Top ten reasons why Nova Scotia is a hiker’s paradise
By Jonathan Riley, Hike Nova Scotia board member, and Trail and Open Spaces Coordinator with the Municipality of the District of Digby
Nova Scotia is a hiker’s paradise, with miles and miles of beautiful coastal walks and woodland trails like no other place in the world. Here are my top ten reasons why Nova Scotia is the best place for hiking:
1. The Shore
Look at a map of Nova Scotia and just imagine the secrets hiding along that jagged coastline. Here you can hike spectacular seaside cliffs, long sandy beaches or miles of rocky ledges. You’ll find waterfalls, secluded coves, and perfect picnic spots looking out over the ever-changing ocean. Access to the shore is often as easy as finding a provincial park or driving to the end of the small roads leading to beaches or wharves. On Brier Island for example you can stick to the formal Coastal Trail, maintained by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, but you can also wander along local informal trails from Northern Light to Western Light.
Speaking of lighthouses: Nova Scotia’s maritime history is preserved in dozens and dozens of lighthouses. On Brier Island, these marine navigation aids also help walkers on shore keep track of their location. Among the many fantastic lighthouse hikes, you could check out the Louisbourg Light or Cape Sharp near Parrsboro. Or for the really adventurous, hike to Money Point, near Bay St. Lawrence to see the ruins of centuries of lighthouses.
3. Keep cool
The ocean all around us moderates our summers so that hikers in Nova Scotia stay cool and comfortable while other parts of Canada are sweltering. And often, if you stay right on the coast, you can avoid blackflies and mosquitoes too.
4. Avoid the crowds
While our most popular trails can be busy in the summer, you don’t have to travel far from any tourist hotspot to find a lesser known but equally stunning hiking paradise. Besides Skyline, think Roberts Mountain in Bay St. Lawrence; besides Cape Split, think Woodville Hiking Trails, besides Balancing Rock, think Boars Head Light and Trails. Ask your server or B&B host for directions to their favourite local trail.
5. New trails every few hours
Nova Scotia is home to the world’s highest tides meaning the shoreline changes drastically over the time it takes to enjoy a few scallops or a bowl of chowder. It’s endlessly interesting to explore the ocean floor after the tide goes out. But, bear in mind, the tides can also be tricky so it’s important to get lots of good local advice before wandering too far on the shore. But with good advice and good planning, you can walk over mudflats to places like Moose Island at Five Islands Provincial Park or Bear Island in Smith’s Cove, Digby County.
6. Rockhounding and Beach Glass gathering
Combine the most active tides in the world with steep ocean-side cliffs and you get excellent rock and fossil hounding along the Bay of Fundy in places like Blomidon, Seawall on Digby Neck, Ross Creek, Scots Bay, Blue Beach and Amethyst Cove. Beach glass, naturally tumbled and smooth, can turn up almost anywhere on our coast.
7. Sea mammals
If you want guaranteed whale sightings, you are well advised to take a boat tour. But if you’re lucky, it is entirely possible to watch whales and other mammals from many of Nova Scotia’s seaside trails. Keep your eyes peeled for seals, porpoise, Minke Whales and even Humpback Whales. I personally have seen whales from shore at Pollets Cove, Brier Island, Digby’s Point Prim, White Head in Cape Breton and even Chebucto Head outside Halifax. You might also spot these wonderful creatures from any of the provincial or interprovincial ferries.
8. Unique flora
Our moderate and damp climate is perfect habitat for a wide variety of plants usually found only in more southern climes like the large smelly Skunk Cabbage, the tiny carnivorous Sundew plants or the globally endangered Eastern Mountain Avens. Our ocean fog also makes Nova Scotia prime lichen habitat. This is one of the few places in the world that supports the Boreal Felt Lichen, and between Shelburne and Digby Counties, Nova Scotia is the best place in the world to see the beautiful, but globally threatened, Blue Felt Lichen.
9. Best hiking fuel
Hikers in Nova Scotia get to fuel up with fresh scallops or lobster or mussels or clams or haddock … In fact, in some parts of the province, you can buy dried fish in convenience stores for snacking on while you hike. Not to mention many of smaller community trails are lined with secret plots of blueberries, blackberries and even wild strawberries in season.
10. Friendly hiking community
Nova Scotians generally have a reputation for friendliness and the trails and hiking community is no exception. Many of Nova Scotia’s best trails were developed and managed by community volunteers. And many communities have active hiking groups, like the Lunenburg County Hikers or the Fundy Erratics in Digby. Search for them on Facebook or check hikenovascotia.ca for more hiking opportunities and info.