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mt_washington_hikeWith Nanaimo full of retail and big block stores, you would think all that us locals did was shop.  But in fact, us Nanaimo-ites would prefer to be outdoors and this city offers more than enough to satisfy our craving for adventure...not retail therapy.  One of the most popular activities in the area is hiking.  Whether it is a leisurely stroll to the beach, a moderate hike along the many designated trails in the city, or a more challenging hike up a mountain, Nanaimo has something for all abilities. If you are looking for a bit of a more challenging hike, I would highly recommend Mount Benson.  It is the pinnacle of hiking in Nanaimo, is approximately 1 kilometer high, and has amazing views in all directions from the summit.  You can start from three different points near the base of the mountain.  There is the eastern climb from Morrell Sanctuary, the northern climb from Westwood Lake, or an alternative northern climb from Witchcraft Lake. I normally start from Witchcraft Lake which is located on Kilpatrick Road.  This trail is a bit steeper than the other two but it is also a little bit shorter.  The Witchcraft Lake route will then meet up with the main trail half way up the mountain.  All of the trails are marked out with orange tags to guide you.  I do recommend that you are in good physical condition to hike Mount Benson as well as have at least a bit of hiking experience.  However, it is really easy to just do a small section of the trail and then turn around to go back down.  Bring lots of water and snacks and allow about 2 hours each way to complete the full trail Some highlights of this amazing hike are:
  • Full, rich forest all the way to the summit
  • Old abandoned log cabin
  • Plane wreckage from a crash in 1951 that killed 23 people
  • Multiple lookout points
  • Amazing 360 degree views from the summit
  • On a clear day you can see
    • Duncan to the south
    • Vancouver and Mount Baker to the east
    • Hornby Island to the north
    • Vast wilderness to the west
This is such a rewarding hike no matter how much of the mountain you conquer.  I love hiking Mount Benson and wouldn't look any further for a truly memorable experience.  It is definitely a 'must do' while in Nanaimo!!