Park Guide: Extension Ridge & The Abyss

Have you discovered the Extension Ridge trail system in the heart of Nanaimo yet?  It’s beautiful, connects Nanaimo to Chase River (about 9.5 km away) and features The Abyss, a geological crack/earthquake fissure in the ground that everyone seems to have a different story about!

While it’s hard to actually confirm any of the stories you might hear about the Abyss or why it’s even there, it makes for a great reason to get out and explore this trail!  Another bonus: this trail forms part of the Trans Canada Trail (aka. The Great Trail) so if you’re up for it, you can just keep walking all the way over to Nova Scotia if you wanted!

Rina hadn’t been to the Abyss yet and I hadn’t seen much of the Extension Ridge Trail, so off we went for on an adventure!  We parked on Harewood Mines Road, where the power lines run overhead and found a map at the start of the trail.  I had been to the Abyss before and knew it was a quick little hike up there from the road.

From the map, you follow a rocky road until you find a set of stairs on the right side.  (PSA: during blackberry season, this is a great spot to pick buckets and buckets of berries!)  After the stairs, the path forks.  Stick to the right and from there, you’ll find markers along the rest of the path.

This first area after the stairs has recently been logged.  You walk around it, tucked just inside the trees that are left so that you still have a slight forest feel but the view has certainly taken a bit of a hit from the logging activity.  Good news is that within 15-20 minutes though, you reach the Abyss!

The Abyss almost seems like it comes out of nowhere, but if you pay attention coming up the hill, you’ll see that the fissure actually runs along down the side of the ridge for quite a ways.  It’s thought the fissure could be from an earthquake or perhaps a collapsed mine shaft.  There’s no consensus at just how deep the fissure is (some say it’s bottomless!), adding to the mystery of what caused it and when.  The crack is about 16″ wide so certainly be careful around it; most trail guides will warn you it’s just wide enough to fall into.

After some photo ops at the Abyss, we continued along the Extension Ridge Trail for another 4-5km (we just looped back on the same trail when we wanted to head home but you can keep going for quite a while if you choose!).  It’s reasonably flat, but with rocky parts that you have to climb up and many tree roots.  Perfect for a dog walk, but not great for a stroller.  Babies in carriers, however, will fare perfectly fine!

While the logging takes away from the view near the bottom, at the top, it’s opened up the view perfectly.  I’d argue the view here  rivals that seen from the top of Mount Benson and you don’t have to work quite as hard to get here!  From the ridge, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping ocean views right across the Salish Sea (aka. Georgia Strait)  while following a forest trail heavily dotted with arbutus trees.  And really, does it get more West Coast than that?!

the arbutus trees are beautiful along this trail!

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