Getting there: Head out St. Margaret's Bay Road, turn into the Lakeside Industrial Park to the trail parking lot next to the Coca-Cola building. Alternatively, access the trail via Silver Birch Drive in Hubley, or any of the several cross streets along Highway 3. Buses 21, 23.
What to do: Hike/bike/run/wheelchair. Dogs on leash. The trail goes all the way (9.25km) to Hubley, first along Governors Lake and crossing (4km), roughly parallel to St. Margaret's Bay Road, then under Highway 103 (6km), past the John A. MacDonald High School and back to St. Margaret's Bay Road. (Cross the road again and you'll enter a trail system associated with Lewis Lake Provincial Park.)
Trail condition: This rail-to-trail project is well maintained by the BLT (Beechwood-Lakeside-Timberlea) ATV Club. Flat and wide trail, kid friendly. ATV drivers are courteous and obey speed limits. Lots of benches, views over lakes and creeks, otherwise forested. The eastern segment (crushed rock and sand) is heavily travelled, the western sections (gravel and dirt) more remote.
Cool stuff: Six Mile Falls is a diminutive cascade about three kilometres from the parking lot. Cranberry Lake (7km) is the starting point for the Bluff Wilderness Trail system.
The Coast says: A great trail for everyone from beginners to hardened hikers.
CANADA TRAIL THROUGH DARTMOUTH
Getting there: Access the trail from Sullivan's Pond in downtown Dartmouth, or along Lake Banook, or from Shubie Park. Bus 54, 62.
What to do: Hike/bike/run/wheelchair. Dogs on leash. The trail stretches along and between Sullivan's Pond, Lake Banook and Lake Charles.
Trail condition: At Sullivan's Pond the 2-km asphalt trail passes the expected ducks and geese. And a fountain. The trail crosses Hawthorne Avenue and swings past a playground and over a restored lock of the old Shubenacadie Canal system. A rough connecting trail to the left connects to Birch Cove Park and a nice sand beach for the kiddies. The main trail, however, follows around to the right, past the Banook Aquatic Club and alongside the lake. A boardwalk parallels the asphalt. Most days during the summer rowers will be practicing their craft, and on weekends there are races. The dragon boats can be a bit annoying, but hey, the kids like 'em.
The trail leaves the lake and follows Prince Albert across from the Superstore. Take the sidewalk up towards the freeway bridge, but turn left before you actually get there—the trail travels back to and over the lake via a completely unnecessary, but pretty nifty all the same, new pedestrian bridge just metres from the old sidewalk along the freeway.
On the other side of the bridge, follow the sidewalk along the freeway ramp to MicMac Boulevard. Turn right, go under the freeway, and then cross over to your left, where a crushed gravel trail starts. This trail parallels the freeway for a bit, but it soon drops down into the woods. Side trails connect to the Shubie Park trail network and access the Lake MicMac shore. The farthest trail goes through an RV camping lot to another sand beach.
Stay generally to the left and you'll end up on a trail that follows the shore of Lake Charles. This trail is somewhat rougher and more remote than the previous trails, but by no means difficult. It stretches about 6 kilometres, one end to the other.
Cool stuff: Lakes, lakes and more lakes.
The Coast says: A really nice trail for all users. Plan a picnic, or a swim.
SPIDER LAKE TRAIL
Getting there: Take Waverly Road to Portobello, turn right on Spider Lake Road, follow it to the end of the pavement, where the trail starts. Bus 55.
What to do: Hiking/mountain biking. Trail system wanders near and through the Lake Major Watershed.
Trail condition: This trail has been completely ruined by excessive ATV use—it is second only to the Minister Hill trail in ATV-caused erosion, such that large sections of the trail are under water.
But wait! After writing the above, I decided to go have another look. It turns out that over the past year, a crew of dedicated mountain-bikers has built a new trail from the Spider Lake trail into the Lake Major Watershed, where ATVs are prohibited. This new trail is well designed and erosion-free. Follow the Spider Lake jeep trail just into the woods, then veer to the right. Signs mark the watershed boundary, and the start of the new trail, to the left (going straight another half kilometre brings you to the shore of Spider Lake). At the fork, go right. The trail wanders in about 5 kilometres, then makes a loop. Total round-trip is about 10 kilometres.
Cool stuff: In addition to the new mountain bike trail, there's an older abandoned hiking trail that's pretty darn cool. Go down the ATV-ruined jeep trail about 1.5km to a "T" intersection, then turn left. A few metres farther along you'll see the abandoned trail heading into the woods to the right. Follow the old trail signs nailed to trees into the Lake Major Watershed as best you can—you'll have to dodge through fallen trees. The last time I got into the area, I was awed by the truly pristine wilderness. I looked about at the old-growth trees, marvelled at the two-foot deep moss. Then I saw the bear poop, still steaming, and decided to backtrack. I'll try it again soon, and tell you where the trail goes. (Check for updates at Bloghorn, online at: thecoast.ca.)
The Coast says: Don't go alone! Bring a cell phone! Somebody's going to have to retrieve your bear-clawed corpse.
CROWBAR LAKE TRAIL SYSTEM
Getting there: Highway 107 east from Dartmouth, take the first Porter Lake exit (#19), turn left. At the old Highway 7 turn left, then immediately right onto Myra Road. Travel 9 kilometres to the trailhead parking lot, on the left.
What to do: Hike. The trail system consists of several loops through the Waverley-Salmon River Long Lake Wilderness Area.
Trail condition: These are tough wilderness trails, with no facilities. Bring maps, water and food. The trails were officially opened last year, and not a lot of people know about them yet—I was utterly alone in the entire wilderness area when I hiked there a few weeks ago—but this is sure to change as word gets out.
There are several loops, ranging in length from 2.5 kilometres for the first, to 30 kilometres for the longest, which reaches Crowbar Lake and the Salmon River Trail, an old native trail that reaches up from Lake Echo. An intermediate loop (16km) passes Granite Lake and wraps around West Lake.
Cool stuff: Oh, what to pick? The views? Even the shortest loop provides stunning overlooks of Porters Lake, and the heights along the other trails provide dramatic views over hundreds of square kilometres of countryside. The lakes? The satisfaction of making a long, hard hike? How 'bout this: on the back side of West Lake there's a stretch of forest draped with a lime-green moss that takes on a neon glow in certain light. Eerie.
The Coast says: A big shout-out to the Porters Lake and Myra Road Wilderness Area Association, which has done a top-rate job building these trails. The log bridge over Spriggs Brook is by itself worthy of special mention.
SACKVILLE RIVER TRAIL
Getting there: Bedford Highway to, believe it or not, Chickenburger. Or, get to the official trailhead by turning left on Highway 1 and travelling about a kilometre to Range Park on the left. Alternatively, the other end of the trail joins Old Sackville Road where it crosses Highway 101. Bus 80, 82, 66.
What to do: Hike/bike/run/wheelchair. Dogs on leash. The trail system connects Bedford to Sackville.
Trail condition: This 3-kilometre (one way) crushed gravel trail follows the Sackville River. It is sometimes immediately adjacent to the highway, even passing through a narrow tunnel under it, and always within earshot of it. For a good portion of its length, the trail is also abutted by a barbed-wire fence guarding the DND rifle range, and for added effect, periodic signs shout warnings about gunfire and potential imprisonment should one wander too close. An older connecting trail, between Range Park and the Bedford Highway near Chickenburger, is wedged onto forgotten land along the river near both Bedford Place and Sunnyside Mall.
Cool stuff: Yeah, this doesn't sound at all appealing, but you've got to understand: for 200 years the Sackville River was poisoned, dammed and diverted, and otherwise acted as the whipping post for everything industrialization and suburbanization could throw at it. It was left for dead, and at one point the millions-strong salmon run had declined to just six—yes, six—fish.
But through the heroic efforts of local residents who organized themselves into the Sackville River Association, the river was rehabilitated. Tonnes of garbage were removed, wetlands were restored and residents educated about the effects of fertilizers. Eventually, the fishery was re-established, and the river now hosts a modest and growing salmon run. (There's even a salmon-watching platform near the Bedford Place Mall parking lot.) And this, you see, is very cool.
The Coast says: Opened just last year, the trail is the only way to get between the communities of Bedford and Sackville without getting in a car.
MINISTER HILL TRAIL
Getting there: Highway 103 west to the Hammond Plains Road exit, turn right, pass the shopping centre on your left. Continue about a kilometre up the hill to a green gate on your right.
What to do: Hike/mountain bike 3 kilometres one way, return via the same route.
Trail condition: The old jeep road quickly descends into an undeveloped area behind the suburban development of Stillwater Lake and back up Minister Hill. If my experience is any judge, you'll likely pass obese teenage morons on ATVs, who have absolutely trashed the entire area with their 1,000-pound machines, their garbage and their slovenly selves.
They do this, evidently, with the full approval of their parents: At least one McMansion owner has chopped down trees and used the fallen trees and scrap metal to build a rough ATV road through a marshy area abutting their bit of paradise.
The first lake along the trail, appropriately named Land of Laziness Lake, appears to serve as a somewhat permanent moron hangout, with moron tents and moron garbage strewn willy-nilly along its shore. The second lake, Camp Hill Lake, is less visited, but still acts as the dumping ground for suburban excess.
I've been told, and the maps show, that this trail reaches through the woods behind Minister Hill all the way to Timberlea. Perhaps. But after wading hip-deep through ATV-eroded stretches of what used-to-be trail, I gave up on finding the route. (Suburban development on the Timberlea side has also obscured or destroyed that end of the trail.) In the back portions of the trail there are also a couple of hunting blinds, so beware.
Cool stuff: Err, if you can see past the garbage and the morons, the lakes provide a bit of serenity. Maybe one of these days the wannabe millionaires of Stillwater will clean up their kids' mess, but more likely it won't be "cleaned up" until some developer comes in, chops down all the trees and builds the inevitable Land of Laziness gated-community.
The Coast says: Can we ban the goddamn ATV already? These kids might learn to appreciate wild areas if they had to work a bit to get to them. And if they were hiking or biking, instead of blithely destroying the wilderness with greenhouse gas-spewing monsters, maybe they wouldn't have such a, you know, unhealthy look to them.
MAINLAND NORTH TRAIL
Getting there: Access the trail from Main Avenue in Clayton Park, or from Lacewood Drive, or at Kearney Lake Drive just east of the Bi-Hi. Bus 21, 52.
What to do: Hike/mountain bike. Dogs on leash. This trail connects Wedgewood to Clayton Park.
Trail condition: The 4.5-kilometre (one way) crushed gravel trail follows a power line in a straight shot, up and down hills that, in its northern stretches, might be a bit steep for older hikers. It passes between many neighbourhoods—some residents have built blank fences along the trail, but others have planted gardens and oriented their landscaping to face the path. Side trails connect to the many neighbourhood streets and parks.
Cool stuff: This trail provides a much-needed respite from the uninspired apartment blocks of Clayton Park. It is heavily used, and becomes something of a community centre at times, as residents meet and pass time together.
The Coast says: Watch out while crossing Lacewood Drive! There are some idiot drivers out there, in too big of a hurry rushing to the BLIP to slow down for lowly pedestrians.
MUSQUODOBOIT RAILWAY TRAILS
The old Musquodoboit Railway, connecting Dartmouth to Lawrencetown and Musquodoboit, delivered people well into the 1960s, and goods until 1982. There's a stub of a track still going out to the Autoport and refineries, but otherwise, much of the right-of-way has been reclaimed for hiking trails. The entire hike/bike (100km) might make a decent weekend trip, with a stay in a B&B somewhere en route, but otherwise, check out the route's several segments, including:
DARTMOUTH WATERFRONT TRAIL
Getting there: Well, the trail isn't officially open yet, but when it is—sometime this year, they say—it'll leave the Alderney Landing ferry terminal, wind around Dartmouth Cove, parallel the tracks past the new sewer plant and community college (insert your own joke here), and lead down to the Woodside ferry terminal.
What to do: You could, ahem, jump over the orange construction fence, if you were an unscrupulous sort of person. Or you could wait until the mayor uses those giant scissors to make it official. Either way, you can hike/bike/run/wheelchair for about 4 kilometres one direction, and no doubt your dog will have to be kept on leash, and get picked up after.
Trail condition: This asphalt path is a great family hike/bike. It'll take a while for the landscaping to take hold, and here's hoping someone thinks enough to plant some native trees along the route.
Cool stuff: The harbour, to your right. Can't miss it.
The Coast says: John's Lunch for clams! (John's is on Pleasant Street, adjacent to the Woodside ferry parking lot.)
SHEARWATER TO COLE HARBOUR TRAIL
Getting there: From the Woodside ferry terminal (and the end of the Dartmouth waterfront trail), travel down Pleasant Street past the oil refinery and the Shearwater air base. Turn left on Hines Road. The trail starts a block and a half up, to your right. Bus 60. Alternatively, continue up Hines 2.5 kilometres to Caldwell Drive, turn right, and the parking lot for the official trailhead is on your left.
What to do: This trail is appropriate for hiking, biking and running. Dogs must be on leash. The trail stretches 7.2 kilometres to Bissett Road and the start of Salt Marsh Trail.
Trail condition: From Hines Road, this flat, gravel trail runs 2.2 kilometres behind the Autoport to the official trailhead. From there it goes another 5 kilometres, under the Shearwater runway lights, passing through a completely undeveloped stretch of forest between the suburban areas of Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage. Bridges cross streams draining Morris and Bissett Lakes. Teenage hoodlums were pestering people on this trail a while back, but continued high traffic seems to have chased them back to their Forest Hill neighbourhood, and they're now keeping busy by spending their time hoodlumming up the Forest Hills trails instead.
Cool stuff: One of the bridges crosses a stream that opens up into a nice wide water hole. Bring the swimsuits.
The Coast says: Like the rest of the Musquodoboit Railway trails, this is a wonderful running trail.
SALT MARSH TRAIL
Getting there: Continue on from the Shearwater-Cole Harbour Trail, or take Portland Street/Cole Harbour Road out of Dartmouth, turn right at the "Cow Bay" road onto Bissett Road. A small parking lot is 2 kilometres down, on the left. Alternatively, a new trail parallels Bissett Road from the new provincial park (at the barn).
What to do: Hike/bike/run. Wheelchair for the first kilometre. The 6.5-kilometre (one way) trail stretches between Bissett and West Lawrencetown roads. Dogs on leash.
Trail condition: For most of its length, this trail follows the old railway right-of-way across the salt marshes of Cole Harbour. It is crushed gravel to the one-kilometre mark, where there's a sitting area called Rosemary's Way and a wheelchair-accessible pit toilet. From there, the trail becomes gravel and crosses several bridges over the marsh channels. The last section re-joins the forested mainland.
Cool stuff: The trail has an amazing range of appearances, depending on tides, season and fog level. Make lots of trips to see them all.
The Coast says: Plans call for the Bissett Road connecting trail to eventually reach up to Cole Harbour Road, where it will hook up with the Forest Hills trail system, and ultimately to Lake Charles. Also, check out the short loop through Rainbow Haven Provincial Park, at Cow Bay (1 kilometre past the parking lot).
ATLANTIC VIEW TRAIL
Getting there: Continue on from the Salt Marsh Trail, or park at Lawrencetown Beach parking lot.
What to do: Hike/bike/run. This 3.5- kilometre (one way) trail connects West Lawrencetown and Three Fathom Harbour Roads.
Trail condition: The trail continues along the old railway right-of-way, with gravel or sand bedding except where it becomes the boardwalk along Lawrencetown Beach. It crosses the Lawrencetown River, passes the beach, then arcs around the headland at Terminal Beach.
Cool stuff: See that ocean out there? The one with the surfers in it?
The Coast says: It's too bad the old train still doesn't run to Lawrencetown Beach. Could you imagine taking the ferry across to Dartmouth and jumping on the train for a day at the beach? People did exactly that up until 1962, when they were saved by the automobile.
BLUEBERRY RUN TRAIL
Getting there: Continue on from the Atlantic View Trail, or you can access the trail from Three Fathom Harbour Road, Seaforth, Desert, Station Road or Bellefontaine Road.
What to do: Hike/bike/run. This 14-kilometre (one way) trail connects Three Fathom Harbour Roads to the town of Porters Lake.
Trail condition: The gravel/sand trail swings right along the ocean at Seaforth, then back inland through a scrub forest past the site of the old Grand Desert and Petain train stations, and on up to Porters Lake. There's a pit toilet near the beginning of the trail, a beach house at Seaforth and a picnic area and toilets at Petain. Some of the trail crosses very near to houses.
Cool stuff: Take a break from the trail at Grand Desert Station Road—follow it a half kilometre to Highway 207, turn right. You'll soon come across the Caf<0x00E9> Grand D<0x00E9>sert, a funky and authentic Acadian eatery run by the delightful Shelley Fraser, who'll no doubt be cooking and chatting up the customers.
The Coast says: The trail is named for the wild blueberries along the way. Back in the railroad days the line was often referred to as the "Blueberry Express," both because farmers used it to bring their product to market and because passengers would load up on the fruit while waiting to catch the next train into town.
Getting there: Take Highway 107 eastward out of Dartmouth to its end, then east along Highway 7 to the town of Musquodoboit Harbour. Park in the lot of the railway museum, or turn left on Route 357 and right onto Park Road and into the arena parking lot. The trail abuts the lot. (Because the four-lane highway was built atop the railway right-of-way, there is about a 6-kilometre gap between the end of the Blueberry Run Trail and the beginning of the Musquodoboit Trail. Bicyclists and hikers can move along the lightly travelled old Highway 7 west from Porters Lake to bridge the gap.)
What to do: Hike/bike/run. The old railway trail is 15 kilometres (one way) from the trailhead to Upper Musquodoboit, back at the highway. Other trails leave the railway trail and loop into the White Lake Wilderness Area, the longest (the Granite Ridge Trail) is 18 kilometres. Hiking only on the wilderness trails.
Trail condition: The railway trail is flat and a relatively easy trek. A nifty old trestle spans the Musquodoboit River, then the trail borders Bayer Lake and on through a series of meadows along the river. There are three pit toilets along the way. In contrast, the trails into the White Lake Wilderness are tough going, with lots of steep climbing—don't go unless you're an experienced hiker, in good shape and are well-equipped with maps, water and food, and give yourself six hours to complete the entire Ridge Trail (the lower loops can be completed in much less time, however). If you meet those qualifications, you'll find stunning views back over the Musquodoboit River and of White Lake.
Cool stuff: Bald eagles! There are at least three nests on the cliffs, and the majestic birds can often be seen hunting along the river.
The Coast says: If you do no other hikes in this list, do these: they are the be-all and do-all of local trails. Can't say enough about them. Good work by the Musquodoboit Trailways Association!
CHEBUCTO PENINSULA TRAILS
Human population rings the giant chunk of land bounded by Halifax, Highway 103, St. Margaret's Bay and the ocean, but the interior is nearly void of people. There are any number of hiking trails, formal and otherwise—get a topo map and explore! Here are a few, with suggestions for more:
JIMMY'S ROUND TOP
Getting there: St. Margaret's Bay Road to Hubley. Turn left at the Five Bridges Junior High School sign, then right on the old highway. Turn left onto Big Hubley Lake Road, follow it to its end, where the trail starts. Alternatively, travel further up St. Margaret's Bay Road to Lewis Lake, turn left on Joshua Slocum Avenue and you'll find a trailhead at the end of the pavement. Or, access the loop via Old Halifax Road outside the community of French Village, or Woodens River Road from Woodens Cove.
What to do: Hiking/mountain biking. Trail makes a 25-kilometre loop. This is an excellent mountain biking trip from the Halifax peninsula—follow the BLT trail out to Hubley, make the loop, and return. Be sure to bring a topographic map, as there are many side roads and confusing intersections.
Follow the Hubley Lake Road to southeast to Saddlers Hill, then continue on Woodens River Road to Woodens Cove. At Coolens Hill an old train trestle crosses the river, or continue on to Highway 333, cross the river, turn left just past the cemetery and right just after a gate with a "yield" sign—either route will put you on the Old St. Margaret's Bay Road. Follow this road 5 or 6 kilometres to an obvious left turn. This unnamed road takes you up Jimmy's Round Top, then back down to Hubley Big Lake, where it rejoins Hubley Lake Road.
Trail condition: The main loop is composed of very old roads and cart tracks, which are very rocky. ATV use near Hubley has made that stretch particularly bad—expect to get wet—but the rest of the trail is in pretty good shape. There are many smaller side-tracks that lead to lake shores. Take the time to explore.
Cool stuff: A less ambitious hike from French Village to Woodens Cove along the Woodens River Road stretch of this hike would still take you along the burbling Gates Creek and Woodens River, and several lakes besides. On the full hike, the meadows on Jimmy's Round Top provide an unexpected break in the forest, and views north to Blue Mountain. You'd probably spot some moose if you waited long enough.
The Coast says: These are some of the oldest roads in Nova Scotia—built back in the 18th century to connect the fishing villages on St. Margaret's Bay to Halifax. Time, and the automobile, have passed them by. Nowadays you'll find dozens of illegal dumps on the routes, and a half-dozen burned-out cars. Such is how we treat our natural heritage.
MCINTOSH RUN TRAILS
Getting there: Herring Cove Road to Spryfield, turn left on Drysdale Road. Follow it to its end. The trail can be accessed through the rear of the Lions Arena parking lot. Alternatively, take Princeton Road to its end, continue on the dirt road. Bus 20.
What to do: Hiking/mountain biking. The trail network, about 7 kilometres one way, connects Spryfield with Herring Cove.
Trail condition: These are informal trails, starting with a utility road along McIntosh Run, a sluggish stream that broadens into still pools. After a few kilometres the trail meets up with tougher backcountry trails that follow Bridges Run and a series of ponds. The first portion is near the high school. The day I was there I passed lots of dope-smoking, but otherwise inoffensive, teenagers. Further along, there was no one around.
Cool stuff: Make sure to travel at least so far as the thick woods, a much-appreciated break from the concrete monotony of Spryfield.
The Coast says: Here's yet another trail that needs some sort of protection. As signs along the way attest, developers are salivating at the prospect of naming sterile, suburban subdivisions after the countryside they plan on destroying.
BLUFF WILDERNESS TRAILS
Getting there: Travel along the BLT Trail and under Highway 103. The trailhead is marked by a large sign on the left. Alternatively, park in a lot next to Bay Self Storage on St. Margaret's Bay Road, and take a short connecting trail to the BLT Trail and Bluff Wilderness trailhead. Canoe access available from Big Hubley Lake (see above re: Jimmy's Round Top Trail).
What to do: Hiking and canoeing only. The trails form four loops of up to 30 kilometres in length.
Trail condition: These are tough wilderness trails, with no facilities. It's impossible to hike the whole system in one day, and while camping is technically legal, it's highly discouraged, as the ecosystem is extremely fragile. Realistically, then, the only way to get to the farther reaches is via canoe. Bring maps, water and water purifiers, food, extra clothing, etc.
I've gone a ways into this system, but rather than give you descriptions, let me instead direct you to the website of the Woodens River Watershed Environmental Organization (via: tinyurl.com/38xsgb), which gives detailed descriptions, trail maps, photos, etc., and explains how to respect this pearl of a wilderness. Be sure to click on "Is Camping Allowed?" on the left.
Cool stuff: This is the real thing: bear, moose, old growth forests, untouched bogs, you name it.
The Coast says: We can't get these wilderness areas protected until people learn about them and travel in them to appreciate just how important they are. But, too often, people go and trash them. Don't be one of those people! Read the website and learn about "Leave No Trace" principles before you visit.
PENNANT POINT COASTAL TRAIL
Getting there: Take Herring Cove Road south to the community of Sambro, follow the signs to Crystal Crescent Beach. Park in the farthest parking lot.
What to do: Hike. The trail is about 5 kilometres (one way) out to Pennant Point.
Trail condition: The first portion of the trail consists of a boardwalk through a wetland. From there it devolves into a rough scramble along the coastal beaches and over the bouldered headlands. There are some alternate trails back in the forest, a bit back from the coast.
Cool stuff: It's worth going out in different kinds of weather. Warm days provide an excuse to swim at one of the several sandy beaches, stormy days provide dramatic seascapes.
The Coast says: On the two hot days of the year, the third beach out serves as a nude beach, so beware, or avoid, or gawk, or join in or whatever it is you see fit to do in such circumstances.
OTHER CHEBUCTO PENINSULA TRAILS
Long Lake Provincial Park: A series of informal mountain biking trails criss-cross the park.
Old St. Margaret's Bay Road: This old coach road crosses the peninsula, from Spryfield to Woodens Cove. Access it off Old Sambro Road, travel through the Long Lake Provincial Park, to Route 333 in Goodwood. Follow the highway about a kilometre, and the old road diverges again to your right. From there it travels about 10 kilometres across the Nine Mile River and joins that portion of the road described above, in the Jimmy's Round Top Trail write-up.
Otter Lake Trail: Follow Old St. Margaret's Bay Road about 3 kilometres west of Goodwood, turn right at an obvious intersection. This trail goes all the way up to Otter Lake, passing the dump, and ends up at Highway 103.
Blue Mountain Wilderness: Just minutes from downtown there is a slab of land the size of the Halifax peninsula called the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Wilderness. This area contains incredible natural resources—old-growth hardwood forest stands, an endangered moose population, a canoe loop of nine interconnecting lakes and much, much more. (Find out more at: tinyurl.com/2vsarw.) There are no formal trails through the area, but several sketchy paths can be navigated to interesting features. Be sure to bring maps, a compass and water.
BLUE MOUNTAIN TRAIL
Getting there: Go up Kearney Lake Road to Hammonds Plain Road, turn left. Turn left again at the Tim Hortons, into the soulless Kingswood subdivision. Turn left on Diana Drive, left yet again on Lakeshore Drive and follow it to its end. The rough trail starts here. Alternatively, from Kearney Lake Road, pass the lake and turn left on Blue Mountain Drive, and follow it to its end, and then turn left onto a connecting trail. Bus 53.
What to do: Hike. Follow the marked trail 3 or 4 kilometres (one way) to the top of Blue Mountain.
Trail condition: The trail may be difficult to follow at times, and gets quite steep in sections. You'll travel through an old logging operation, then a stand of old growth red spruce, and finally onto the granite hilltop.
Cool stuff: The view! Looking east, you can see the Halifax harbour. To the north, all the way to the line of hills facing the Bay of Fundy.
The Coast says: In its infinite stupidity, the provincial government proposed a while back to chop off the top of the hill and use it for fill for a four-lane highway smack through the middle of the wilderness. The hill-chopping part of the plan has been removed, but they're still gung-ho for the highway. Go to: tinyurl.com/2vsarw and learn how to raise hell about this less-than-brilliant plan.
SUSIES LAKE TRAIL
Getting there: The trail starts behind the Kent store in the Bayers Lake Industrial Park. Follow the peak of the lumber shed back to woods. A red ribbon marks the trail. Bus 21, 52.
What to do: Hike. The trail goes to Susies Lake.
Trail condition: Just 15 or 20 minutes back on the rough trail and you'll end up on a boulder next to the lake. Go ahead, plunge in!
Cool stuff: Well, you tell me: Just how cool is it that there's a gigantic wilderness area right behind the BLIP?
The Coast says: We don't have to repeat that "be respectful of nature" lecture, do we?
KEARNEY LAKE TRAIL
Getting there: Kearney Lake Road, turn left on Hamshaw Drive, then right on Saskatoon Avenue. Follow it all the way to the end and pass between the two concrete barriers to the large lot outside the Maskwa Aquatic Club. The trail starts just to the left of the sign that says "Boathouse Parking Staff Only." Bus 53.
What to do: Hike/mountain bike. The trail wanders through the woods on the backside of Kearney Lake.
Trail condition: There are two main trails. The first, to the right, is a well-worn path that follows the lake shore about a kilometre up to a new suburban development on its north shore. The second and more interesting trail goes straight from the trailhead, up a steep hill and follows a ridge line to Charlies Lake, which you'll find about a kilometre in.
It's very easy to lose this trail, so be sure to bring a map and compass. It continues, in a very rough fashion, farther into the wilderness, and an especially ambitious person might go on hiking for many hours, even days. I really wouldn't recommend it, however.
Cool stuff: Charlies Lake flows into Charlies Pond.
The Coast says: For some unfathomable reason, this trail has more black flies than any of the other trails listed here. I blame Charlie.
Point Pleasant Park Of course.
The Harbour Boardwalk Still good for locals and you might meet some bikers!
Fleming Park Trail System Off Purcells Cove Road.
Seaview Park Waterfront trail on the site of Africville. Take Barrington Street north, turn right just before the McKay Bridge.
Hemlock Ravine Bedford Highway to the Rotunda, turn left on Kent Avenue. Trails at the end of the road.
Peggy’s Cove Trails on the rocks near the lighthouse and over to the Swissair disaster memorial.
The Citadel Climb on up for the view, and to better hear the cannon.
McNabs Island Charter a ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf in Eastern Passage.