Beautiful Mount Benson

If the snow is falling and you’re itching for an adventure, you might be asking yourself, can I hike Mount Benson in the snow?

We’re here to tell you – YES! With proper preparations and appropriate gear, anything is possible, even a hike up Nanaimo’s tallest point. Mount Benson stands tall at 3,300 feet and its rolling ridges can be seen from almost anywhere in Nanaimo. It is one of the most adored mountains in the city. Known for its vast trail systems, Mount Benson is beloved by hikers, walkers, and mountain bikers alike.

Even with the small amount of snow that falls in Nanaimo, you don’t have to go very far to experience a winter wonderland. What’s more magical than snow covered trees, glistening icicles, and the silence of a forest blanketed in snow?

Getting There

You have some options when it comes to access points for Mount Benson’s trail systems. You can enter through Westwood Lake and hike along the Westwood Ridge or use the entrance Witchcraft Lake, through the Mount Benson Regional Park.

Mount Benson from Witchcraft Lake

This is the most popular route to the summit of Mount Benson. We recommend this route if you’re less familiar with the area. Because of the clear, consistent signage and multiple view points, this route is both safe and rewarding.

To get to the trail entrance, take Jingle Pot Road onto Kilpatrick, then turn right onto Benson View Road. At the very end of the road, you’ll come to Witchcraft Lake – the start of your adventure! From here, the Witchcraft Lake Regional Trail will lead you into Mount Benson Regional Park, where you can choose your route. Head straight up to the summit or take one of the surrounding trails for a longer trek.

The summit of Mount Benson is outside park boundaries, and at times the trail can be steep and rough. Make sure to practice personal safety while you enjoy the wonders this local wilderness has to offer.

Mount Benson from Westwood Lake

The trail to Mount Benson from Westwood Lake Park makes for a longer trek to the summit. If you haven’t explored this area before, we recommend going with a friend who is familiar or examining a map prior to your departure.

The trail toward the mountain begins at the east end of Westwood Lake near the power lines. The path takes you on a journey through the forest, over streams, through clear cuts and along logging roads. Keep an eye out for signs and trail markers as you enter Westwood Ridge.

This area offers stunning views of Mount Benson and leads you to a beautiful  lookout of Nanaimo and the coastal mountains.  Most of the trail is through the forest, but as you ascend it becomes more exposed. The lookout is a great picnic spot or, in the winter months, a nice spot to sit and enjoy a cup of something hot.

Along the way, there is an incredible memorial site dedicated to two young men who perished in a cabin fire in 2008. Not far from the site is a covered BBQ station that was built in their memory. This is a great place to take cover for a few minutes and rest up before your final ascension to the peak.

Keep your eye out for small signs on trees, they will lead you to the trails to the summit. The trails along Westwood Ridge eventually intersect with the Witchcraft Lake trail system which leads you to the top.

Be Prepared

If you want to hike Mount Benson in the snow, be sure to allow yourself 6-8 hours for a return trip, depending on weather and trail conditions.

If the powder is fresh, you might consider bringing snow shoes and/or hiking poles. Snow can quickly become packed down by previous hikers making snow boots with good grip sufficient. Packed snow can also mean icy trails, so be prepared for anything!

Practicing personal safety in wilderness parks is important. Be sure to check weather conditions beforehand and bring any supplies you might need. We recommend bringing water, food, a cell phone, a first-aid hit and appropriate clothing. Of course, always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. You might find a map of Mount Benson’s trail systems helpful too.

Hiking Mount Benson is a wonderful, adventurous, and ambitious hike to do any time of year. While more challenging in the winter months, a trip up to the summit in the snow is sure to be an experience for the memory books. And it’s not too shabby in the summer either, having made our Top 5 Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Nanaimo.