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Setting: Suburban Forest, Lakes, Streams & Waterfall. Former railway turned multi-use #Rails-To-Trails.
Signage: Distance markers, periodically posted maps, info panels & info kiosk at the trailhead.
Features: A 13km section of the 123km Rum Runners Trail. Access to the Bluff Trail and connects directly to/from the Chain Of Lakes & St. Margaret’s Bay Trail. Waterfall and other scenic stopping points.
The BLT Trail
The Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea or “BLT Trail” is a 13km converted rail-trail and part of a 123km trail known as the Rum Runner’s Trail that connects Halifax to Lunenburg. The main trailhead is adjacent to the old Coke plant in Lakeside where there are a parking lot, picnic tables, and information kiosk. The trail is popular for walking, jogging and especially biking (a bicycle bell is a must!) Biking from one end to the other can be done in approximately 1 hour.
Beechville, Lakeside, Timberlea – Parking & Access
The BLT Trail is ‘sandwiched’ between the communities of Beechville, Lakeside & Timberlea (hence the “BLT”). Like the sandwich, the trail is a simple, classic staple for bikers, joggers & walkers alike. The trail starts from the Lakeside Industrial park, next to Halifax’s bustling Bayers Lake Business Park. Part of the community of Beechville is the well-known, well-used, often busy trailhead next to the Coke plant. From here the trail quickly comes to Governor Lake with the community of Lakeside visible on the opposite side of the lake.
Beyond Governor Lake lies the rest of the trail as it makes its way through the community of Timberlea, and the trail’s end in Hubley. The Hubley end of the trail is more of a pull-off from St. Margaret’s Bay Rd. than a main trailhead. Luckily there are access points with bigger parking areas further along, at Round Lake in Jerry Lawrence Provincial Park (closed in winter), and a main trailhead near shopping plazas in Timberlea, near the Bike & Bean Cafe.
The linear nature of the rails-to-trails system means you’ll have to do an up-and-back trip or plan a pick-up or bring two vehicles. It can be a bit of a pain to plan out your trip because of this, but there’s plenty of ways to accommodate trips of any proportion thanks to good access. I think a shuttle service up and down the rails-to-trails at various pick-up and drop-off points would be a fantastic idea for the government or private interest as the popularity of the entire Rum Runners Trail system continues to grow.
Metro Transit buses service the nearby St. Margaret’s Bay Rd. from the Lakeside Industrial Park trailhead at one end, to St. Andrew’s Church, near The Bluff Wilderness Trail trailhead at the other end. From The Bluff Trail trailhead onward there are no public transportation options. Bike racks on buses can hold a maximum of 2 bikes and are on a first-come-first-serve basis, so it’s tough to plan a biking trip using public transit.
Trail Sections (As On The Map)
The BLT Trail has 5 main sections, as laid out by the volunteers who manage and maintain the BLT Rails-To-Trails (you can thank them by donating). Each section is roughly 2-3km, and doesn’t have marked starting or ending points. The trail sections, beginning from the Lakeside Industrial Park are as follows.
The Six Mile Falls section covers 2km of trail that follows along a brook. The eye-catching Six Mile Falls waterfall makes for a popular stopping point. You’ll end this section of trail by crossing an old rail bridge with a view.
The 2.5km Fraser Mill Walk section begins after crossing the busy St. Margaret’s Bay Road and a nearby convenience store, true to its nature, is conveniently located next to the trail. The area gets its name from Halifax’s last water-powered sawmill which was located at a pond that you will pass along the way.
The 3km Cranberry Run is a section more secluded than the rest. It also connects to the Bluff Trail which is a top-notch system of rugged, challenging wilderness hiking trails (for experienced hikers). Adjacent to the Bluff Trail trailhead are great views of Cranberry Lake, along with access to the lake.
Waterfall & Points of Interest
For simplification, I’ll be stating distances starting from the Coke plant trailhead in Lakeside. Just over 1km along the trail you’ll come to the first pit-stop along Governor Lake. These two benches are the first of a few others along the lake. There are no especially good access points along the trail for swimming in Governor Lake, but the peaceful views are reason enough for a stop.
2.5km from the trailhead you’ll come to Six Mile Falls. This waterfall is perhaps the most iconic stop along the trail, and as such it will likely be busy during peak times. As with all local #waterfalls, the flow is highly dependent on recent weather and season. During dry periods it can be nothing more than a trickle, but its average state is more along the line of what you see here. Garbage cans and a trail map are also located at this stop. Garbage cans along most of our local trails are emptied irregularly and rely on volunteers. It’s best to treat garbage cans on any local trail as the last resort. Typically you’ll want to pack out everything you take in as you follow basic Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.
Just a few paces beyond the waterfall, on the opposite side of the trail is a posted sign which discusses the Nine Mile River/Governor Brook River restoration project. Next to the sign is a small path leading to a scenic viewing point of the river. I always make a stop here whenever I stop at the falls, or as I wait for a crowd at the falls to dissipate.
3.8km along the trail you’ll come to a former railway bridge that’s been transformed into a fantastic stopping point overlooking a small lake. The railway bridge is parallel to a busy part of the St. Margaret’s Bay Road, where a mural depicting the area’s past railway has been painted onto the road’s overpass. Just a few meters beyond this bridge you’ll come to a point on the trail where it crosses St. Margaret’s Bay Road. There is a well-marked crosswalk that connects to the trail. This crossing is the busiest of all, so be sure to use plenty of caution. Just after this crossing, you’ll pass by the back end of Fitzgerald’s Grocery which is a great place for snacks, supplies, and vital ice cream cones.
Near the 5km mark, the next notable stop is Fraser Mill Pond. A bench and nearby information panel give you information on a lumber mill that was located here, dating back to 1922.
After Fraser Mill Pond is an especially isolated stretch of trail where the noises of civilization disappear. A sole, unassuming bench at the 6.5km mark is one of the most peaceful stops. The scenery is unremarkable, but the ambiance is something to soak in. The bench bestows calm and peacefulness in a loving memorial of life taken far too soon. It serves as a good reminder to always take time to stop and smell the roses.
7.5km along, is Cranberry Lake and the trailhead for the Bluff Wilderness Trail. The trail passes underneath busy highway 103 in style as the otherwise ugly underpass has been spruced up with some great artwork on either side. This artistic underpass is a well-known icon of the BLT Trail.
500m before the underpass is the parking lot for the Bluff Wilderness Trail, with the trailhead located just after the underpass. At the Bluff trailhead is a bike rack to lock your bike should you decide to go in for a hike. Keep in mind these trails are for experienced hikers and require plenty of time and pre-planning as you can read in my Bluff Trail guide. Just past the Bluff trailhead is a small bridge crossing the head of Cranberry Lake. This area has benches overlooking the lake, as well as a rocky area that provides good swimming/paddling access.
The next body of water comes at 9km into the trail as you reach the head of Black Point Lake, and another well-situated memorial bench. Just past the 10km mark is a scenic, flowing stream-fed pond and bench with a great view that often includes ducks and other birds. This stop is a good often a good #bird-watching pit-stop.
As you enter the final stretch of the BLT Trail, at 10.5km in, you’ll come to a bridge spanning a narrow point of Five Island Lake. Benches at either side of the bridge offer scenic, opposing views of the lake.
The Rum Runners Trail
The B.L.T. Trail can be great by itself, or as part of a long, unbroken #rails-to-trails journey from Halifax to Lunenburg. This 123km trail, begins from Halifax to Lunenburg with the Chain of Lakes Trail, BLT Trail, St. Margarets Bay Trail, Aspotogan Trail, Chester Connector, Dynamite Trail, and Bay-To-Bay Trail in Lunenburg. With plenty of lakes, sandy ocean beaches, and a very scenic provincial park campground along the way, this route makes for a great multi-day bike-packing adventure.
It’s worth noting that certain areas of the BLT Trail can have lots of mosquitos, so come prepared in Spring and early Summer. In winter, the trail is great for fat biking as ATV traffic usually quickly lay tire tracks into the snow. If you’re planning on cross country skiing or #snowshoeing, you’ll want to do it soon after a fresh snowfall, as there is usually plenty of traffic to lay an uneven base of snow.
In Summer the trail hits peak business with joggers, walkers and bikers of all sorts. Sharing the trail becomes of utmost importance during peak times, so be sure to stick to the right-hand side of the trail to let others pass. A bicycle bell is an absolute must-have for all of the local rails-to-trails. When you intend to pass people, give them a courtesy ring to let them know. Conversely, if you hear a ding, make sure you keep to the right. These basic rules go a long way to avoiding accidents. Be aware that ATV’s share the trail. While their speeds are limited, and everyone I’ve seen has been safe and courteous, it’s still up to you to be aware of your surroundings (zoning out with headphones is not advisable).
The BLT is a popular destination for people to distance train, and smartwatches are a fantastic training tool. I’ve listed many of the best smartwatches, complete with price history tracking, and custom price drop alerts to your inbox (this blog gets a small commission on all Amazon purchases, so it’s a win-win). I can honestly say my Garmin Fenix smartwatch is one of the best outdoor adventure and fitness tools I’ve ever purchased.