Guides Hiking Nova Scotia

The Best Hiking Trails Near Halifax For Every Kind Of Hiker

     An enjoyable hike means something different to everyone.  It can be anything from an easy stroll around a local park to a multi-day, mind-body challenge.  In this post, I’ve compiled some of the best hiking trails near Halifax, Nova Scotia to suit every kind of hiker.

     I hike & map every location firsthand to create detailed guides with phone-friendly maps for turn-by-turn directions & on-site GPS.  I document all of my outings with photos, videos & 360° virtual tours.  Read my how-to guide to get the most out of this free resource.  Always pack essential safety gear & follow Leave No Trace ethics.  Happy trails!

Trails For Leisurely Hikes

Easy Hiking Trails in Halifax, Nova Scotia

• Sackville Lakes Provincial Park

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Time Budget: 1 or 2 hours for a quick visit to one of the lakes and back. Plenty of other options to fill the majority of your day.

Features: Access to two lakes, including a public, supervised beach & splash pad.  9km of wide, mostly wooded walking trails, groomed with a compacted-crusher dust base.  Access to an off-leash fenced field for dogs (former baseball diamond).

Sackville Lakes Provincial Park is great for walkers, joggers and strollers alike.  With no significant hills, obstacles, or navigating challenges, the trails are inviting to people of all abilities.  Two main parking areas across the road from each other offer access to First Lake and Second Lake respectively.

On the First Lake side, you’ll only have to walk 120m before you arrive at the lake.  Mid-way up the trail you’ll pass by a baseball field and an adjacent fenced field for off-leash dogs. The rest of the trail follows the shoreline all the way up the lake until just past Kinsmen First Lake Beach.  This supervised beach and splash pad area is great for families.  The trail isn’t looped, so you’ll have to go up-and-back or otherwise navigate through the Lower Sackville neighbourhoods on the far side of First Lake, including busy Glendale Drive.

On the Second Lake side is a quieter, forested ambiance that requires just under 1km of walking along the Great Oak Trail. There are numerous benches and scenic stopping points along the lake.  The Great Oak trail is a nice loop, at just under 3km.  You can venture further, onto the Second Lake Trail which follows the shoreline of the lake, but you’ll have to backtrack to return to the parking lot.

Read my full Sackville Lakes Provincial Park guide here.

• Uniacke Estate Museum Park

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Time Budget: 2hrs to a half-day.

Top Features:  Estate museum (Open June-Oct), gift shop, teahouse & 7 different (10km total) year-round trails.

Uniacke Estate Museum Park is full of storybook views.  The moment you arrive, you’re greeted with scenery straight from a cinematic historical drama.  The estate of former Nova Scotia Attorney General, Richard John Uniacke, built in 1815 stands perfectly preserved for the public.  Saunter the grounds, and take a tour of the estate to gain a full appreciation for what it would have been like to enjoy this masterpiece back in its era.

The quaint tea room gives you a good reason to take time out to make the most of your stay.  Grab some refreshments and browse old recipe books, diaries & uniquely curated items for sale as you tottle.  Friendly guides will gladly take you on a tour of the house, which you’ll notice had no bathrooms or running water! The tour gives a great backdrop to your visit, allowing you to fully imagine this place in the era of its heyday.

Beyond the historical aspects of the park, there are plenty of trails to explore, ranging from an easy saunter to a full-on hike.  Throughout, you’ll see hints of the estate’s past, including old-growth and ornamental trees, foundations, and fields.

Read my full Uniacke Estate Museum Park guide here.

• Sir Sandford Fleming Park

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Time Budget: 1-3hrs.

Top Features: Landmark “Dingle Tower” (open May-Nov, 9am-3pm daily).  2 beaches. Public wharf and boat launch. Playgrounds & picnic areas. Paved waterfront walkway, various nature trails connecting to, and including, the Frog Pond (a small lake with 1.3km looped trail).

One of Halifax’s most historic, beloved municipal parks.  Gifted to the city by Sir Sandford Fleming, best known as the creator of modern standard time.  The Dingle Tower, constructed in 1912 was to commemorate 150 years of representative government in Nova Scotia. There’s plenty of history to read about throughout the park.

The park offers plenty of things to do, especially for families with children.  The walking trails are easy and scenic, with large old-growth trees, streams & plenty of birds & squirrels. The large park has a few distinct areas, each with its own appeal.  You can spend as little as an hour, or an entire day at the park. With a public boat launch and wharf, you can easily drop in a canoe, kayak, or motorboat to explore the calm, scenic Northwest Arm.

Read my full Sir Sandford Fleming Park guide here.

• Mainland Common Park

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Time Budget: 1 hour.

Top Features: Fenced, fully equipped off-leash dog areas. 3km of nature walking trails. Direct access from the Mainland North Linear Parkway, multi-use trail.

The Mainland Common Park’s main draw is its fully equipped off-leash dog park.  Two separate off-leash fields for large and small dogs have rain barrels for water, covered picnic tables & a wooded area with 350m of off-leash trails, ideal for training.  The park is one of the few public, municipal off-leash dog parks.

It may not look like it at first glance, but the park is also a great place for a nature stroll.  The narrow trails are lined with heavenly soft wood chips and compacted crusherdust.  Footbridges and even a lookoff boardwalk leading to the Mainland Common Bog, a great place for bird watching and viewing this urban, biodiverse habitat, complete with carnivorous pitcher plants.

The nature trails have plans to be expanded, and you can venture off the main trails onto to more rugged ones if you’re up for some exploring.  With connections to Washmill Lake Drive, The Canada Games Centre, a major bus terminal, the Mainland North Linear Parkway and its many parks, playgrounds & ball fields, you can make a visit to the Mainland Common Park as part of a broader outing.

Read my full Mainland Common Park guide here.

Intermediate Level Hikes

Moderate Hiking Trails in Halifax, Nova Scotia

• Herring Cove Provincial Park

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Time Budget: 1-2 hours.

Top Features: Beautiful ocean views close to the city (30min drive from downtown).  Parking lot lookoff area with adjacent benches for easily accessible coastal scenery.  1.7km up-and-back coastal trail with great scenery throughout.

Herring Cove Provincial Park Reserve, otherwise known as “The Lookoff” is more than just a scenic spot to pull off of the Purcell’s Cove Road (this section now called John Brackett Drive).  You can just sit in your car or on the adjacent benches and have a spectacular view of the open Atlantic Ocean, with the mouth of Halifax Harbour to your left.  But if you’re looking to explore further, there’s nearly 1km worth of coastline for you to explore.

The short hike leads to a high point where a pile of boulders, laid as a memorial, marks the end of the trail.  Fortunately, this spot also has the best views.  There are plenty of places to stop along the way, which is good because this trail is quite popular during peak times.  You can bet the parking lot will be full during these same peak times (nice weekday & weekend afternoons).

The trail is rugged, muddy, rocky, slippery, hilly, as are all Nova Scotia coastlines.   The trail is unmarked and unmanaged, but it’s easy to identify.  Use extreme caution along the shoreline as slippery rocks and unpredictable surf are not to be taken lightly.  Bring a sitting pad to enjoy the views without punishing your backside.  Pack out what you pack in, and help keep this unmanaged wilderness area clean for everyone.

Read my full Herring Cove Provincial Park guide here.

• Nine Mile River Trails

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Time Budget: 1-4 hours.

Top Features: 3 stacked trails for trips ranging from 1.3km to 12km.  Natural, backcountry, forest-bathing trails lovingly cared for by a dedicated group of volunteers. Access to Nine Mile River and Comeau Lake while being surrounded by a cathedral of nature throughout.

There has been lots of work done lately on the Nine Mile River Trails, with new look-offs, trails, and improvements yearly thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers.  The trail used to be quite muddy, but now has boardwalks and other work to address the majority of the problem areas.  That being said, it is a singletrack, narrow, natural trail system with natural terrain.  The all-natural surroundings are what make this trail special.  Being surrounded by huge stands of trees with pure silence, interrupted only by the sounds of nature is an experience in itself.

You’ll start on the 1.3km Pitcher Plant Trail loop, which indeed is full of pitcher plants and other plants, shrubs and wildflowers.  A few boardwalks make it an easy walk for people of any ability.  Stacked ontop of the Pitcher Plant Trail is the 2.5km, linear, Comeau Lake Trail.  This trail has a newly built viewing platform next to the Nine Mile River.  After reaching Comeau Lake is the aptly named Hemlock Cathedral Trail which is the most remote, and most densely forested section of the trail, a forest bathers dream.

Read my full Nine Mile River Trail guide here.

• Polly’s Cove

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Time Budget: 1-4 hours.

Top Features: Spectacular, unspoiled coastal barrens landscape.  Minutes from Peggy’s Cove and part of the more extensive West Dover Provincial Park.  New areas to discover with every visit.

Almost everyone who visits Halifax ends up at Peggy’s Cove.  Peggy’s Cove is one of Halifax & Canada’s most well-known locations, and it has the crowds to prove it.  What’s much less taken advantage of are the spectacular hiking opportunities next door.  Unfortunately, not a dime has been spent constructing proper trails, signage or parking areas.  Whereas Peggy’s Cove just had big infrastructure upgrades aimed at increasing its accessibility, Polly’s Cove is 100% raw, with near-zero infrastructure.

The coastal barren landscape offers vastly different views with each season and even with day-to-day weather.  Beautifully stark in winter, bursting with life in spring and summer, and a kaleidoscope of colour in autumn.  Each visit to Polly’s Cove will offer a different experience, whether veiled in fog, blasted by windy surf, or calm, serene, and meditatively peaceful, its an enveloping, living, breathing ecosystem.

The trails are entirely unmarked, and the area is extremely delicate, with nesting birds, rare lichen and plant life that can be destroyed with one footstep.  Stay on the well-traveled paths, and stick to hard surfaces for nature’s sake and your own as there are plenty of muddy spots.  Pack out what you pack in as there are no garbage cans or services of any kind (a prime example of the province not realizing the province’s eco-tourism potential in places with more indirect benefits than Peggy’s Cove.)

Read my full Polly’s Cove guide here.

• Shaw Wilderness Park

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Time Budget: 1hr (a visit to either lake), 2.5hrs (a loop around Colpitt Lake), or 5hrs to hike from Purcells Cove Road parking area, loop around Colpitt Lake & back to Purcells Cove Road.

Top Features: Access to two large lakes in a 153ha urban wilderness park. Unique views of downtown Halifax, & access to the adjacent McIntosh Run Singletrack Trail system and other-worldly landscape of the Purcells Cove Backlands. Accessible by public transit.

Halifax’s newest park is different than any other municipal park.  This one is rugged, wild & all-natural.  Intended to be a true wilderness park, there are no heavily managed trails or easily accessible features beyond the 400m stretch of trail leading from the parking lot to Williams Lake.

For experienced hikers, this area has many days worth of places to explore.  With large, old-growth trees and ecosystems that can change drastically by the kilometer, it’s an urban naturalist’s dream.  Easily accessible from anywhere in the city by public transit, this park is ideal for a quick nature getaway without leaving the city.

Read my full Shaw Wilderness Park guide here.

Challenging Trails For Experienced Hikers

Challenging Hiking Trails in Halifax, Nova Scotia

• Crowbar Lake Trails

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Time Budget: 2 (Porters Lake Loop) – 8 hours +.

Top Features: Over 18km of rugged, wilderness trails.  Access to 5 lakes, in a large 87km² wilderness area.

With sparse trail markings and little-to-no signage or cell phone reception, this hike is definitely for experienced explorers.  Beyond basic wilderness skills, you’ll want to be in good shape as there is plenty of climbing and descending along the often narrow, rugged paths.  The further you go, the more overgrown the trails become.  Tackling all the trails would take the better part of an entire day, perhaps longer if things don’t go exactly as planned.

With all of that said as proper context; this hike is fantastic if you’re looking for a challenge, or to go somewhere much less trafficked than most local hiking destinations.  The scenery is sufficiently rewarding for the work you will put in, and there’s plenty of untouched nature to explore.  There are a few elevated areas with fantastic views, which allow you to get a good bearing, and see where you’ve been and where you’re headed.  With access to numerous wild lakes, it’s a great place to do some fishing or to spend an evening doing some ‘Leave No Trace’ camping.  Prepare for bugs in warm months, and prioritize safety above all.

Read my full Crowbar Lake Trail guide here.

• The Bluff Wilderness Trail

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Time Budget: 3hrs, or up to 2 days.

Top Features: 4 stacked loops, 3-4 hours each.  Accessible from the BLT Rails-To-Trails.  Very well marked & volunteer maintained by a group committed to preservation & an authentic wilderness hiking experience.

The Bluff Trail is a go-to for avid local hikers.  Its well-marked and maintained trails make for an inviting, albeit challenging wilderness hike.  With plenty of rugged, rocky terrain, climbs, dips & mud, there’s a little bit of everything along the way.

Most people start with the Pot Lake Loop (7km, 3-4hr return trip) to get an idea of what to expect.  You can certainly bite off more than you can chew if you attempt all 4 loops, which are best done with an overnight stop at one of the designated ‘Leave No Trace‘, unserviced campsites.

Accessible from the BLT Trail, you can make a visit to the Bluff a part of your biking trip, or use the 550m stretch from the parking lot to the trailhead to haul your canoe, kayak, or paddleboard to Cranberry Lake.

Each loop is between 6 and 7km apiece, with a reasonable estimated hiking time of around 4 hours each.  Each trail is marked with color-coded trail markers, and trail maps are placed sparingly at key junctions.

Read my full Bluff Wilderness Trail guide here.

• Crystal Crescent Provincial Park

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Time Budget: 3-4 hours (for full loop).

Top Features: Access to 4 white sand beaches, coastal loop with inland spine trail for various different route options.

Often regarded as Halifax’s best beach, Crystal Crescent Provincial Park has much more for experienced hikers looking for an adventure.  This large peninsula offers more than a great day at the beach, with one of the most breathtaking, rugged and wild landscapes you’ll ever come across.  The vastness of the ocean and coastal barren landscape offers unspoiled natural beauty on a grand scale.

A loop around the peninsula is roughly 10km or 3-4 hours.  With unmarked & unmaintained trails, it is possible to get off track.  Fortunately, the majority of the hike is along the coastline, so you can only wander off course so far (unless you choose to include the inland spine trail).

You can expect mud, uneven rocky terrain, moderate obstacle climbs, and ever-changing weather conditions.  You may arrive on a bright, hot sunny day, and leave in dense, bone-chilling fog.  It pays to come prepared with extra layers and good hiking footwear.  Leave yourself plenty of extra time to just sit and take in your surroundings.  A lightweight sitting pad is a nice luxury to bring to give your tailbone a break from the hard granite.  Keep in mind that porcupines love it here and there are plenty of delicate birds nests and other habitats that both humans and off-leash dogs can irreparably disturb. Stick to the well-worn paths and pack out what you pack in.

Read my full Crystal Crescent – Pennant Point guide here.

• Musquodoboit Trailway

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Time Budget: 2 hours (Gibraltar Rock hiking trail), 1.5 hours (biking the railway trail, one way) to multi-day (wilderness hiking trail combo).

Top Features: 5 wilderness hiking trails, 15km rails-to-trails, multi-use spine trail, and scenic railway bridge.

With some of the most breathtaking inland hiking scenery, Nova Scotia has to offer, the Musquodoboit Trailway has numerous far-reaching views, high atop its rocky ridgelines.  The rugged wilderness hiking trails are accessible via a 15km multi-use rails-to-trails spine trail every bit as enjoyable and scenic as the hiking trails.  There are racks to lock your bike located on the rail trail at each major hiking trailhead, making it an ideal place for a hike and bike combo adventure.

Bookending the rail trail are two of the most scenic hikes.  The 5.5km Admiral Lake loop is located 1.5km from the main parking area and the 3.5km Gibraltar Rock Trail loop starts at the opposite end of the rail trail with its own parking area adjacent to the trailhead.  Connecting these trails is the 9km South Granite Ridge and 9.5km North Granite Ridge trails offering more than enough to fill an entire day or multi-day adventure.

These trails are well marked with colour-coded trail markers and maps at major junctions and trailheads.  The Musquodoboit Trailway association even provides info brochures at the kiosks near each of the two parking lots.  That being said, these hikes are very challenging with plenty of climbs, descents and uneven footing.  It is certainly possible to get off the trail, so careful navigation is also required.  These trails are definitely for experienced, in-shape, properly prepared hikers, but the views are worth every demanding step.

See my full Musquodoboit Trailway guide here.


One reply on “The Best Hiking Trails Near Halifax For Every Kind Of Hiker”

Used to be a more intrepid hiker but have slowed a bit, so it’s great to have this post give several alternatives for enjoying the outdoors. Thanks!

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