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Difficulty: Easy (distance-dependant).
Setting: Urban lakes, paved multi-use active transportation trail.
Facilities: Parking (at Timberlea trailhead), porta-pottie in Bayers Lake & regularly spaced benches.
Signage: Educational info panels and basic signage.
Features: The longest paved trail in Halifax (7.3km). Part of the Rum Runners Trail extending from Halifax to Lunenburg.
The Chain Of Lakes Trail
The Chain Of Lakes Trail is Halifax’s longest paved, active transportation trail. A converted railway, now part of the province’s extensive #rails-to-trails system. It has become one of the most popular trails for #biking, rollerblading, walking, and jogging. One of the few places in the city with #winter-maintenance, it’s equally accessible year-round.
Parking & Access
Part of a 123km route extending down Nova Scotia’s South Shore, connecting Halifax to Lunenburg known as the Rum Runner’s Trail, the Chain of Lakes section is 7.3km one way. It begins across from Superstore on Joseph Howe Drive and ends in Lakeside where it continues on as the B.L.T. trail. There is no designated parking area on Joseph Howe Drive, but many people begin near the entrance to Ashburn Golf Course (limited space, do not block the road).
Multi-Use Active Transportation Trail
The unique aspect of the trail is that it’s the longest paved trail in the HRM which makes it ideal for many different activities. On a nice day, you can expect to see a busy trail with a diverse array of users. Families with strollers & small children on bikes, walkers, cyclists, joggers & rollerbladers all share the trail. With this array of users, use caution and proper trail etiquette with the use of a bicycle bell when passing, and keep your ears tuned for the “ding” of others doing the same.
There are signs posted along the way (including km markers) as well as plenty of benches to sit and take a break. Wooden guard rails also line some of the steep shoulders (great for keeping the kids safe). This trail has steadily improved and evolved since its beginning, making it into one of the city’s best assets that it is today. Whether for commuting or for recreation on the city’s longest paved trail, it’s one of the most used.
The Chain of Lakes Trail also happens to be one of the few trails in the city with regular winter maintenance. The trail is regularly cleared to maintain a (mostly) ice and snow-free experience all winter long.
Points of Interest
As the name suggests, the trail follows along 5 different lakes. Starting from Joseph Howe Drive, you’ll travel 2km of wooded trail with wooden rails guarding against areas of sloped drop-offs. Benches are regularly placed along the trail, more or less, every 500m.
200m from the Ashburn golf course entrance, by the Dunbrack Street underpass you’ll arrive at scenic First Chain Lake. This spot is the most popular stopping point with two benches overlooking the lake. An information panel discusses the trail’s railway past, as well as the historical importance of the watershed as a water supply for the city of Halifax. This area is soon to have a connecting greenway trail to nearby Long Lake Provincial Park.
Continuing for 1.5km along a mostly wooded section of trail along First & Second Chain Lake, you’ll pass a couple more benches before reaching an underpass of Highway 103. Shortly after the underpass, there’s a portable toilet and sitting area before crossing 4 lanes of busy Chain Lake Drive. Worth a nearby stop along Chain Lake Drive is the Bayers Lake Mystery Walls.
Continuing past Chain Lake Drive the trail enters the Bayers Lake Business Park and alongside Bayers Lake itself. A lookoff area enclosed with a railing provides another good stopping point just under 1km from Chain Lake Drive. Further down the trail, alongside the lake are 2 more benches, which the lookoff doesn’t offer.
After passing Bayers Lake, you’ll cross Horsehoe Lake Drive and have a straight run of 800m until passing by Black Duck Pond & Lovett Lake. 400m beyond the lake you’ll cross Lakeside Park Drive and onto the trailhead parking lot for the B.L.T. Trail. From here the trail changes from asphalt paving to a compacted crusher dust (gravel) base.
Planning & Preparation Tips
The Chain Of Lakes Trail is great as an active transportation route, or purely for recreation. As such, it’s an often busy, popular trail used for many different activities. Great for training for a new personal best with your GPS smartwatch, a family outing with strollers, and bikes in tow, or a long, flat, smooth rollerblading adventure. With this mix of trail users, it’s important to be equipped with a bicycle bell to safely pass others, and helmets are the law. It’s also a good place to have a rearview safety device to see what’s going on behind you before you change lanes to pass.
My Chain Of Lakes Trail Photo Gallery
As the trail continues on as the B.L.T. trail and the St. Margarets Bay Trail, it turns to a crusher dust base, so don’t plan on rollerblading to St. Margarets Bay just yet. Biking, however, is ideal. With connections to Cleveland & Queensland Beaches, it makes for a direct biking route of 47km from Halifax. Graves Island Provincial Park is a great place to camp, another 26km beyond the beaches.
The linear fashion of these rails-to-trails routes means you have to plan your halfway point ahead of time so you have enough energy for your return trip. At 7.3km one way, it takes roughly 30 minutes (1hr return) by bike. Sometimes using two cars at your planned starting and ending points is the best plan for longer trips, or arranging for a pickup from a friend. City buses are also equipped with bike racks. When planning your route, using an average moving speed of 14km/h will give you a good ballpark estimate for any distance along the entirety of the Rum Runners route.