Hike to Ammonite Falls - Nanaimo, Vancouver Island
Access: The trailhead is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Nanaimo. Head out on Jingle Pot Road. Drive until you reach Kilpatrick Road, where a left followed by a quick right will get you onto Jameson Road. This is the trailhead; however, the parking lot is down on Creekside Place. The signage for parking is excellent.
Distance: An easy-breezy 2.5k to the viewing platform.
Difficulty: Mild to moderate. The trail is well marked and well maintained. The final descent to the viewing platform (not the actual falls because that trail is closed), is quite steep and may require the use of ropes.
Highlights: Benson Creek Falls Regional Park has a lush, lovely, forest that the trail winds through. It's a really nice walk. But of course, the falls are the money makers.
We went out to Ammonite Falls on a sunny Thursday morning. The goal was to get out there early so we could take our time, shoot some video and enjoy the sun before it got too busy.
Right off the top, I would like to say that the trail signage is excellent. Although there are many trails in the Benson Creek Falls Regional Park, the path to Ammonite Falls was easy to find.
The trail starts off in a broader road and eventually turns off into a winding single-track path through the forest. The woods were incredibly lush and green, and the trees were quite orderly — I would almost call them tidy. Eventually, the trail does break out to a clear cut section, but it doesn't last long before the track dives back into the forest. The only tricky bit was getting down to the fall's viewing platform. It's quite steep here, but there are ropes to help guide you down.
The falls are named after the ammonite fossils stuck in the sedimentary rock of the bank. Although they look similar to snails, ammonites are more closely related to the modern octopus.
Ammonites lived 240 - 65 million years ago. They became extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs in the extinction event that destroyed three-quarters of the animal and plant species on Earth. (We didn't get close enough to the falls to see if we could find any, but I trust that they are there).
I've read that Ammonite is excellent to see in the fall, winter and spring but loses its flow in the summer. I think because of the wet May and June we've had this year the fall's faucet was still turned on and we got a good display of water.
The trail from the viewing platform to the falls — where all the money shot images come from — is closed and unsanctioned. It's easy to see why, as half a dozen ropes are thrown down the slick bank to the river bed. Unfortunately, from the viewing area, you don't get a good look at the actual falls.
The Nanaimo Regional District is planning upgrades to the park this year, including a new parking lot, bridge and stairs to the river.
Other Vancouver Island Waterfalls: