, and there may be a very large uptick in property values here.
Complaints about Sudden Valley
People will tell you Sudden Valley is in the shadow of Lookout Mountain, so dark and dreary, and cold and wet year round. This may be true for some homes, but not mine. Sudden Valley is a huge community, there are homes that get lots of sun, and others that get very little.
You will also hear that you can get snowed in and probably will for 2-3 weeks out of the year. This again depends on where your house is within the valley, and what kind of car you drive. I can also say that Sudden Valley’s response to the snow this year was far superior to the prior year, and from what I hear from neighbors….much better than years earlier as well. Also, the home’s DRIVEWAY can make a big difference as well.
Nearby Sudden Valley
Lookout Mountain is right across Lake Louise Dr. and across from Gates 9 & 13 of Sudden Valley. I adore this mountain, and it has a ton of trails to choose from. We are also just down the road from Stimpson Park Preserve which is a delightful hike as well, but no dogs allowed!
Sudden Valley is 15-20 minutes from downtown Bellingham or Fairhaven. It offers larger, less expensive homes situated in a beautiful forest right on the shores of Lake Whatcom. There are so many beautiful places within Sudden Valley to explore. I adore my neighbors, I feel welcome and cared about in less than two years living here. I feel lucky to have found Sudden Valley for my “tree house”, and once the board has a majority of reasonable minded people this will become the gem of Whatcom county!