On the Extension Ridge Trail in Nanaimo, hikers can find what’s known as the Abyss, as well as a fairy circle and a hidden labyrinth further along the trail.
- Trail Features: Large fissure; City views; Labyrinth; Fairy circle; Arbutus groves
- Length: Approximately 8 km’s out and back; Just over 1 km to the Abyss, and 3 more to the Labyrinth
- Elevation Gain: 239 meters
- Hazards: Large crack in the earth (keep dogs on a leash!!); slippery rocks; exposed tree roots
- Difficulty: Moderate due to elevation gain and rocky trail
- Suitability: Due to the hazards mentioned above, it is vitally important to keep dogs on a leash around the Abyss. This trail is not wheelchair or stroller friendly.
- Bike Trails: Yes! Many off-shoot mountain biking trails.
As mentioned in our very first hidden gems article, the Abyss is a very large fissure, or crack in the earth. Recent research completed by @bctreehunter21 indicates the crack was caused from below as a result of coal mining. The Abyss is approximately 50 cm wide, and no one seems to know how deep it goes. All around the Abyss, you can find other smaller earth cracks as well. It’s a unique geological formation one should see.
It can, however, be dangerous, especially for small dogs. In the last month, there have been two instances where dogs have had to be rescued (by the local fire department) after falling several meters into the large crack. This is why it’s extremely important to keep dogs on a leash while in the area!! I can’t stress this enough! It shouldn’t even have to be stated, but, keep young children close at hand as well!
Please just use your common sense when near the Abyss. It would be a great shame if this area was no longer available to view, due to human complacency.
Getting to the Abyss is a short but relatively steep hike along the Extension Ridge Trail, which is a portion of the Great Trail, formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail. This first portion is not the most scenic of trails, for you walk through a cut-block. However, there are several beautiful Arbutus trees dotting the area. And, let’s be honest, the main attraction is the Abyss.
The trail is clearly marked with plenty of signage along the way.
The Fairy Circle and Labyrinth
Beyond the Abyss, you can find both a fairy circle and labyrinth. Full disclosure, the fairy circle is honestly nothing spectacular. (I had high hopes for this destination and was completely deflated when I found it). The sweeping city views along the way, as well as the labyrinth at the end, DO, however, make the trek worthwhile.
As you continue on the Extension Ridge Trail, you walk through Arbutus groves along narrow paths with steep drop-offs on one side and expansive views on the other. There are several lookout points along the way, one of which provides two carved out wooden seats beckoning the hiker to sit and enjoy the view.
The labyrinth at the end of your trek is a bit hidden and off the main trail. But before you find it, you first need to find the fairy circle.
After you’ve taken in the city views mentioned above, continue along the Extension Ridge trail for another approximate 1.5 – 2 km’s. You’ll come out to a bit of a clearing and right in the middle, you’ll find the fairy circle. People have placed small toys, fake necklaces, painted rocks, and such, inside this circle. Because of these trinkets scattered about, you can’t miss it.
Now, if fairy circles are something you believe in, then it’s best to follow the old folklore and circumnavigate the circle three times for good luck before continuing on.
And even if this is a bunch of hog wash to you, this fairy circle is the place where you will stop following the Extension Ridge Trail so you can find the labyrinth.
Facing the fairy circle with the Extension Ridge Trail sign ahead of you and slightly to your right, to find the labyrinth you will follow the trail to your left. It’s a very short distance around the bend after the fairy circle.
Once you’ve successfully walked through the labyrinth (and found your zen 😉 ), you’ll turn back around and follow the same path you took to get here all the way back to your vehicle.
A Note About the Surrounding Trails
If you want to extend your hike, the Extension Ridge Trail continues on for another few km’s and ends at a logging road. Along the way, there is apparently more viewpoints and a steep downhill section that mountain bikers love.
If you continue to follow the trail past the labyrinth, you will end up in the middle of the clear cut, and although the views are great, the trails and roads are very confusing to navigate. This is why I note that it’s an out and back trail, rather than a loop.
The trailhead to the Abyss is found off of Harewood Mines Road. If you type “Abyss Trail” into Google maps, you will be directed right to the parking area.
After parking your vehicle, follow the path past the large sign to a set of stairs. This is where your ascent begins.
Thanks to the Regional District of Nanaimo, there are many signs along the way pointing you in the right direction. As long as you continue to see and follow the Extension Ridge signposts, you can’t get lost.
If in doubt, you can find the Abyss portion of the trail on the following trail apps: Alltrails; Trailpeak; and Trailforks (the last one being more suited to mountain bikers).
If you are continuing on to the labyrinth, please follow the directions I’ve stated above.
Have you been? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.
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