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New Hiking Guide: Castle Rock Trail
Difficulty: Easy – Difficult (distance/terrain/navigation).
Setting: Lake, forest, streams, and rivers.
Facilities:Parking, Toilets, Bike Racks, Boat Launch (non-motorized) & Rentals.
Signage: Minimal. Mostly along “Lakeview Trail”.
New easily accessible 5km “Lakeview Trail” loop around Witherod Lake.
Over 2000 hectares to explore.
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 & Access
Nestled in the heart of mainland Halifax, there are multiple access points, ranging from St. Margarets Bay Road, Northwest Arm Drive, Old Sambro Road, and 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).
The Lakeview Trail
In April 2016, a new large, wide gravel and packed sand trail was constructed. Named the “Lakeview Trail”, it consists of a 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 by the lake.
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.
Long Lake 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 supplies 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.
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 coastline 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.
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 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 experience and basic safety precautions.
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 to find your own secluded place of zen.
Long Lake Provincial Park Habitat:
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