Hikes in Nanaimo
Situated north of Victoria near the midpoint of the east coast of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is a beautiful city that once earned the nickname “Hub City” due to its centralized location and urban layout that resembled the spokes of a wheel. Now referred to as “The Harbour City” because of its excellent harbour and idyllic waterside location, Nanaimo often serves as a gateway to the rest of Vancouver Island for those coming from the mainland to explore its vast wilderness.
Stunning coastal views, access to nearby islands, and vast forests that stretch out towards the interior of the island all characterize the landscape around Nanaimo, making it a great area in its own right to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you are looking to explore the vibrant culture of the city and explore the hiking trails in close proximity or use it as a jumping off point to get to places like Tofino, Campbell River, or Port Alberni; the one thing that can be agreed upon is that Nanaimo and its surrounding area is definitely worth the visit if you are planning a hiking trip to the island.
The 10 Greatest Hikes In Nanaimo
With a city network of over 170.0 km of trails and a variety of other multi-use routes in the surrounding area, Nanaimo offers countless opportunities for hiking enthusiasts to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you like to take brisk walks in a city park, family-friendly wildlife hikes along the rugged coast, or longer multi-day treks through the surrounding forests, Nanaimo is a great destination to start exploring the vast wilderness that is Vancouver Island. Check out this list of some of the top Nanaimo hikes that we’ve put together below:
- Englishman River Falls Trail: This short hiking route is made up of well-maintained paths and absolutely stunning scenery, making it perfectly suitable for all ages and skill levels, including families with children. While out on the trail, you will pass through gorgeous forests, before arriving at a series of torrenting waterfalls.
- Skutz Falls to 66 Mile Trestle: This fantastic trail near Duncan will take you along the Cowichan River for some stunning views of a railway trestle. Along the route, you will pass through charming forests and experience powerful waterfalls, before taking in the historic sights of the large wooden trestle. This is a great hike for the whole family.
- Nanaimo River Trail: Hiking the Nanaimo River Trail is a quick adventure that will take you along the water’s edge for views of the forest. This is another great family-friendly route with low levels of foot traffic through the forest that will provide an almost magical atmosphere.
- Neck Point Park Loop: Another short hike route along the coast, the Neck Point Park Loop will provide beautiful views across the Salish Sea to mainland BC. The opportunity to view various wildlife species makes this a great hike for all ages and skill levels.
- Westwood Lake Trail: Located just west of Nanaimo, this trail will take you through a quiet stretch of woodland terrain for some scenic lakeside views. This is a great option to explore the outdoors without getting too far from the city.
- Christie Falls: This 6.8km trail is a wonderful rainforest hike that will take you past mature trees to reach a beautiful waterfall. This is a great adventure to get acquainted with the vibrant and diverse temperate rainforests of the island.
- Bings Creek Trail: Another trail near Duncan, this lollipop route will lead you through the forest on a path that can be difficult to navigate at times, with the ultimate reward being a charming waterfall. While route finding can be a bit tricky, the terrain itself isn’t really challenging, making this a great hike for most skill levels.
- Piper's Lagoon Park: This hike is a short trek along the coast that will allow you to take in some gorgeous views of the Strait of Georgia. While on the trail, you will be able to spot seals lounging in the sun and a number of different bird species that inhabit the areas along the coast.
- Bald Mountain: The Bald Mountain Hike is a good intermediate length trail that will provide some amazing views overlooking Cowichan Lake and the rugged landscape of Vancouver Island. The upper portions of the trail will require hikers to use their route finding skills to navigate an overgrown and lightly travelled path up the mountain.
- Ammonite Falls Regional Trail: A popular route in the area, the Ammonite Falls Regional Trail is a beautiful forest walk that will lead you to a stunning waterfall. While the majority of the trail is suitable for hikers of all skill levels, anyone wishing to get right up to the edge of the water will need to utilize a rope installation to make a descent to the falls.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Nanaimo?
As with most of the areas on Vancouver Island, the summer months are the best time to hike in Nanaimo, although the window might be a little longer than some of the more rugged areas of the interior. During the May-October timeframe, trails should mostly be dry enough for you to get out and explore the natural beauty of the landscape without too much difficulty. This isn’t to say that you can’t get out and enjoy Nanaimo’s hiking routes year-round - in fact, many people prefer to do so to avoid the tourists that flock here during the summer - however, trail conditions will be the most favourable at this time.
Other Outdoor Activities in Nanaimo
With easy access to the Salish Sea, it’s a no-brainer that many of the amazing outdoor activities in Nanaimo revolve around getting out onto the water. With a wealth of adventures to be experienced while fishing, boating, paddle boarding, kayaking/canoeing, and whale-watching along this majestic body of water, fun is never more than a stone’s throw away from Nanaimo’s amazing harbour. And for those that are keen to keep their feet dry on land, there are plenty of other activities like mountain biking, golf, and disc golf that can be experienced in addition to the area’s great hiking routes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nanaimo
What is Nanaimo known for?
Known as “The Harbour City”, the history and growth of Nanaimo are strongly tied to maritime industries. This excellent harbour on the east coast of Vancouver Island has promoted growth in the shipping, trade, and fishing sectors, with the ferry to Horseshoe Bay also serving as a critical link to Vancouver on mainland BC.
How long is the ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo?
The ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo departs every 2 hours and takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
How long is the drive from Victoria to Nanaimo?
The road distance between Victoria and Nanaimo is 110.0 km, which makes for a roughly 1.5 hour drive.
Best Hikes in Nanaimo
Englishman River Falls Trail
If you are looking for a quick and easy hiking route with amazing views near Nanaimo, then the Englishman River Falls Trail is the perfect option for a fun day of adventuring. The trail winds through the dense forests of Englishman River Falls Provincial Park and visits the rushing waters of both the upper and lower waterfalls. With well-maintained trails and an easy to navigate route, this is a fantastic hike that is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
Ammonite Falls Regional Trail
The Ammonite Falls Regional Trail is a 5.0 km out-and-back hiking route west of Nanaimo, BC that features a wonderfully scenic forest environment and a cascading waterfall. The trail itself is made up of well-maintained pathways that are wide and easy to navigate, making this route ideal for hikers of almost every skill level. Be prepared for a bit of climbing if you want to reach the falls, as there are ropes to help you descend to the water’s edge.
Neck Point Park Loop Trail
The Neck Point Park Loop Trail follows a 1.8 km hiking circuit along the coast that offers amazing views across the Strait of Georgia toward mainland British Columbia. Along the trail, hikers will enjoy a nice mix of coastal and forested landscapes with the opportunity to spot local wildlife, such as eagles perched high up in the trees and seals lounging on sun-warmed rocks. This is a fun, easy-to-navigate trail with amazing views that is suitable for both casual and experienced hikers alike.
Westwood Lake Trail
The Westwood Lake Trail is a 5.8 km hiking circuit west of Nanaimo, BC that will lead you around the edge of this stunning woodland lake for a fun, family-friendly adventure. Along the trail, you will experience a peaceful forest setting and have access to some amazing views that stretch out across the calm lake and the surrounding woodland landscape. This trail is perfect for a quick outdoor getaway to reconnect with nature without needing to leave the city.
Christie Falls Trail
The trek to Christie Falls follows a 6.8 km lollipop hiking route just outside of Ladysmith, BC, that leads you through the rainforest to a scenic waterfall. Along the trail, you will pass by large mature trees as you experience the natural beauty and thick foliage of the West Coast temperate rainforest atmosphere before arriving at the cascading falls. This trail is perfect for a fun day of exploring the wilderness and is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
Bings Creek Trail
The Bings Creek Trail is a 4.7 km lollipop hiking route west of Duncan, BC, that will lead you through a picturesque stretch of forest on the way to a small but charming waterfall. Along the trail, you will need to utilize some amateur route-finding skills to avoid traversing private property and complete the loop portion of the trail; however, the entire experience is worth the effort due to the peaceful setting and beautiful scenery. The terrain along this trail is not overly difficult or technical, making it suitable for casual hikers.
Skutz Falls to 66 Mile Trestle
The Skutz Falls to 66 Mile Trestle trail is a 6.9 km hiking circuit west of Duncan, BC that loops around the Cowichan River to provide views of a beautiful old railway trestle. While out on this hike, you will enjoy a peaceful forest setting with breathtaking views across the rushing water of the river, gushing waterfalls, and of course the mammoth wooden structure of the trestle standing high above the valley floor. Combine this hike with a weekend of camping at the Horseshoe Bend Campsite for a fun multi-day adventure filled with amazing sights and exploration of the trails.
Nanaimo River Trail
The Nanaimo River Trail follows a 2.7 km lollipop hiking route along the edge of the coursing river that will provide hikers with some decent opportunities to look out of the water and the surrounding woodland landscape. Along the trail, hikers will be immersed in a fantastic forest setting and the low volume of foot traffic will make you feel like you have the entire area to yourself. With flat and very well-maintained trails, this route is perfectly suited for hikers of every skill level.
Piper’s Lagoon Park Trail
The trek through Piper’s Lagoon Park follows a 1.8 km lollipop hiking route in Nanaimo, BC, that travels along the coast for some amazing views across the Strait of Georgia. Along the trail, hikers will be able to relax in the wonderful coastal atmosphere with a chance to spot local wildlife like seals and various species of birds. While the trail is family-friendly, it is also a bit rugged, which might make travel difficult for less mobile hikers or families with strollers.
The trek up Bald Mountain is a 10.5 km out-and-back hiking route near Duncan, BC, that will lead you up to the summit for some nice views overlooking Cowichan Lake. The initial 2.0 km of the trail follows a well-maintained path up to a vista; however, continuing further up to the summit will require hikers to navigate an overgrown stretch of trail. Expect plenty of switchbacks up the mountainside and some breathtaking views across the rugged Vancouver Island landscape.
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