They really are the best friends we can ever hope to have – our dogs love us completely, thoroughly, truly madly and deeply. The very least we can do for them in return is to get them outdoors and let them run around! And what better place to do that, than right here in this wet, wild and wondrous place we call home. You could spend every weekend of your life exploring the vast forests and coastlines of this beautiful Island, and see something new and awe-inspiring each and every time.
And some of those wonderful places with wondrous views are right here in Ladysmith! So here’s my brief, unofficial, un-scientific list of the best places to walk your dog in and around Ladysmith:
Holland Creek Trail (with Heart Lake and Stocking Lake)
A real favourite with locals and visitors alike, the Holland Creek trail is a 6.4 km loop through some amazing forest, right here in our own backyard! It’s worth noting that the trail is more level and easy going on the town (south) side of the creek than on the north side, the latter which I have previously described as “several types of UP” (and a million shades of green).
This forest will resemble Jurassic Park at times, with its magnificent mossy branches and giant ferns all over the place; but there are boardwalks, wooden steps and handrails along the way. On either side, you’ll get a great view of Crystal Falls, but on the north side, you can clamber down to the creek ‘til you’re almost beneath them. If you’re simply wanting a nice leisurely stroll, though (as opposed to a bit of a grind), stick to the town side.
If you (and your dog) are the type to appreciate a fine view and an awesome lake, then you might want to consider heading up (and up, and up) on a little side trip to Heart Lake, at the very “roof” of Ladysmith. The Heart Lake trail is an offshoot of the Holland Creek trail, and gets you up and out to some fabulous views back over our lovely town and out to the harbour, the “middle islands” between here and the mainland, and of course, the mainland itself (on a clear day). There are signs posted at strategic locations to help you on your way.
And if you (and your dog) are REALLY adventurous, you can continue along from Heart Lake to Stocking Lake, which is juuuust a bit further down the way. Keep in mind, it’s all downhill from here to home!
Hemer Park (Cedar)
Hemer Provincial Park is only about a 15 minute drive from Ladysmith as you meander along Cedar Road’s twists and turns, and then head down an idyllic country lane all the way to the end. It’s a forested park with a great trail system – but a fairly small parking lot!
There’s a viewing platform over the marsh that provides the opportunity to observe various types of ducks, Trumpeter swans, Bald eagles and turkey vultures, and beavers – if your dog likes that sort of thing…
The park trails wind their way along Holden Lake and through the marshy areas. You’ll stroll through Douglas fir, red alder and big-leaf maple trees as you go. Quite often you’ll also need to share the trail with horseback riders, as these are popular equestrian trails as well. The terrain isn’t difficult – the compacted trails of Hemer park are easily traversed by all ages, and wheelchairs and strollers can navigate most of the park as well! Note that, as a Provincial Park, dogs should be kept leashed here.
Haslam Trail to Timberland Lake
You’ll find the trailhead for this 7 km loop at the end of Timberlands Road, which is accessed from the Trans-Canada Highway just at the south end of the Nanaimo (Cassidy) airport. This next part is important – ignore the “No Entry” signs (much of this trail follows along old, abandoned logging roads), and pay attention to the “Trans-Canada Trail” signs when the road turns to gravel. The big feature of this dog walk is the suspension bridge you get to cross over a mighty gorge (tell your pup not to look down).
You’ll also get a great view of Nanaimo’s Mount Benson to the north. About 3.5 km in, down at the end of the trail, you’ll see Timberland Lake, which features excellent swimming in warm waters in the summertime.
[ A note from my friend Mike at this point – always make sure your dog likes swimming before you toss him in the lake! ]
Keep in mind that the Haslam Trail is excellent for cyclists as well, and quite popular (relatively speaking), so you may want to keep your furry buddy on a leash if you hear any bikes coming up behind you. From Timberland Lake, you can continue on exploring the Trans Canada Trail, if you like – you just need to find the sign that says “White Pine Trail” and follow it along!
Where’s Your Best Walk?
There are certainly more places to take your dog for a walk than just these, of course, but they’re my favourites. What are yours? Drop a comment below and let me know where to bring my canine companion on our next outdoor Island adventure!