5 Nova Scotia Hikes to Stretch Your Legs
By Jonathan Riley, Hike Nova Scotia board member, and Trail and Open Spaces Coordinator with the Municipality of the District of Digby.
You can’t and don’t want to see it all from your car. These five trails combine stunning natural beauty with the health benefits of a heart-pumping walk.
Balancing Rock, Tiverton
The Reward: a 20m column of basalt (lava rock) impossibly balanced on a steep cliff by the ocean. The trail is lined with rare lichens and interesting plants like huge Skunk Cabbage and tiny carnivorous sundews.
The Workout: Only 2.2km total but to reach the shore, you get to walk down, and back up, a set of stairs with 253 steps!
The Where: From Digby, head west 50 km on Hwy 217, take the provincial Petit Passage ferry ($7) to Long Island and continue west a couple more km.
What else: Drive out to Boar’s Head (the lighthouse you saw coming over on the ferry) to see the stunning views and explore the Bay of Fundy shore. Keep your eyes open for porpoises, dolphins or whales! See digbytrails.ca for more info on the Balancing Rock Trail and Boar’s Head.
The Reward: Stand atop 60m cliffs jutting out into the middle of the Bay of Fundy with tides and currents swirling below your feet! Bring a picnic to enjoy while soaking in this breathtaking view! The trail leads through the cool calm shade of mature Acadian hardwood forest with wildflowers and birds galore.
The Workout: A total roundtrip walk of 12km, you should set aside at least a whole morning or afternoon for this hilly walk.
The Where: From Greenwich (Exit 11 on Hwy 101) head North 32km on Hwy 358.
What else: About halfway to Cape Split, pull over at the Look Off offering a picturesque pastoral view of farm and dykelands and Minas Basin below. When you come back from your Cape Split hike, the tides should be at a noticeably different level. See parks.novascotia.ca for more info on Cape Split.
Cape Chignecto Provincial Park
The Reward: Hours and hours or days and days of cliff-top ocean views, deep mysterious river gullies and wild undisturbed Acadian Forests.
The Workout: The complete loop is over 50km but even just a trip to Mill Brook will have you walking up and down steep rugged trails and stairs on the highest cliffs in mainland Nova Scotia.
The Where: From Parrsboro take Hwy 209 west for 50km.
What else: 60km North of Advocate Harbour on Hwy 209 is the Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 15km of beach that has proven itself the best site in the world for finding fossils of the Coal Age. See parks.novascotia.ca for more info on Cape Chignecto.
The Reward: Hike deep into the Cobequid Mountains for stunning views out over miles and miles of forest. Follow babbling brooks on the lower slopes and wander the gnarly eerie hardwood forests near the summit.
The Workout: This 6.2 k loop includes 200m of elevation gain on a rustic twisty trail.
The Where: Take Hwy 311 north from Truro for 30km and watch for the signs to Sugar Moon Farm.
What else: In Sugar Moon Farm’s log restaurant, right at the trailhead, you can enjoy an all-day maple brunch including pancakes and maple syrup tapped from the forest you’ve just hiked through, or learn about maple syrup on a guided tour. See cobequidecotrails.ca for more info on Rogart Mountain Trail
The Reward: A flat rock surface on top provides panoramic views into the Clyburn Brook canyon and out over the coast from Cape Smokey to Ingonish, including Middle Head, location of the Keltic Lodge directly in front of you.
The Workout: This 7.4 km loop snakes up the mountain ridge totalling 300m of elevation gain.
The Where: Within the Cape Breton Highlands National Parks in Ingonish Centre, about 9km south of Ingonish on the Cabot Trail.
What else: Hike nearby Broad Mountain or, for that matter, any of the national park’s 26 hiking trails. See www.pc.gc.ca for more info on Franey Mountain Trail.
Need even more stretching? Here are five more Nova Scotian trails that will get your heart pumping: Meat Cove Mountain, Devil’s Bend on the Kenomee Trails, Gulliver’s Cove Look Off, the Channel Lake Loop at Kejimkujik National Park and the Bluff Wilderness Trails in Tantallon near Halifax.