Exploring Nature in Nova Scotia
Halifax area hiking spots that are not to be missed
One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the beauty of Nova Scotia is by strapping on a pair of comfortable hiking boots and setting off on a trail. Forest, marsh, granite cliff, seaside path – this province sure has no dearth of picturesque ways to rack up those steps! Whether you’re looking for an adventurous full-day hike along challenging coastal barrens, a short, leisurely stroll along accessible paths with lovely historic surroundings, or anything and everything in between, there’s something near Halifax to thrill the hiker in you!
One of the first coastal hiking trails I explored upon moving to Nova Scotia, Duncan’s Cove, remains one of Halifax’s best hikes. This is a moderate hike with some difficult spots where you’ll want to watch your footing, but once you emerge from the forest, the stunningly beautiful coastal granite cliffs make it all worthwhile! Look closely, and you may even spot some seals sunbathing on the rocks out to sea. The parking situation here isn’t stellar; when the trails are busy, cars line the road, much to the dismay of locals – it’s clear the secret of Duncan’s Cove is getting out!
Point Pleasant Park
You don’t even have to leave Halifax for a hike full of nature, history and ocean views! Point Pleasant Park is vast (75 acres vast), so you’ll need more than one hike here to see the whole thing. But that’s hardly a chore, given the park’s lovely trails, many of which are wheelchair-accessible. The park is studded with historic fortifications and ruins – including the oldest Martello tower on the continent – and many paths afford beautiful views of the ocean; consult a map online or by the parking lot to choose a trail that takes you to the sights you’d like to see.
Fun fact: the British Government owns point Pleasant Park, and Halifax rents it for 1 shilling (around 10 cents) a year!
When I discovered this Halifax area hiking trail just minutes from our new home in Porters Lake, I was not prepared for the sheer magnitude of the area. There just aren’t enough superlatives! Of the 41 km of hiking here, I’ve so far only explored a few – but even those have left me craving more. About 40 minutes from Halifax, the Musquodoboit Trailway is perfectly situated between the river and soaring cliffs, following an old railbed. You’ll be treated to the lovely lake and river views, with perfect Insta-worthy granite outcroppings along the way. Next time, I’ll veer off the main (read: easy) trail and climb up to the formidable Skull Rock lookoff for even more impressive views!
Pro Tip: For tips on Preparing for fun and safe hiking adventures – click here.
Salt Marsh Trail
Abandoned railways always seem to make excellent hiking trails. Now part of the Trans Canada Trail, the Salt Marsh Trail used to be part of a railway linking Dartmouth and Musquodoboit. Traversing the whole thing, you’ll rack up 13.5 km round-trip, but just the walkout to the first bridge (a couple of km total) will give even reluctant hikers a lovely taste of the marsh environment and resident flora and fauna. We stood and watched the half-dozen great blue herons for quite a while, and the salty sea air was invigorating! The trail is wide and not difficult, perfect for hikers and cyclists of all ages and abilities.
For more Fun in Halifax – check out our 48-Hour itinerary
You’ve heard of Peggy’s Cove. But what of its lesser-known sister, just down the road? Polly’s Cove is one of our favourite hidden gems for hiking near Halifax. No signage or expansive parking lots alert visitors to this pristine patch of gorgeous coastal scenery, so keep your eyes peeled for the tiny gravel area at the side of the road, big enough for just a few cars. Wind your way around massive boulders deposited here by glaciers, and seek high ground for lots of fabulous views of Peggy’s Cove.
Pro Tip: Using apps like AllTrails, will help you find the hiking trail, stay on the path, and track your progress.
Shubenacadie Park and Trail
Aside from being plain fun to say, Dartmouth’s Shubenacadie Canal offers a little something for everyone. You’ll enjoy peaceful woodland canal views, old ruins left behind by the workers who built the canal, plenty of wildlife (my personal favourite – an otter encounter while kayaking the canal), and even an off-leash trail section for four-legged friends. Stop for a swim at Shubie Beach on Lake Charles, and if you like what you see, stay for a while at Shubie Campground. As far as urban parks and trails go, Shubenacadie is tough to beat!
Pro Tip: If you are hiking with your dog, be sure to have a pet Health & Safety Kit with you in case of an emergency.
Sandford Fleming Park
Speaking of connections across the pond, Anglophiles will want to check out hiking opportunities at Sandford Fleming Park, also located within Halifax. The park was donated to the city by Sir Sandford Fleming, who introduced time zones to the continent. In 1908, he also commissioned the park’s iconic Dingle Memorial Tower to commemorate 150 years of representative government in the province. If you visit when the tower is open, it’s well worth the walk up to the top for the fabulous views. You’ll also find walking trails, a boat launch and wharf, a beach and four different natural ecosystems (saltwater, pond, woodland and heath barren).
High Head Hiking Trail
It would be impossible for me to pick a favourite hike near Halifax, but if I had to, High Head Hiking Trail would certainly be a top contender. This is breath-taking with a capital “B” – exactly the sort of expansive coastal barren gorgeousness that is associated with Peggy’s Cove, but – dare I say it – even more impressive! You’ll be lucky to come across even a dozen hikers on your hike, which makes this trail even more appealing. Like all coastal trails in Nova Scotia, the weather here can be unpredictable, so layers are always a good idea! The trail ends at Prospect Village, a beautiful postcard fishing village, which is well worth a stroll in itself.
This list is necessarily incomplete, as exploring new (to me) hiking paths and trails is one of the ongoing joys of Nova Scotia life! Why not explore some hikes in your own backyard, and see what you can discover?
Pro Tip: To discover more amazing hiking, walking, and recreational trails – visit Nova Scotia Tourism