Water, water, everywhere…and sometimes it is frozen. In the cold of Nova Scotia’s winters, you can find many beautiful places to enjoy the coldest of water, from skating to sledding and more. If you’re looking for a more aesthetic experience, a short hike to a waterfall can give you the feeling of stepping into a Narnia by the sea. The following trails have a waterfall as part of their winter offerings, and if the weather is cold enough, you can see the fountain of ice.
Note: All the trails links have links to Google maps, directions, and GPS coordinates.
1. Acadian Trail
Starting off in the beautiful Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the Acadian Trail is a long one if you do the whole 9km loop. If you just want to see the waterfall head east on the loop, where you’ll head into the valley and see the cascading streams. However the whole loop provides a great chance for a longer hike if the conditions are good, or you could bring snowshoes to enjoy the overlooks on the western half of the loop. Whichever you decide, make sure to bring your camera, because the natural sights on this trail are fantastic.
2. Baxters Harbour Falls
The Baxters Harbour Falls is really only a hike during low tide, but it’s an insanely beautiful waterfall no matter the time of day. As it’s a harbour in the Bay of Fundy, the tides bring drastic changes to the area, including enough water retreating to walk across the bed of the harbour for a close look at the falls, and even to go ice climbing if you’re prepared for that (note: gear and experience required). And if you miss low tide, don’t worry; you can park in the parking lot and see the falls clearly. Just go for a walk nearby to soothe any guilty feelings.
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3. Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Trail
Okay, this might not be the most impressive waterfall on the list, but it’s a waterfall dear to my heart. On top of that, the BLT trail is a great option for a winter hike—close to civilization, lots of points to get on and off, and flat terrain perfect for any kind of winter activity. The waterfall is just past the 2 km mark on the Six Mile Falls section of the trail, so it’s not too long a walk and takes you past the Blue Jay Way section as well, making it a perfect winter afternoon activity.
4. Beulach Ban Falls and Aspy Trail
The Beulach Ban Falls trail is another waterfall trail in the Cape Breton Highlands, but it’s a bit trickier than the Acadian Trail. Rated moderate on Alltrails, it’s a 9.2 km straight trail with a 335m elevation gain. Luckily for those walking in the winter, the falls aren’t far in—about 500m, but there are more to see along the way. The views of the winter Highlands are worth the walk, but know your limits—every hike becomes more difficult when you’re tired, cranky, and cold.
5. Black Brook Falls
In stark contrast to the last two, the trail down to the Black Brook Falls is just 200m. The embankment is a bit steep, which could prove tricky, but there is a rope to help you on your way down. The waterfall itself is surrounded by old growth hemlock, and since it’s in a clearing it makes for a really magical feel. About 45 minutes outside of Antigonish, Black Brook Falls is a great outing to combine with a winter day’s drive.
6. Butcher Hill Falls
I’ve got to say that the name of this waterfall is pretty gruesome, but it seems to be the name of a family rather than the profession. It’s quite a tall waterfall, cascading 50 feet first, then the pool cascades another 20 feet afterwards. The signs to get to the Butcher’s Farm house are clear, and the falls are close to the house, so it won’t be too difficult to get to a great vantage point to see them. Bring some snacks (maybe something meaty to fit the theme?) and, if you like this sort of thing, make up stories for the drive home about why it’s really called Butcher Hill Falls. Maybe a Nova Scotia Chainsaw Massacre, ft. waterfall?
7. Economy Falls
Economy, Nova Scotia is home to the not-super-creatively named Economy Falls. The trail is on the shorter end at 1.4km, making it a decent choice for a quick hike, or as a place to practice your snowshoeing. The waterfall at the end is reached by a set of steep stairs, but you still see the falls from the trail, so no worries if someone has bad knees or if it’s icy. Drive down the dirt road and get ready for a lovely winter walk through the woods.
8. Ettinger Falls
The Ettinger Falls might be the ideal waterfall hike for winter. Just under 800 m from the parking area, these falls are easily accessible and you’ll arrive right at the base. The waterfall roars in the summer, which creates a beautifully haunting look in the winter, and the surrounding woods will add their snow-covered aesthetic to the entire picture. And while you certainly can’t swim in the winter, this is a popular swimming place in the summer, so if you like the look of it keep it for your ‘places to go when it’s hot out’ list.
9. Fales River Falls
If you want to make your waterfall hike a family affair, Fales River Falls is one of the most recommended trail loops near Greenwood. The trail is partly beside the river, so you can use this as an educational opportunity to explain how waterfalls are formed. It’s also flat, through interesting parts of the forest, and the loop means that the whole trip is new, with no backtracking (a major temper tantrum cause). And if you want to start family snowshoeing, this is another great place to start.
10. Johnson River Falls Trail
If you’re looking for a more challenging winter waterfall hike, Johnson River Falls is a great place to start. With a low elevation gain of 70 m, this 4.5 km in-and-back trail has a stupendous waterfall at the end. The trail winds its way through the forest, and hikers recommend bringing poles and hiking spikes to deal with the ice, or use snowshoes if there’s enough snow. What’s especially great about this trail in the winter is that you don’t have to deal with the bugs that make their homes on this trail during the warmer months.
11. Mary Ann Falls
This waterfall hike is close to the Cape Breton Highlands, but not quite within the park. I’ve been here a few times in the warmer months, and it’s a lovely walk with a very pretty waterfall. At 1.8 in and out, it’s a bit of a walk, and in the winter you might want to bring snowshoes; however, the frozen waterfall is worth the effort. And if your name is Mary Ann…well, you should go see your falls!
12. North River Falls
North River Falls might be the most challenging hike on this list for a variety of reasons. In the first place, it’s 17.7 km one way, and the waterfall is at the end of the trail. In the second place, the elevation gain is 373m and you cross a few brooks on the way, meaning you’ll need some good boots and maybe some spikes. Having said all that, this is an insanely beautiful trail, and the frozen waterfall is worth it. Just be prepared, bring all necessary supplies, and start early in the day—it can take 6-8 hours to complete, so don’t waste daylight!
13. Phantom Falls
As you walk this trail, you’ll wander down an old logging road on the way to the river and the falls; the perfect setting to discuss why it’s called Phantom Falls…and make up some stories of your own (haunted waterfalls sound really fun, honestly). The terrain is a bit rough in places, so going on a day with no snow or with lots of snow and snowshoes is recommended for the winter. You can bring your dog to see the frozen waterfall, and since the majority of the trail length is actually after the falls you don’t have to go the whole way if you just want a quick trip to see something pretty.
14. Pockwock River Falls
The Pockwock River Falls trail sounds and looks like something out of Beatrix Potter. At 7.7 km in, it’s roughly mid-range for this list, but you don’t have to walk the whole trail to see the falls, just about 1.2 km. In fact, most don’t recommend going further than the falls in the winter, as the bridge past the waterfall isn’t in the best condition. Don’t worry if you want to get more activity though—there are lots of smaller trails branching off the main one, so you can just do some exploring. Make sure to bring some kind of GPS though, and don’t wander off the trails!
15. Uisge Ban Falls
Last only because it starts with a U, the Uisge Ban Falls (white water fall in Gaelic) are a highlight of any trip to Baddeck. The 4 km trail through the woods is simple and beautiful, taking you through a hardwood forest and into the waterfall’s gorge. With 50 feet of falling water, there’s no telling how the waterfall will freeze, so if you live in the area it’s worth checking back every so often to see if there’s a new freezing model. And if there’s not too much snow, you can always bring lunch and have a winter picnic near the waterfall.
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By: Adrienne Colborne