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Difficulty: #Easy to #Difficult (distance/terrain/navigation).
Setting: Lake, forest, streams, and rivers.
Facilities: Parking, toilets, bike racks, boat launch (non-motorized) & rentals.
Signage: Minimal. Mostly along the Lakeview Trail.
Features: 3.5km “Lakeview Trail” is #Accessible to all. Park boundaries encompass over 2000 hectares of wilderness including 3 lakes. A popular #swimming & #paddling destination within urban Halifax. Accessible by #bus.
Long Lake Provincial Park
Long Lake Provincial Park stands apart from most parks in Halifax with its assortment of recreational opportunities, extensive wilderness, and location; a 15-minute drive from downtown. The large size and subsequent diversity quickly envelop you with interesting geology, lakeside views, streams, rivers, vegetation, beaver dams, birds, and wildlife you wouldn’t expect to see amidst an urban area. A very popular park, that’s always busy during summer months, it’s large enough that everyone can find their own spot to enjoy.
Parking Lots & Access Points
Nestled in the heart of mainland Halifax, there are multiple access points, ranging from St. Margarets Bay Road, Northwest Arm Drive, Old Sambro Road to Prospect Road. The two main access points with parking areas are off of St. Margarets Bay Road and the newer, larger parking lot off of Northwest Arm Drive (gate closed in winter, with limited parking outside of it). A small parking area off of Old Sambro Road offers (non-powered) boat access and rentals. A couple of parking spots are reserved for quick 15-minute drop-offs, but the rest of the lot is often full during peak times. A gate blocks access to the Old Samrbo Road lot off during the off-season.
The Lakeview Trail
In April 2016, a large, wide, gravel and packed sand trail was constructed. Named the “Lakeview Trail”, it consists of a 3.5km loop around Witherod Lake. Similar to what you would see in Point Pleasant Park, this trail is well constructed with benches at regular intervals. Inconspicuous pathways off the main trail can lead to scenic nooks along Witherod Lake. From the trail, there is one access point to Long Lake, complete with a bike rack to secure your bike.
The wide trail has plenty of room for walkers, bikers and joggers alike. If you plan on biking this trail, keep in mind it is busy during peak times and a bicycle bell is a must. The trail doesn’t have any significant hills, with only small dips and inclines throughout as seen in this elevation profile. Expect 1h30min of walking to complete the loop on foot or about 30 mins by bike.
The Pipeline Loop
The popular 3km “Pipeline Loop” trail, accessible via a parking area off of St. Margaret’s Bay road falls into the “wilderness trail” category as it is unmarked, unmaintained, narrow, and rugged. Formerly an off-leash area, this trail is now on-leash only, though many disregard the rules. Don’t contribute to the amount of poop bags that accumulate here which can reach ungodly amounts by the spring thaw. To easily store used bags bring an empty peanut butter container or one of these handy bag holder leash attachments, and always follow basic Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.
A short walk in from St. Margaret’s Bay Road will bring you to the lake and an area that’s popular for a mid-summer swim. Be mindful of leeches along with some parts of the shore (but don’t let it stop you). Continuing along the trail as it skirts the shore of the lake, you’ll eventually head into a dense forest along which a water pipeline used to run. You’ll still see occasional evidence of the pipeline, specifically a big rusty valve near where the trail ends and curves back around toward the lake to finish the loop. At the farthest point of the loop, you’ll come to a stream that crosses the trail, leading to a scenic cascade that feeds into the Lake. Stay on the well-worn trail as it can be easy to get lost if you head onto the wrong path. Heading in too far along the pipeline will bring you into an even more remote area of the park where the trail eventually becomes overgrown and impassable on its way to meet up with the Old Coach Road Trail. Though the Pipeline Loop is a popular trail, don’t take it lightly. Always tell someone your plans, and pack basic safety gear as you should on all hikes.
Old Coach Road & Scar Road
The rest of the park is largely unmarked, which is a good thing for adventuresome hikers, as there are plenty of rugged ‘off-path’ exploration opportunities. This kind of wilderness exploration isn’t for the inexperienced. The unmarked trails can lead in many different directions, sometimes ending in remote areas. These trails are un-maintained remnants from decades or even centuries past, so expect some very rugged terrain.
For the very adventurous and experienced hikers, check out the “Old Coach Road” and the bisecting “Scar Road”, both with their own interesting history. The scar road dates to a more recent past when the park was used as the city’s water supply. The road was never fully completed and now sits as a deep “scar” running down the middle of the park’s landmass. The lake’s use as Halifax’s water supply ended in 1980 but its past is still evident by the dams and waterworks still visible today. The “Old Coach Road”, dating back prior to 1800 contains hints of an old farm settlement and other aspects of its storied past, best laid out by this great free walking guide by the Five Bridges Wilderness Heritage Trust.
Both trails are accessible via Old Sambro Road, but the “Old Coach Road” access is the only one with small areas to park at its trailheads. Extreme caution should be used in exploring this remote area of the park, and you should expect sections of heavy flooding depending on recent weather. As with any backroads left alone to nature for decades, they can contain every manner of terrain. If you head into these remote areas of the park, don’t do so without prior wilderness hiking experience and basic safety precautions.
Paddling & Swimming
The lake has become one of the best places for paddling (non-motorized boats only) thanks to the new boat launch area off of Old Sambro Road. A new paddleboard and kayak rental kiosk supply visitors with kayaks and paddleboards. The boat launch parking lot is often full on nice days but has 2 reserved (15-minute max) spots for boat drop-offs.
The two main islands on the lake make for ideal paddling destinations. The smaller of the two, known as “Goat Island“, is only a 1km (20-30min) paddle from the boat launch area. With a few sandy areas, big rock formations and a sheltered area in the center of the island. Well-visited by kayakers and swimmers alike, it’s a popular destination.
Please take out more trash than you brought so we can outnumber the careless people. Un-controlled fires in provincial parks are a no-no, and there are far too many poorly planned fire pits at Long Lake. A camp stove is a more responsible option. Before lighting a fire anywhere in Nova Scotia, always check burning restrictions and follow basic Leave No Trace principles.
There are plenty of great places to go for a swim, with small sandy coves dotted all along the shoreline. The lake even has buoys marking an open water swim course ranging from 1 to 2.5km from the paddling launch area to Goat Island. At the opposite end of the lake, entering via the St. Margaret’s Bay Road parking lot, there are plenty more popular swimming areas. Be aware that there is the occasional leech, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying the lake. Besides being gross nightmare fuel, leeches are painless and harmless if you remove them properly. As well as regularly checking your feet, water shoes can help keep them off.
The Dam & Other Scenic Areas
The trails off of the parking lot on St. Margarets Bay road are popular with people and their dogs as it used to be an #off-leash area. You can now be fined if your dog isn’t leashed, but it remains a #dog-friendly area. Once you stray from the main paths you are rewarded with all kinds of great places to explore along the shoreline. One of the best places for #swimming in Halifax, and often very busy during peak times. However, the lake is large enough that you can always find an ideal spot to chill along its shores.
At the opposite end of the lake from the St. Margaret’s Bay entrance is a large dam which follows parallel to Old Sambro Road. The dam is fun to explore but not safe/easy to navigate near the outlet. A scenic sitting area at this end of the lake is a great place to watch a Summer sunset. More scenic paths and shoreline exploration can be had at the far end of the dam, but the best access to this area is via a gated gravel pathway off of Old Sambro Rd. .
Halifax Outdoor Activity Hub
Long Lake is the new go-to place for all kinds of outdoor adventures without having to leave the city. It grows more popular every year as accessibility improvements have made the park welcoming to a diverse crowd. Much like Point Pleasant Park and Shubie Park, you’ll be able to feel the current mood of Halifax with every visit. Though visitor numbers continue to increase, there’s plenty of space to explore. Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll, an adventurous hike, paddle, bike ride, or swim, Long Lake is a great place for it.