The most dramatic waterfall around Nanaimo is also one of its most secret ones. Ammonite Falls is one of three significant waterfalls in a series of canyons sliced deeply into the thick loam and sedimentary bedrock of Mount Benson's nether foothills. Aside from the stunning verticality of the place, the distinguishing characteristic of the park is its profusion of oceanic fossils.
Ammonite Falls is named for the fossils that inhabit the stack of sedimentary layers of rock kept slick by the falls. A brief foray into the rock matrix in the Benson Creek Falls Regional Park reveals a vast number of concretions, ball'o'fossils that can be broken open to reveal ancient life. Most concretions contain merely a protean speck, while others house ammonites, snail-like creatures similar in shape and form to the modern Nautilus. These were very common in Paleozoic and Mesozoic oceans, 400 to 65 million years ago. Many large shells are embedded in the stone of the riverbed (one at least is as big around as a vinyl record).
Back to the list of Nanaimo hiking spots
Ammonite Falls can be approached from several directions. The approach from Jameson Rd (east) is more striaghtforward, while the approach from Dumont Rd (west) is more interesting – but it's also easier to lose your way.
It's hard to have updated instructions for this approach, as there is development in the area. The shortest, most reliable instructions are to park at the highest point of the new developments at the end of Jameson Rd, near a gate, and then to head west, through the gate, and staying on that road for about 10-20 min, and then to watch for a bank on the right, where there is usually a sign. You climb this small bank and then descend down a trail (steep at first) for about 10-15 minutes until you come to an old road and a firepit. You'll have seen the creek to your left before this. The falls is right downstream from here. Or, here is the longer version:
Drive - From Jingle Pot Road, turn onto Kilpatrick Road. Take the first right onto Jameson Road. Follow Jameson to the end. There is a paved sideroad to the right called Creekside which goes into a new development. Don't go down there, just park here before the yellow gate you can see ahead, up the gravel road.
Hike up the logging road, past the yellow gate, through the Malaspina University-College woodlot. Keep going straight.
Watch for an established trail that branches right off the main trail, up and over a bank. There is usually a sign, indicating that this is the route to the falls.
This trail falls steeply at first. After it levels out, you will see and hear Benson Creek to your left. Stay to the the left and the trail will soon lead to a ridge above the creek and on to a firepit and an old road. Just across the road (don't follow the old road to the right) and to the right is a trail that will lead you in about 75 feet to the top of the falls. There are fairly secure knotted ropes to help down the last, steep, muddy slope to the base of the falls.
After Dumont Rd. forks with Biggs Rd., it climbs up toward "the Wastelands", where there is a motocross track. As the road climbs, there are several trailheads on the left. Most of these should take you to the falls, but the trails are confusing and a little counter-intuitive. Built in part by inmates of the Brannen Lake Prison, these trails have names like "Mary Jane Trail". Expect to criss-cross through steep, lush canyons. There are some dangerous, steep, slippery parts, so this approach is only recommended for those who are fully prepared and have lots of light.
Back to the list of Nanaimo parks and places