I often wonder how many people live their lives in the Nanaimo area not ever realizing they have a spectacular 60 foot waterfall in their back yard?
I know I had lived here for quite a few years before I heard of it. When I did first hear of it I found it somewhat difficult to find information on how to get there. Since then I’ve visited dozens of times, photographed it from numerous angles and explored at least 7 different ways to get there. I hope that sharing this information and a few photos with you will encourage you to visit.
I’ve heard some people say that Ammonite Falls are 60 feet tall. I’m not really sure of how accurate that is but based on the photo below I think it might be pretty close. If you look carefully about 1/4 of the way up the waterfall you will see my son standing behind the waterfall so that will give you a sense of how tall they are.
Ammonite Falls is named for the fossils that can be found in the sedimentary layers of rock in the area. An ‘ammonite’ was a snail-like creature similar to the modern Nautilus and was common in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic oceans. A rock impression 1 meter across made by an ammonite fossil was recently found by hikers in the area (see news article).
One of the easiest and fastest ways to get to Ammonite Falls is from Jameson Road off of Jingle Pot Road. See here for directions.
If you want a longer and slightly more difficult but more interesting hike you can try coming in from Dumont Road. Drive past the Black Bear Pub on Dumont Road to the intersection with Biggs Road. Turn right and look for an open parking area to your left after several hundred meters. Park here and take the right most trail (the ‘jail trail’). Follow this trail until it intersects another major trail. Turn left and within 20 meters look for a trail heading off to the right. This trail heads down very steep switchbacks to Benson Creek. Cross the creek and go up the other side and continue down the trail. This trail will end at a gravel pit. Keep to the right side of the pit for 200m and look for where the trail reenters the forest (very hard to see). Follow the trail through the forest to where it ends at the fire pit near the falls. See here for a GPS track. If you want a side trip walk upstream around the corner after crossing Benson Creek to visit Flynn Falls. It’s not as impressive as Ammonite Falls but still fun to see. This route in gives you a great hike through some nice west coast forest.
No matter how to get to the falls you will need to climb down a steep muddy section to get to the base where the best views are. There are ropes to help you go down and up again. If it’s been wet I bring work gloves because the ropes will be muddy. It’s not so steep that you have to fully rely on the rope but it’s a nice aid down.
Photographing the falls can be a bit challenging since there are often obstructions in the way. There are some nice shots possible from about half way down the rope but you have to be prepared to hang on the side of the steep hill to get them (see the first photo above). You can shoot wide from across the stream.
However, if you try and shoot close from that angle the trees tend to get in the way.
I think some of the nicest shots are possible from the other side of the pond at the base of the falls or from downstream of the falls.
Farther downstream there are some other compositions possible involving moss covered trees and the creek.
If you are a photographer this is a target-rich environment. By visiting in freezing weather the whole scene changes as the spray from the falls coats everything in ice.
For even more variety take some time to visit the area above the falls.
The safest way to get above the falls involves either coming in from the top of Dumont Road or taking a side trail quite early on the trail in from Jameson Road. I don’t think you can safely get up there once you are at the falls.
Its a bit of work to get into Ammonite Falls but to have such a spectacular natural wonder so close is a rare treat. I’ll leave you with this 360 degree full panorama of the falls: click here to see it. Once it loads just click and drag your mouse to look all around. You can even look up and down. Enjoy!