While on vacation in Parksville, BC I decided to find a route I could run up Mt Benson in nearby Nanaimo. Mt Benson is located just west of the city and is a well known landmark in the area. Scouring the internet, I found a bit of information for a number of trail options. I had debated going up on a longer route from Westwood Lake but in the end my time was limited so I decided on a shorter trail up from Witchcraft Lake.
The trailhead at Witchcraft Lake was easy to find and had lots of parking. The trail started out going down to the Lake and across a floating bridge to get to the other side. There were a number of trails at the far side of the lake, and I decided to follow what is shown as Trail #2 on the map. The trail options weren’t really marked at the bottom but based on a description I had read on the web, I figured out where to go. Trail #2 was pretty well established and easy to follow.
The trail was mainly steep, and rugged climbing. I was trying to move as quickly as possibly but it was a lot of power hiking. There were a number of spots that offered ever improving views of Nanaimo as I climbed this first section. Eventually I came to an old logging road with a trail map which provided a few options to get up the rest of the way. I opted to continue on the “Rafe’s Way” trail to the top, which continued on basically the same ascent line I had been following. After more steep climbing I reached the top. It was a nice rocky outcrop at the summit with 360 degree views for many km’s. I had a great view of Nanaimo to the east and then back to Mt. Arrowsmith and other peaks further North and West. I took some pics and then started back down.
I decided to follow the Te’tuxtwon trail back down to the logging road. It was marked as less difficult and looped around to the South of the summit. This was a much better running route and I was able to carry some speed down. If I was to go up from Witchcraft Lake again, I would definitely take this route up and it would be much more runnable. I reached the logging road after a fun descent and followed it back to Trail #2.
I got a bit mixed up and ended up following what is marked as Trail #1 back down to Witchcraft Lake. It was basically the same terrain as Trail #2 and got me where I needed to go so it wasn’t an issue. Going up and down (including photo stops) took an hour and a half.
This was a good route for a quick trip up to the top, but if I had the chance I would try one of the longer routes up to get some more running in. Its a beautiful view from the summit and there are lots of options to get up. Unfortunately it wasn’t easy to find great route info, but if you search hard enough and you can find some options. I found that clubtread.org was a great resource for routes on the island (and elsewhere,) just remember that the times they list are based on hiking speeds.
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