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 105.6mi 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 68.4mi, which makes for a roughly 1.5 hour drive.Read More
The best hikes in Nanaimo
Yes, there are more than 10
Nanaimo is so beautiful that we can not give you only 10 hikes. So here is a list of bonus hikes in Nanaimo that you should take a look at as well
Are we missing your favourite hike?
Tell us! If you've got photos, a GPS track and know the hike, we'd love to share your favourite hike with the rest of the 10Adventures community.