The Smallwood lookout boasts one of the biggest benches with one of the biggest views. It’s part of a large mountain bike trail network, but hiking the Smallwood ridge-line as an “out and back” is an easy option with lots of reward.
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 (Garrity Creek FSR, now deactivated) spurring off to the left. If you park here, you’ll access the trail network from the bottom and can do the Smallwood-Bigwood Loop with a bigger climb and longer distance.
However, if you’re taking the easier option, fork left onto Garrity Creek FSR, reset your odometer, and follow the road as it curves around. There are a few small waterbars, but it is passable for 2WD low clearance vehicles. At the 2.6km mark, fork right and continue uphill a further 0.7km. Look for the Smallwood Trail on the right side of the road. Pull over and park on the side of the road. There is a large waterbar at the end – no need to cross. Turn around and park before it.
Into the Woods
The trail starts off at a slow ascent, winding along the soft forest floor. This is an easy hike for kids and out-of-towners who might struggle on steep West Kootenay trails.
As you near the 1km mark, the trail angles up a steep hill. Then the forest begins to break away.
Across the Clearings
At 1.1km, the trail begins to weave through clearings of open forest. This is a prime huckleberry spot in July.
Watch for views through the trees as the trail winds along, dipping up and down over rocky outcrops.
At 2km, reach a junction with “Bigwood” signed to the left. This is where you’d come up or down if you were starting at the earlier trailhead and hiking the Smallwood-Bigwood Loop. Go right and spot the scenic bench in the distance.
As scenic benches go, the Smallwood lookout has one of the nicest panoramas you can find without too much effort.
Far to the left (east), look for Nelson peaking around the corner. The gaze across the Bonnington Range and count the 4 peaks popping up on the horizon from left to right: Toad Mountain, Red Mountain (not the one by Rossland though), Copper Mountain, and Siwash. To the right, spot Mount Sentinel above the junction.
Retrace your steps to head back. Or next time, leave a second vehicle at the bottom trailhead hike down the Bigwood Trail for a little more variety.