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Setting: Old-growth forest, lakes, streams, rivers, granite outcrops.
Signage: Occasional trail markers.
No signage and minimal markings.
Challenging #backcountry hiking with rewarding scenery.
Various trails and loops, extending as long as 18km.
Part of the much larger Waverley – Salmon River Long Lake Wilderness Area, the Crowbar Lake hiking trail system has plenty of room to explore. The entire trail system stretches over 18km, with 5 different trails including 4 separate loops. The rugged wilderness trails make their way through an old-growth forest, granite barrens, lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands. One feature you’ll immediately notice is the gigantic granite boulders which dot the landscape. The trail has interesting landscapes aplenty, and even the dense wooded sections are very scenic.
These trails are not for beginners or the ill-prepared. Adding to the challenging terrain and #long distance hiking, cell phone coverage is spotty at best so you have to make sure you’re well prepared. The terrain is very hilly, and you’ll rarely find yourself hiking on level ground. With the climbs, come some great panoramic views. The trails are fairly well marked and easy to follow (I can’t vouch for the further back loops as I’ve yet to do them). Despite being easy to follow, it’s always a possibility that you can get off track if you’re not paying attention and make a wrong turn onto a wildlife path. The map I’ve included is meant as a general guide and I haven’t confirmed that they are 100% accurate on the further loops.
The trail system has various loops to choose from. The first is a short, 2.5km near the parking lot called the “Porters Lake Loop”. A great way to get introduced to this landscape without heading too far back. You’ll be treated to a scenic pond, huge boulders and an elevated lookoff towards Porters Lake. The trail is rugged and does make some elevated climbs. Despite the short distance, the trail is more challenging than others of similar length, but can be still be accomplished in an hour or two.
Extending from the first loop is the linear “Spriggs Brook Trail”. Winding through 5km of scenic wilderness which includes a wooden bridge across Spriggs Brook and a few scenic look-offs. The trail brings you to Granite Lake where you should decide what to do next. The Journey from the parking lot to Granite Lake and back is 2.5 hours of hiking (I would allow at least 3 to fully enjoy). From this point, I can only offer info I’ve researched as I haven’t done beyond Granite Lake yet.
Carrying on from Granite Lake via Spriggs Brook Trail you’ll begin the “West Lake Loop” trail. As the name suggests, this trail is a 4.5km loop around West Lake. From the parking lot and back, you should allow 7 hours or the majority of the day. Beyond the lake scenery, this trail also has a large elevated outcrop dubbed the “Crow’s Nest Look-off”. The West Lake Loop trail connects at the Northwest and Southwest sides of the lake to the 5.5km “Salmon River Loop” trail. This area has long been a favourite spot for anglers, despite (or because of) its remote location. There are a few off-shoot trails at the south end of Otter Lake, dubbed “Lobster Loop” which form an additional 2km loop. From this farthest back point, the closest escape access point is via River Rd. which is an un-maintained, rugged dirt road which runs through a patch of property which is not a part of the protected wilderness area.
Camping is not encouraged, but legal and there are no official sites. “Leave no trace” principles must be followed to help preserve and protect this important wilderness area. You should also be aware of the current forest fire index as areas nearby have been devastated in years past by large forest fires.
Beyond the basic preparations like telling someone of your planned route and hiking time, packing a compass, and first-aid kit, you should also expect lots of flies in the Spring and early summer, as well as being aware of ticks (an unfortunate new reality for all nature trails in Nova Scotia). This trail, more than most, is one you do not want to rely on your cell-phone for, as the network coverage is extremely poor at best. Being aware of your surroundings and knowing basic navigation skills should be enough to safely navigate these trails, but due to their remote location, you definitely don’t want to underestimate anything.
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