Top 10 Nanaimo Hikes
If you are planning a trip to Vancouver Island, you can’t miss visiting the island’s Harbour City of Nanaimo. Nanaimo is the gateway to the northern region of the island, but it hosts so many beautiful places to explore that you should plan on spending at least a day or two exploring its hidden gems. For trail lovers, hiking in Nanaimo does NOT disappoint! There is something for every nature lover out there from coastal trails to hidden waterfalls. Here are my top 10 Nanaimo hikes to get you outside and exploring Nanaimo's wild side.
1 - Neck Point Park
Neck Point Park is a well known park on Nanaimo’s coastline and a local favourite. The trail follows the coast line out onto the point and offers sweeping views across the Strait to Texada Island and the North Shore on the mainland. The rocky shore and islets out in the water make for a classic Vancouver Island view that you won’t want to miss! Make sure you add this to your Nanaimo hikes list!
We don’t get the same wild waves that the west coast of Vancouver Island does, but when a storm blows through it can still get a little wild on the shore. Neck Point Park is the perfect place to have a Nanaimo storm watching experience! If the wind is blowing, you will see the waves here. And, if the storm is timed with a high tide it gives an even more dramatic experience as the waves crash against the rocky cliffs and the wind howls. This may be your reason to not stay inside when a storm rolls through!
Don't miss the lookout between Last Beach and Sunset Beach. This lookout platform and the rocky ledge surrounding are arguable, the best sunset viewing spots in Nanaimo!
The trail eventually leads to a sheltered black pebble beach at the north end of the point. It is perfect for a swim on a hot summer day or a place to enjoy a quieter view on a cold winter day.
The middle of the park is a forested area with a hidden surprise for the littles in your group. Search for carefully crafted and painted fairy doors at the base of many of the trees throughout the park. It's a magical moment when they find the first door and then run to find more!
2 - Beach Estates Park
Beach Estates Park is a short and sweet trail right in the middle of the city that packs a powerful punch. A waterfall tucked right inside the city! You would never know standing at the base of this powerful waterfall that you are within striking distance of a school and shopping plaza! This hidden waterfall is what earns this trail a spot on our top Nanaimo hikes list!
It also is a perfect trail to meander if you ever get stuck waiting for a ferry sailing back to Vancouver at the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal. The trail follows a freshwater stream up the ravine from the ferry terminal and ends with a cascading waterfall that is totally worth the climb! It is only a 20 min return hike up the trail, but it is charming with wooden pathways and bridges.
3 - Pipers Lagoon
Pipers Lagoon is another famous Nanaimo waterfront park with a bit of history too. The park is full of twisting trails and rocky bluffs for climbing and has plenty of scenic look outs along the way. The trail involves climbing over rocky bluffs, so it is not recommended for visitors with mobility issues. However, it is perfect for kiddos that love to climb!
The coolest part of this Nanaimo hike is Shack Island which is connected at low tide to the park. Colourful fishing huts dot the “Island” that have been passed down over the generations from family to family. They were originally fishing huts used as a resting point for fisherman and as summer retreats. They make a playful and colourful backdrop for the park and residents of the lagoon.
4- Ammonite Falls
Ammonite Falls is a popular trail that is part of the Benson Creek Falls Regional Park. This is THE trail that people talk about as a must do when hiking in Nanaimo. Once you see the falls, you will see why we have added it to our top Nanaimo hikes!
It is an easy 4.5km out and back hike ending at the falls. The falls cascade over a rock cliff filled with Ammonite fossils…hence the name! The final descent to the base of the falls is via newly built wooden stairs with built in viewing platforms making the falls more accessible than ever. From the base of the stairs, you can choose to walk along the river to the base of the falls, but beware of slippery rocks and high water levels in winter.
The advantage of going in the winter is the falls are running at full force and are mighty impressive! Although the water is more of a trickle in the summer it makes for a great swimming hole!
There are two separate access points and trails to reach the falls. One is from Jameson Rd. and the other is from the Benson Creek Falls North Parking Lot off of Weigles Rd. Both access points lead you through a beautiful trail network. My preferred access is from Weigles Rd. as it crosses a gorgeous ravine with beautiful wooden stairs and a bridge. But I am a sucker for wooden stairs through the forest!
5 - Linley Valley
Linley Valley is the sleeper hit of Nanaimo! This park is smack dab in the middle of the city and is MASSIVE! There are multiple entry points in the park connecting you to a network of trails that wind their way over moss covered rocky knolls, through deep forests leading to multiple look out points and around the central Cottle Lake. Some trails are shared between hikers and mountain bikers and some trails are more like goat trails than wide open paths. It is a wonderful place to wander, and explore. Trust me, you will forget that you are in the middle of the city!
6 - Colliery Dam
Colliery Dam is the site of an old water supply built for the coal mining industry in the city of Nanaimo's early days. The park is now home to a beautiful walking trail around two lakes and includes a waterfall. Parts of the trail are paved with wooden boardwalks built over uneven terrain and other sections of trail are more rugged and exposed.
Beautiful moss covered rocks and ferns line the trails giving it that quintessential west coast vibe.
In the summer, there is a small swim dock in the lake for swimmers and a retaining wall with lakeside access for fishing. All in all, Colliery Dam is a great destination for a family hike!
7 - Sugarloaf Mountain
Small but with mighty views! Sugarloaf Mountain Park is located in the heart of the Departure Bay neighbourhood. The park itself is a bare and exposed knoll of rock up on the hill above Departure Bay beach. While being a small plot of rock that calls itself a park, it has 360 degrees of sweeping views overlooking Departure Bay and Mount Benson. Whether you are looking for a sunrise or a sunset view, this park delivers both with style!
8 - Westwood Lake
Westwood Lake is nestled in the foothills of Nanaimo's Mt. Benson. A well groomed 5.5km trail circles the lake offering multiple viewpoints and access to the shore. The hiking trail is mostly flat with only one section climbing over a small rise. But the view is worth it! Near the parking area is a large sandy swimming beach that makes a great place to cool off at the end of your hike. There is also a boat ramp for launching kayaks or SUPs. Pack a picnic and spend the day!
9 - Cable Bay Trail
Cable Bay Trail is located in the small community of Cedar just south of Nanaimo. This hiking trail is a great combination of forested trail and ocean views leading to a fantastic lookout point at the exciting Dodd's Narrows. This narrow channel of water between Joan Point and Mudge Island is the only passage for boaters to access the waters of the Southern Gulf Islands and is also a passage for marine mammals transiting through. You can expect to see sealions and possibly even orcas while sitting on the rocks at Joan Point.
It is a 6.5km out and back trail that starts with a downhill forest decent to sea level and then follows the shore until you get to Joan Point. Leave yourself time to sit and watch the action at Dodd's Narrows before turning around to head back. You never know when a whale is going to transit through!
10 - Saysutshun
Saysutshun is a small island just off the Nanaimo city harbour and is part of Snuneymuxw First Nation Traditional Territory. A seasonal passenger ferry runs every 30 minutes from Maffeo Sutton Park to the island. The entire island is a designated park with options for hiking, biking, kayaking, camping or just beaching! There are 22km of well-tended hiking trails with lookout points and beach access along the way.
There is an inland lake, an old quarry and mining remnants to peak your interest along the way. Plus, so many hidden coves and lookouts that you will wonder why you didn't leave yourself more time to explore!
As a reward, don't forget to stop in at the cafe and concession for an ice-cream or even lunch. You can find a picnic table and sit out to enjoy the view.
Note that the island is open year round, but ferry service is seasonal from May-October. You can access the island with your own boat during the off-season.
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