Snowshoeing Nova Scotia: Part 1

by Brad Donaldson

This winter we’ll be highlighting some of the province’s best trails for snowshoeing. In part one, we begin in central Nova Scotia, listing some of our favourites in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).

1. Shubie Park: Nestled between Lake Micmac and Lake Charles, Shubie Park offers city dwellers a chance to get outside without having to travel far. Commonly known for kayaking and canoeing, the park is also a place for walking, camping, and snowshoeing. Within the 40-acre urban park are three main trails that loop around lakes, over canals, and under towering trees making for a full day of adventure.


2. Oakfield Provincial Park: One of the many provincial parks found in the HRM, Oakfield is on the shores of Grand Lake, just off Highway 2 (near Fall River). As a day-use park, the area is filled with intertwining trails that funnel down to the lake through a beautiful hardwood forest.


3. Salt Marsh Trail: Moving through the wetlands of Eastern Passage, Cole Harbour, and Lawrencetown is the Salt Marsh Trail. The 6.5 kilometre trail (one way) is long, flat, and gravelled, making it perfect for snowshoeing. Part of the Trans Canada Trail, and formed from the old Musquodoboit Railway, the trail is popular place for wildlife sightingso keep your eyes peeled!

4. Point Pleasant Park: Found at the southern tip of the Halifax Peninsula, Point Pleasant is a perfect escape for those who might find themselves gridlocked during the cold winter months. Throughout the wooded area are endless, winding routes that wrap around the Atlantic shoreline, offering different levels of elevation and distance. Created in 1866, the park boasts a number of historical monuments commemorating military and navy efforts to see while braving the cold.


5. Uniacke Estate Museum Park: Once a summer oasis for the family of Richard John Uniacke (a 19th-century Attorney-General), the area has recently been converted for public use. Within the grounds are eight trails that explore the heritage site, travelling  over rivers and along lakes. The trails vary in length and difficulty, and are available for use year round (although the museum and toilet facilities operate on a seasonal bases).

*Note: While snowshoeing, please be respectful and mindful of other trail users. You may notice trails that are not multi-purposed, and specifically groomed for cross country skiing. In this instance, we ask you to not damage the hard work that goes into grooming and enjoy responsibly.


Wilderness Area Awaits Next Step

by Brad Donaldson (photos courtesy of Kelci Wood)


It’s been ten years since the city of Halifax announced the designation of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area as protected public land, harbouring the area from independent developers. Since then, 3242 acres (roughly two-thirds the size of the Halifax peninsula) have been protected, but 1308 acres still remain privately owned.

Prior to this decade-old headline, the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes region has gone through a lengthy, and sometimes strenuous, series of development-versus-protection discussions.

For example, Annapolis Group—who owns 965 of those 1308 privately owned acres—has owned land in the area since 1956 and been an active voice on the developmental side of the coin.


But where does it all stand now?

To catch up on the current situation, I spoke with Chris Miller, a National Conservation Biologist with Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

“Birch Cove Lakes was my playground [growing up],” says Miller, who grew up in a nearby neighbourhood. And even from a young age, he recalls people “fighting for a new quarry that was proposed in the Blue Mountain area.”

Continuing the theme of unrest, when Miller returned home from grad school in the early 2000s, there was a proposal to run a highway through the area, which is when Miller began campaigning to try and protect it.


Reflectively, Miller says that the challenge has shifted since his involvement began. In the beginning, the focus was on communicating the area’s natural importance, but now with more money and proposals rooting down to overrun the area, it’s about communicating those messages to the government where the tough the decisions are made.

While talking about his childhood paradise, Miller emphasizes the importance of getting the whole picture when trying to understand the complex and historic situation, and not simply choose one blip in the timeline and draw conclusions.

It’s more intricate than that. Nothing up until now is because of one person or one organization, especially the advocacy and protection of the area.

Miller stresses this point—the collective and collaborative efforts—as he shares a favourite advocacy memory from the summer of 2016, when 1420 Haligonians wrote letters to the city to fight urban development of the area.

Shortly after, on September 6th, 2016, fifteen of sixteen city councillors voted in favour of blocking the development, undoubtedly feeling what Miller calls “the weight” of the public’s opinion.


Near the end of our talk, Miller rolls out maps of the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area that topple off the edges of the table. There are markings for trails with deliberate challenges and difficulties to suit all users. Doing so would create even more inclusivity for visitors, with front country and back country options

The builders and planners are ready for the green light from the city following the 2016 Facilitator’s Report by Heather Robertson. Mentioned in the report was Regional Council approving “Terms of Reference for Regional Park boundaries negotiations,” an idea that has been around since the 1970s.

Yet, more than a year after the report was published, we’re still waiting for the last few hundred acres to be acquired—the land where, when finally acquired, the long-awaited regional park would be added.


There are options to acquire these last acres: outright land purchase is one, but an expensive one. Trading the land for another area that developers would be interested in, one better suited for urban development, is yet another option. As Miller says, “It’s not just about stopping things; it’s about building things, and finding the solutions to make that happen.

“It’s important now [to the city], but it’s going to become even more important in the future. And I think what’s important is that everybody has the ability to go there, not just the people that can afford to buy a house there. That’s the fight. The area’s as much about people as it is about nature. They’re not two separate things. They go together.”

Even through unavoidable frustration, Miller is still optimistic. He’s witnessed the people of Nova Scotia, and their desire to make a difference, while determinedly looking for opportunities to work with the city instead of against them.

Unsurprisingly, he still gets out to enjoy the lakes and trails as much he can, still in awe that it exists in the first place.

“It really shouldn’t even be there…it’s phenomenal.”

And hopefully this phenomenon can one day become fully protected.

Franey in the Fall

by Brad Donaldson


I thought it might be too late, that when I finally got up to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park to see the leaves in all their seasonal glory there’d be none left. But luckily I was terribly, terribly wrong.

* * *

On Saturday, October 21st, I woke up early and drove towards Franey Mountain. When I arrived at the trail head, the gravel parking lot was empty. The morning was cold and crisp, with a chance of showers. I dressed in layers and started in on the trail. Continue reading “Franey in the Fall”

Guided Hikes Get You on the Trail

Fall is arguably the most beautiful time to hike in Nova Scotia. Hike Nova Scotia and 14 host organizations across the province have partnered up to offer the 2016 Fall Guided Hike Series in September, October and November. There are 21 hikes led by local folks and participants qualify to win “trail prizes.” Most hikes are free unless otherwise indicated in the schedule.


“There are hikes in different parts of the province, of varying lengths and difficulty levels,” says Janet Barlow, Hike NS Executive Director. “So there’s really something for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a newbie.”

Fast Facts:

  • Hike Nova Scotia and 14 host organizations across the province have partnered up to offer the 2016 Fall Guided Hike series.
  • There are 21 hikes led by local folks.
  • The series runs from September 10 to November 5.
  • Most hikes are free unless otherwise indicated in the schedule.
  • Hikes take place in areas across mainland Nova Scotia. For hikes in Cape Breton, see the Hike the Highlands Festival line up at
  • The full list of events – including hike dates, times, registration details and directions – is found at Hikes are listed by date or by region: Halifax, South Shore, Valley, Fundy.
  • Participants qualify to win “trail prizes.”
  • The hikes are meant to help get more people outside and active on our trails.
  • Hike NS thanks its partners for organizing the hikes on the ground, Goose Lane Editions for its prize donations and the NS Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage for its support.
  • Hike NS encourages and promotes hiking, walking and snowshoeing throughout Nova Scotia.
  • Membership in Hike NS means keeping up-to-date on the latest hiking news and having a say in its many projects.
  • Hike NS is supported by the Province of Nova Scotia.


Find photos on FacebookInstagramTwitter or contact us for photos.

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Janet Barlow, Hike Nova Scotia
(902) 717-4408

Leave No Trace Summer Workshops

LNTWorkshops-2015-graphicLeave No Trace Canada has partnered with Hike Nova Scotia to promote Leave No Trace Principles and host a Summer Educator, who will help raise awareness about Leave No Trace Principles through delivering workshops to groups in Halifax and beyond. Workshops will be offered from mid-July to mid-August, 2015. Tailored for groups of various ages and interests, workshops will cover the seven Leave No Trace Principles that encourage low-impact use of our natural environment. A small fee or honourarium may be required depending upon workshop location and number of participants.
To learn more and book your workshop, please visit:

Leave No Trace Tips: Be Considerate of Others

As part of our regular feature on the seven Leave No Trace Principles, we’re featuring Principle #7: Be Considerate of Others.

One of the most important components of outdoor ethics is to maintain courtesy toward other visitors. It helps everyone enjoy their outdoor experience. Many people come to the outdoors to listen to nature. Excessive noise, unleashed pets and damaged surroundings take away from everyone’s experience. So, keep the noise level down while traveling and if you bring a radio or music, use headphones so you will not disturb others. Also keep in mind that the feeling of solitude, especially in open areas, is enhanced when group size is small, contacts are infrequent and behavior is unobtrusive. To maximize your feeling of privacy, avoid trips on holidays and busy weekends or take a trip during the off season.

Groups leading or riding livestock have the right-of-way on trails. Hikers and bicyclists should move off the trail to the downhill side. Talk quietly to the riders as they pass, since horses are spooked easily.

Take rest breaks on durable surfaces well off the designated trail. Keep in mind that visitors to seldom used places require an extra commitment to travel quietly and lightly on the land. Click here for more details on being considerate of others, including campsite etiquette, how to lessen visual impacts, dog-owner etiquette and respecting the land.

Learn more about Leave No Trace Canada.

Leave No Trace Tips: Respect Wildlife

As part of our regular feature on the seven Leave No Trace Principles, we’re featuring Principle #6: Respect Wildlife.

Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a “better look”. Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.


Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. (One exception is in bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears.) In hot or cold weather, disturbance can affect an animal’s ability to withstand the rigorous environment. Do not touch, get close to, feed or pick up wild animals. It is stressful to the animal, and it is possible that the animal may harbour rabies or other diseases. Sick or wounded animals can bite, peck or scratch and send you to the hospital. Young animals removed or touched by well-meaning people may cause the animal’s parents to abandon them. If you find sick animals or animal in trouble, notify a game warden. Click here for more details on respecting wildlife.

Learn more about Leave No Trace Canada.

Leave No Trace Tips: Minimize Campfire Impacts

As part of our regular feature on the seven Leave No Trace Principles, we’re featuring Principle #5: Minimize Campfire Impacts.

The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Campfire building is also an important skill for every camper. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of light-weight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition, and they Leave No Trace.

The first thing to ask yourself is do I need a campfire. Click here to learn more about:

  • Lessening impacts when campfires are used
  • Using existing fire rings
  • Building a mound fire
  • Using fire pans
  • Firewood and cleanup
  • Safety

Learn more at Leave No Trace Canada.

Leave No Trace Tips: Camp on Durable Surfaces

As part of our regular feature on the seven Leave No Trace Principles, we’re featuring Principle #2: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. Last time we focused on the first part of this Principle. Now we’ll focus on the second part: Camp on Durable Surfaces.

Selecting an appropriate campsite is perhaps the most important aspect of low-impact back try use. It requires the greatest use of judgment and information and often involves making trade-offs between minimizing ecological and social impacts. A decision about where to camp should be based on information about the level and type of use in the area, the fragility of vegetation and soil, the likelihood of wildlife disturbance, an assessment of previous impacts, and your party’s potential to cause or avoid impact. Find more detailed information here on:

  • Choosing a campsite in high-use areas
  • Camping in undisturbed remote areas
  • Camping in river corridors

Learn more at Leave No Trace Canada.

Fall Guided Hike Series

Another slate of Fall Guided Hikes is available through Hike Nova Scotia and its partners across the province. The 15 hikes in September and October are led by local folks and participants qualify to win “trail prizes.” Click here for details on the following hikes:

  • Sept. 9: Annapolis Royal Seasonal Walk
  • Sept. 10: White Point to Burnt Head Trail, Cape Breton
  • Sept. 15: Fishing Cove Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Sept. 18: Cape George Trails, Antigonish County
  • Sept. 18: St. Mary’s River Walk, Waternish (Guysborough County)
  • Sept. 18: Windhorse Farm Trail, New Germany
  • Sept. 24: Greenwood Walk, Greenwood
  • Sept. 25: Card Lake Colors Hike, Card Lake Provincial Park (near Chester)
  • Oct. 2: Keji Trails, Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site
  • Oct. 12: Acadian Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Oct. 13: Branch Pond Look-Off, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Oct. 14: Franey Trail, Cape Breton Highlands National Park
  • Oct. 14: Kingston Year Round Walk, Kingston
  • Oct. 22: Kentville Pumpkin Walk, Kentville
  • Oct. 23: Rogers Hill Trail, Durham (Pictou County)

Hike NS thanks its partners for organizing the hikes on the ground: Valley Trekkers Volkssport Club, Hike the Highlands Festival, Fresh Air Society, Nova Scotia Nature Trust, St. Mary’s River Association, Windhorse Farm, Chester Recreation and Parks, Annapolis County Recreation Services, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Celtic Colours Festival, and Cape to Cape Committee of the Pictou County Trails Association.