The westbound route of the Trans Canada Trail in the Nanaimo Area travels in a predominantly south direction from the Departure Bay ferry terminal, heading towards the Cowichan Valley Regional District boundary. If you've arrived late to the area, consider camping overnight on Newcastle Island, as explained below. From downtown, the route is mostly a gentle uphill and is easy to travel, but can be confusing at times, so a printed map or GPS is recommended.
Leave the ferry terminal, heading south on the highway for 1.8 km. Turn left and go downhill onto the waterfront trail. Follow the trail for 1.1 km. At this point, the trail splits. To the left, the trail continues to follow the waterfront to the Newcastle Island ferry terminal within 1 km. To the right, the TCT continues under the highway and beings its slow climb along the stream in Bowen Park for 2.8 km.
Head south on Buttertubs Drive, then follow the path through Buttertubs Marsh for 1.6 km to Jingle Pot Road. The trail crosses the road and swings east, then heads south past the TCT Pavilion and ballfields (1.2 km). Head east on 4th St, then south on Wakesiah Ave (1.1 km), leading to a wooded path to Harewood Mines Road where it goes under Highway 19 (1.1 km).
Right before Highway 19, the trail splits; walkers should proceed to the Abyss Trail, a wonderful wilderness trail and local attraction. Bicycles may proceed, but will need to shoulder their bikes over the gaping 1-2 ft chasm!
Less adventerous types may want to turn left onto the Parkway trail beside the highway for 4 km, reaching the E&N railway, then turn left onto Extension Road, headed on a long uphill to the town of Extension where the two routes converge.
For those choosing to continue on, the Abyss Trail goes for 6.7 km from this point to the community of Extension. The two routes converge and head south into former forestry lands, immediately decending steeply into a valley. Loaded bicyclists may need to push their bike up the far side. The trail surface is loose gravel and often washed out for the 4 km to Nanaimo River Road.
Unfortunately, the trail ends at the Nanaimo River Road until such time a bridge is constructed over the river; travelers must turn left and make their way to Hwy 1 (8.1 km) to cross the river using the roadway bridge - the southbound line has a contained pedestrian crossing. Continue south to Spruston Road (before Haslam Creek) - use caution as the road has a blind corner under the E&N railway.
Loaded bicyclists may not enjoy the following journey to the Whitepine Trail. Therefore, after passing under the E&N railway, cross Spruston Road (again.. use CAUTION!) and take the footbridge across Haslam Creek, traveling south through Cassidy to Timberlands Rd. Our map shows a trail following the Terasen pipeline to meet the TCT at the Cowichan Valley boundary. This is mostly a mountain bike/hiking trail and is under development, so touring cyclists may find simply following Timberlands Rd to be a fine bypass.
For the adventurers who decided to travel th Whitepine Trail, continue west on Spruston Road for 8 km to the Whitepine trailhead. On the right, you'll see Darryl's Way, the future TCT route over the Nanaimo River. On the left is the hiking trail which leads to Haslam Creek and the Cowichan Valley. This is a hiking route; mountain bikers however can take a former forestry road (first portion is paved.. but that ends soon enough) which curves into the bush, heading for MacKay and Crystal Lakes.
The Whitepine Trail and bypass converge at Crystal Lake, though the trail ahead is a challenging bike ride downhill to the Haslam Creek and across the Suspension Bridge. The trail emerges into a former gravel pit; continue south, crossing Timberlands Rd.
A trailhead and parking lot will be developed here in the future, as this is the boundary between the regional districts of Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley. The trail south from this point is within the Cowichan Valley and follows former forestry roads to Bush Creek and the town of Ladysmith.