Mount Benson

This is the highest point in Nanaimo, at 1000+ meters (3,300 feet).

There are LOTS of trails all around Mt Benson for hikers and bikers. And yet, it doesn't get very busy on the mountain, especially if you find the less popular approaches.

Another strategy is to seek out the rocky knolls that don't connect to any of the trails! There are some wonderful lookouts off the beaten track, all over this mountain. There is no rock climbing required to reach the top, except for a couple of short climbs on certain routes.

As for the views from the top: You can see one third of the Salish Sea, across to Vancouver and its mountain ranges, north to Texada Island and south to Duncan. Or you can turn around and look inland, across the wilderness toward Port Alberni and Bamfield, and the open Pacific.

Hiking Mt Benson

There are several routes to the summit.

"Rock Bottom" trail - from Morrell Sanctuary (12km round)

With all of the logging on the north side of Mt Benson, some hikers have sought the old, alternative routes up the mountain. If you approach from the east, you can avoid some of the clearcuts, though you'll still encounter big roads.

Beginning at the Morrell Sanctuary Trailhead, climb steadily into the forest for about forty minutes and you'll arrive at a fork where the trail joins an old, small, gravel road. This road leads up to the right, and down to the left. Go down to the left unless you want to climb Westwood Ridge as a little warmup before ascending the kilometre-high Mt Benson. Take the left path, and after about 25 meters you'll come to a meeting of four trails. The first trail to your right passes back under the south face of Westwood Ridge and continues west. But it's the second trail on the right that you want for this particular Mount Benson hike.

You'll cross a small stream before a steep climb up to a road. Turn right onto this road. (You'll soon see the trail to Roberts Roost on your left, a small trail up the roadbank.) Continue up the road and stay to the left on the logging roads, until you find a small quarry flooded with colourful water, where newer logging roads meet. Directly west of this quarry is an old, barely visible stump-choked road that runs south, parallel to the newer main road, before quickly turning uphill (49.14357987763244, -124.01081264019012).

From here, you will climb for an hour or so up an old streambank / road, then you'll emerge onto the big access road that runs up the south face of Mt Benson. This approach to the summit is not as pretty as the last leg of the northern approach (the "Te'tuxw'tun" trail), but there are fabulous views to the south.

"Te'tuxw'tun" trail - from Westwood Lake (11km round)

Starting at the west end of Westwood Lake, cross the power lines and find a major trail leading into the forest. The path is well marked.

The first third is a steep forest trail, with sections that are so steep as to have been installed with ropes for easy climbing when it's muddy. There is a fantastic lookout after about one hour, followed by a fun and easy (and optional) climb up a small cliff face with the aid of a stout rope.

The second third is a gentler but monotonous logging road with loose rock, and the last third, up the "Te'tuxw'tun" trail, is steep. This last section is very beautiful — approaching the top of Mount Benson, the hiker passes beneath old growth forest with less undergrowth, before breaking out onto the alpine peak of Mount Benson, where the trees are of the stunted, horizontal variety.

Witchcraft Lake Trail (6km round)

An alternative northern approach involves starting from Witchcraft Lake (turn up Kilpatrick Road on Jingle Pot and drive to the top). This is shorter but steeper. If you're wanting the shortest route, stay to the right until you reach the trail called "Rafe's Way". Then stay left for the final push! The route is well marked and there are even some maps along the way.

Access by Road

There is an access road leading from Nanaimo Lakes Road to the summit of the mountain, but it's usually gated near the bottom, and is always gated near the summit. From the high gate, it is a 25-min walk up a steep rocky road to the peak.

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Mount Benson Viewpoint