Benson Creek Falls Regional Park features a thickly-forested canyon with a beautiful medium-sized waterfall called Ammonite Falls. There are other smaller falls along the creek; at low water, you can explore many parts of the creek bed and look for fossils.
Give yourself a couple hours to complete this hike if you're approaching from the east (Jameson Rd). If you're coming from the Doumont Rd side, things can easily take longer because it's easy to get disoriented (unless things have improved since the 2000s).
Why's it called Ammonite Falls?
Ammonite Falls is named for the fossils found in the sedimentary layers of rock behind the falls. There are other places in the creek bed where fossils can be seen, and concretions (spheres of rock which may contain a fossil) roll down from the hillsides. Most concretions contain merely a speck of nothing, while others break open to reveal 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, and a meter-across fossil was found in the area in the early 2010s). I have also found bivalve shellfish fossils there.
Where to Park
You can also approach from the Doumont Rd side, but orientation is more difficult, and so is the terrain.
Back to Nanaimo hiking spots