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Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult (Navigation/Terrain/Hills/Distance).
Setting: Granite barrens, watershed, quarry, lakes.
Signage: Largely un-marked, minimal signage.
Ecologically important home to many species of plants & wildlife.
1350 hectares of a very unique landscape, ideal for #mountain biking & #hiking.
Historic quarry dating back to the construction of early Halifax.
The Backlands encompass 1350 hectares between Williams Lake, Colpitt Lake, McIntosh Run, Powers Pond, Herring Cove and Purcell’s Cove roads. Trails and access points (except the protected area) are unmarked and unofficial. Exploring here requires navigational, ecological and land ownership considerations. The Colpitt Lake/Williams Lake area of the Backlands is hopefully soon to be part of an urban Wilderness Park thanks to help from the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
The unique landscape of the Backlands makes it extremely popular with mountain bikers and hikers alike. It’s always wise to keep your head up and move to the side of the trail to allow bikers to pass. Navigating the area can be a little confusing due to the many footpaths, trails and rock formations that lead off in different directions in this large area. Volunteers with the McIntosh Run Watershed Association (I highly suggest donating to assist their hard work) are helping to make the area off of Alabaster way more navigable with signage and proper trail construction. They have also built great singletrack trails off of Norawarren Drive.
This ecologically unique land is composed of granite and bluestone glacially sculpted rock which was quarried from the mid-late 1700s through to the 20th century. The stone was used to construct the early fortresses of Point Pleasant Park, York Redoubt, and the Halifax Citadel as well as the Town Clock and Grand Parade. Nowadays it functions as a visually stunning landscape, and one of many cool #historic sites to explore in Nova Scotia.
Because of the rocky terrain, it is easy to see where you’re going. “Piggy’s Mountain” has a view stretching many kilometers in all directions. Vegetation is filling in after a devastating fire swept the area in 2009. The Jack Pine and Broom Crowberry barrens are uniquely adapted to recurrent fires, the only of its kind in all of Canada.
The area is a Mecca for migratory birds with more than 40 species confirmed breeding here. Some aren’t seen anywhere else in Eastern Canada. This important breeding area emphasizes the need to protect the ecosystem and treat it with respect. Staying on well-used trails and not disturbing any vegetation are rules of thumb.
The McIntosh Run and Williams Lake watersheds are the backbone of the backlands. Williams Lake is a cornerstone of the area and has long been a popular swimming spot. It can also be explored via canoe/kayak. A paddling loop at the other end of the backlands known as the Pine Island Ponds loop is another great way to explore the Backlands.
The lands (Unceded by the Mi’kmaq) are under threat of development and surrounded by private land. As such, it isn’t easy to identify access points which aren’t on private land. The majority of the backlands are unprotected. The exception is land donated by the Napier and Arnell families facilitated by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. Many groups interested in preservation came together to be known as the Backlands Coalition. Our HRM Alliance, identified the backlands as an important part of the proposed H.R.M. Greenbelt. Help the Nature Conservancy of Canada to create an urban wilderness park in this land by donating!
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Similar Hikes: Kearney Lake | Blue Mountain | Susies Lake
Local Nature: Local Geology | Broom Crowberry | Nature Inventory