Whether you’re a hardcore backcountry hiker or prefer the urban paths, the trails and tracks in and around Nanaimo will give you a great challenge. From scrambling to sidewalk strolling, we have the steps you’re looking for. Hike or bike the trails of and around Nanaimo to connect with other adventurers, or spend some time with yourself – enjoying the tranquillity and raw beauty, appreciating the natural harmony of the outdoors, and simply savouring the thrill of the trail. With over 170 kilometres of trails connecting our streets and parks, communities and businesses, the journey is as impressive as the destination.
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.
Distance: 8 kilometres
Elevation: 740 metres
Description: 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. You’ll be rewarded with fantastic views year-round. Learn more about the Mount Benson Trail on Trailforks.
The Abyss/Extension Ridge
Distance: 4.2 kilometres (9 kilometres round-trip)
Elevation: 140 metres (290 round-trip)
Description: The Extension Ridge Trail (also known as The Abyss trail), part of Canada’s The Great Trail, is a multi-use trail that’s popular amongst hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners for its challenging terrain and beautiful views. The trail, named after its namesake feature, boasts one of the city’s most photographed natural features. Check out our Local’s Guide To The Abyss for more information.
Distance: 4.5 kilometres
Elevation: 180 metres
Description: 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.
Saysutshun (Newcastle Island)
Distance: 8 kilometres
Elevation: 150 metres
Description: 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.
Cable Bay Nature Trail
Distance: 6.6 kilometres
Elevation: 120 metres
Description: Nestled near the coastline of Cedar, the Cable Bay Nature Trail is a light and easy out-and-back trail that’s perfect for members of the whole family, including the four-legged. Dogs are permitted to roam free, off leash, and enjoy the sights and smells of the forest. As you near the water’s edge, you might even get the chance to see some of the local wildlife relaxing on the rocky shoreline. Also a great place for amateur birdwatchers to spot a variety of species, including woodpeckers, merganser, robins, brown creepers, and many more.
Colliery Dam Park Trail
Distance: 2.3 kilometres
Elevation: 50 metres
Partially Wheelchair Accessible. Those with mobility concerns should park at Sixth St. parking lot.
Description: Dog-friendly and central! 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 tranquillity and silence that’s only possible during a snowy winter walk.
Urban Parks & Walkway Trails
The mountain trails and backcountry adventures of Nanaimo are one option, but the region has many other opportunities to stretch your legs. With green spaces, 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.
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 wake up 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.
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.