Exploring the Trails of Nanaimo, BC

February 28, 2018

Read time: 4 mins

Hike or bike the trails of and around Nanaimo to connect with other adventurers, or spend some time with yourself – enjoying the tranquility and raw beauty, appreciating the natural harmony of the outdoors, and simply savouring the thrill of the trail. With over 170 kilometers of trails connecting our streets and parks, communities and businesses, the journey is as impressive as the destination.

Hiking

Nanaimo is the physical centre of Vancouver Island, nestled between the Salish Sea and Mount Benson, and home to some of the region’s best backcountry hiking. Search for geocaches, explore the forests with your faithful four-legged friends, and discover the unique and beautiful views available with just a bit of effort and comfortable shoes.

Mount Benson Regional Park overlooks the city, delivering panoramic views of the Gulf Islands, the communities that make up the Nanaimo district, and the abundance of nature that makes Vancouver Island a Pacific paradise. For a great cardio workout, take the Mount Benson Loop, an 8km hike that climbs 740m, or choose a less-aggressive 350m ascent on the Westwood Ridge run. Whichever route you take, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views year-round.

Ammonite Falls is a popular natural attraction that’s been available for a few hundred million years or so. A short hike from the Nanaimo Parkway, it’s a great spot to visit at the end of another hike or as a quick jaunt when time is tight. The falls are named for the collection of ammonite fossils in the area, including one that might be the largest ever found on Vancouver Island. It’s a quick hike that can be done any time of year. Here’s a set of directions for how to get to Ammonite Falls.

Take a quick ferry-trip from Maffeo-Sutton Park to Newcastle Island Provincial Park to discover the trails and shores of this local favourite. Known as Saysutshun by the First People, the island is recognized as a place of healing and wellness, where natural ingredients for traditional remedies that can still be found today. Saysutshun has played a key role in the development of Nanaimo, and remnants of the various industries dot the island, waiting for you to discover them.

Newcastle Island is an excellent spot for camping, hiking, biking, and simply relaxing. The Shoreline Trail is an 8km hike that’s fun for hikers and bikers, with plenty of spots to get down to the water for a quick dip in the summer, or to appreciate the power of the ocean if the weather is rough.

Grab your favourite hiking boots and head to Nanaimo – we’ve got trails for days.

Biking

World-class singletrack, cross-country routes with the mountains at your back and the sea by your side, and gentle trails throughout the city beg you to explore Nanaimo at your speed.

You’ll need more than a few trips to explore everything the Doumont and Westwood Lake mountain biking trails have to offer, including tight and technical singletrack with jumps, drops, ramps, berms, and everything you love about downhill and cross-country mountain biking. With trails to explore and a climate that invites you to ride just about every day of the year, it’s easy to see how Nanaimo is earning a reputation as an MTB destination.

The Nanaimo Parkway is a 20km paved, multi-use trail that runs along the highway and is perfect for casual cycling, enjoying the tree-lined path and watching the city whiz by.

While you’re here, check out the Stevie Smith Bike Park, a world-class cycling facility where you can hone your skills on the dirt jumps or practice building speed on the pump track, connect with local experts to chat about the phenomenal trails around Nanaimo, and watch the next generation of riders as they learn to live on two wheels. Practice the technical parts of the ride on the asphalt pump track, with big berms, multi-jumps, and tight lines, then send it on the dirt track, with wooden ramps launching you high into the sky.

Urban Hiking

The mountain trails and backcountry adventures of Nanaimo are one option, but the region has many other opportunities to stretch your legs. With greenspaces, beaches, and near-endless parks to explore, the hardest decision is choosing where to start.

Walk along the Harbourfront Walkway to discover the fantastic views, delicious cafes, and nautical influence of our oceanside community. The walkway is an easy 30-minute hike, stretching from Piper Park to the Chinese Memorial Gardens Park, but with the selection of parks, shops, and historic moments, it’s not hard to spend the better part of the day exploring and enjoying.

Colliery Dam Park is a popular spot year-round – watch the forest wake up during the spring, bring your suit and go for a dip on a hot summer day, crunch your way through the fall leaves, or enjoy the tranquility and silence that’s only possible during a snowy winter walk.

Watch the ferry come in as you hike along the water’s edge in Departure Bay. Take a break in Kinsman Park, or cool down with the kids in the spray park at Departure Bay Centennial Park. Pipers Lagoon is a fantastic spot to picnic, and Neck Point Park is a great place to hike, enjoying the world hidden within the beach.

Check out the trails around Westwood Lake, Bowen Park, and Beban Park for more urban adventures – there’s truly something for everyone. The trails of Nanaimo are a great way to catch a sunrise and see the city wakeup, or watch the sun go down and see the city come alive.

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’re going to love it here. #ExploreNanaimo

A note on safe hiking

No matter what outdoor activity you are planning, be prepared. Follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials. BC Adventure Smart is a great resource to help you get informed before heading outdoors.

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