Do you like to earn your scenery? The Smallwood-Bigwood Loop near Beasley provides an uphill slog in the woods with an outstanding climatic view! From the top, you can look up and down the Kootenay River Valley to see Nelson and South Slocan. And looking across, you’ll see several prominent mountain peaks in the Bonnington Range.
Distance, round trip: 4.5km
Season: mid-May to late October
Trailhead & Driving Directions
Head West out of Nelson on Highway 3A and turn right onto Beasley Road before you reach the Beasley Fire Department. Drive 0.25km up and then turn right on Queen Victoria Road and ascend. This road will turn into Smallwood Creek FSR and switch-back higher. At the 2km marker sign on Smallwood Creek FSR, reach a junction with a trailhead on the right and a road spurring off to the left. The parking pullout is small with only a few parking spaces.
There are a few options with this trail network. You can hike up Smallwood and down Bigwood (the route described here) for a tough ascent and gentle descent. You can go up and down Bigwood for a beginner’s option with a bit of effort. And you can even drive up the left fork in the road to hike just the Smallwood Lookout trail for an easy, scenic option. If you continue driving up the right fork in the road, you’ll reach the scenic Vallelujah trail way up high!
The Trailforks App is a great resource to have on these trails. Also consider making a donation to the Nelson Cycling Club who helps maintain this network.
Start hiking up the right fork of Smallwood FSR and watch for an unsigned trail branching off on the left after 0.2km. This trail will lead into the forest for another 0.2km until it comes to another junction – the mellow Bigwood will be the right fork and the steeper Smallwood will be on the left. This section of Smallwood is a black diamond mountain biking trail, so if you choose to take it, be cautious of downhill traffic and be prepared to sweat.
The Smallwood trail is a hard, heavy stomp up the slope. It’s the shortest distance between two points – the bottom of the hill and the scenic lookout, through the dark spruce forest the entire time. The elevation gain on Smallwood is intense: 370m over about 1km. Ouch. Ahh. In June it is hot, muggy, hard, buggy. You might question if it’s worth it. Don’t worry, it is.
Suddenly you’ll crest onto a rocky plateau with a view of the Bonnington Range peaks to the south. Don’t be tempted to stop here, follow the trail just a little further to come to the scenic bench.
At last, the top! The view of the Kootenay River Valley is amazing from this viewpoint! Looking across you can see (from left to right) the peaks of Toad Mountain, Red Mountain, Copper Mountain, and Siwash Mountain.
After the intense scramble up, take the moderate Bigwood Trail back down to be easy on the knees. Bigwood has gentler switchbacks and is a much more reasonable elevation change.
Bigwood weaves through a dark pine plantation with smooth turns and switchbacks. It’s not especially scenic forest with very little undergrowth, but it’s a gentle descent.
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