Hiking Nanoose’s Notch Hill

View from Notch Hill near Fairwinds, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The beautiful views from the summit are worth the effort to get there

With winter coming on and the rainy season threatening here on the Island we grab every opportunity we can to get outdoors and enjoy whatever good weather the Gods bestow on us.  So it was with happy anticipation that we headed out on a sunny -but not too warm – day for Notch Hill, located near the upscale development of Fairwinds in Nanoose Bay.

Sign at Notch Hill, Fairwinds, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The sign that marks the parking lot on Fairwinds Drive makes this destination easy to find

Plans to hike this picturesque trail had been on the books for months but other commitments stalled the trip.  In the end, autumn proved to be a great time to do this hike.

Trail through Arbutus meadow at Notch Hill near Fairwinds, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Not for the faint of heart – this hike is fairly strenuous if you choose the ‘straight-up’ route

Notch Hill climbs (mostly straight up, it seems at times) a total of 240 metres or 787 feet: the round trip is 3 km (about 1.25 miles).We opted for the steep ascent on the way up and the gentler, more meandering trail on the trip back down.  It took us about 30 minutes to climb to the top, which included time for rests and dawdling along taking photos.

The trip up the hill is via a pretty well-maintained trail that snakes through Arbutus meadows and a Garry Oak eco system.  While we were delighted with the flora and fauna at this time of year there is apparently even more to see during warm-weather months when wildlflowers are in full bloom.

Dog walker at Notch Hill, near Fairwinds, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Dog heaven…..

Notch Hilll is a mecca for families and dog-walkers.  We met folks of all ages and from many walks of life during our adventure, including a couple of energetic young dads pushing their offspring in strollers.

We reached the summit to discover youngsters scrambling around in a large Arbutus, dogs gamboling along the bluffs and a family group perched on the huge boulders enjoying the spectacular views and the quiet, relaxed ambiance. There are stunning vistas in every direction from the high point – we could easily see the Island well past Nanaimo to the south, Mt. Arrowsmith and, of course, the pretty rolling farmland and sparkling waters of the Nanoose area.

Arbutus meadow on Notch Hill near Fairwinds, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The hike wends its way through beautiful Arbutus meadows

We spent quite a bit of time at the summit enjoying the views and the fine weather.  In retrospect it would have been a great spot for a picnic lunch, with all the magnificence of the area laid out hundreds of feet below us.

The trail that we opted for on the trip back down was considerably less strenuous, with only the occasional small uphill grade and the opportunity to wander off the trail and enjoy more beautiful scenery from different locations.  The descent took less time (for obvious reasons) but was no less interesting and lovely than our original route.

Trail at Notch Hill near Fairwinds, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

We saw a couple of dads with strollers on the trail

A few suggestions for those contemplating this hike: bring camera(s) and water. Be sure to wear good walking shoes, and don’t attempt the ‘straight-up’ trail if you aren’t reasonably fit.  A walking stick might be a help for those with aged knees. Finally, be prepared to enjoy some of the most spectacular views on the Island.

Notch Hill is located off Powder Point Road, which turns into Fairwinds Drive, in the community of Nanoose. There is a well-marked parking lot on the right–hand side of the road leading to the Fairwinds community.

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.27476739474435  Long. -124.14404860674096

N 49 16.486  W 124 08.643


About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers.
In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.

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