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Difficulty: Difficult (terrain/navigation).
Setting: Old logging road, rugged, narrow forest paths, streams & rocky clearing at the top.
Features: The highest point of Halifax’s Chebucto Peninsula. Part of the #Blue Moutain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area. A rugged 5km (~2-hour) return trip to the top & back.
Blue Mountain Trail
The #Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Wilderness Area Is a large wilderness area with plans to create a full trail system extending from Blue Mountain to Susies Lake. Once/If completed this area will be the largest urban park in North America. Right now it can be difficult to find your way around. Blue Mountain is one access point (albeit un-marked). It can be a little intimidating because it’s completely unmarked, there aren’t official trails yet, and it ventures into remote, #backcountry terrain. Keeping track of your navigating is a must, but you don’t need to be a seasoned pro to find your way to the top.
A Halifax Hidden Gem
The fact that there was extremely limited info on this trail when I researched it, tells of what a hidden gem it is. It’s within a 30-minute drive from downtown Halifax, at the edge of the Kingswood subdivision in Hammonds Plains. The trail takes about 40 minutes to reach the top, and once there you are rewarded with a view that you likely didn’t know existed within city limits. I’m a fan of a good #lookoff and the Blue Mountain 360° vista is one of my favourites. I wouldn’t exactly call it a mountain by the true definition, but it is by mainland Nova Scotia standards. The peak of the ‘mountain’ is the highest point of Halifax’s Chebucto Peninsula. A portion of the hike involves a moderate, but steady climb as you can see in this elevation profile.
Rugged, Un-Marked Trails
The walk is not extremely difficult and the proper trail is almost always visible and occasionally marked with flagging. There is at least one turn that is easy to miss, so you do have to pay close attention to your navigating. There will be muddy sections, stream crossings and/or a river to cross, as well as some minor climbing. The impromptu bridges should be taken with an abundance of caution. Large granite boulders aka glacial erratics, are increasingly scattered throughout as you progress into the wilderness.
The land is partly private property that owners have kindly allowed right of way to people hiking Blue Mountain. Access to these portions of the wilderness area is subject to their approval, so be sure to obey any posted signs on their land. It’s with their permission that it is possible to access this area despite being recommended as being a key part to the #Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park. Irresponsible dog owners and people who don’t follow basic Leave No Trace outdoor ethics always cause friction in situations like this, so don’t contribute to the problem and ruin it for everyone. You’ll want to keep dogs on a tight leash or opt to bring them on a more #dog-friendly hike, as there are often active coyote traps and snares in the area.
The city of Halifax has recently purchased parcels of this land as it slowly works to make the park a reality. If, and when it’s ever created, this trail is sure to be an important cornerstone. There have been mentions of running a new multi-million dollar freeway (highway 113) right through the heart of this trail. Beyond ruining an irreplaceable gem, and reneging on the commitment to the wilderness park, it should never happen for a number of other reasons. Once a proposed open-pit quarry, and scarred by clearcut forestry, this area has long been under threat. To support its protection, and the creation of the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Park, the best thing you can do is become a (free) member of the Friends Of Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Society, and donate. The Nova Scotia Nature Trust is currently looking to raise money to purchase a key section of this wilderness, with a June 2020 deadline (learn more & donate).
A short commute from the city core helps this hike fit into limited time budgets. Unfortunately, it’s not directly #bus-accessible, so you will have to have your own transportation.
Blue Mountain is an enjoyable hike any time of year, especially Spring and Fall when the lookoff is perched atop a sea of colour. You can expect plenty of bugs in Spring and early Summer so, come prepared with some insect defence gear. The top clearing can be windy and significantly cooler than the rest of the hike but in favourable conditions its an ideal place to bring along a portable seat to indulge in the view.
Blue Mountain Trail Habitat:
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