Walking around in the winter can get difficult with snowdrifts and ice, so you need to get creative about outdoor exercise. And if you want a versatile way to get your blood pumping, cross-country skiing is a great thing to try out. With the Halifax Nordic Ski Club there to support you with equipment, trails, and advice, all that’s stopping you is the amount of fallen snow. The moment there’s enough powder, the Halifax Regional Municipality is full of opportunities to get your ski on!
Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea (BLT) Trail
The BLT Trail is an excellent trail all year round for a variety of activities, but if you want to enjoy it at full speed in the winter, cross-country skiing is available and accessible. One of Nova Scotia’s Rails-to-Trails, the terrain is flat and takes wide curves, making it a great place for beginner cross-country skiers. You’ll find plenty of places to access the trail along its 13 kilometres, and it connects on to other trails if you want to take a longer trip.
Address: Main trailhead is on Lakeside Drive, next to the Coca Cola Plant
Belcher’s Marsh Park Trail
If you’re just starting out as a cross-country skier, it helps to get a varied view of terrains so you can enjoy all the possibilities this hobby has to offer. It’s also useful to make sure that the trail is short, because then it doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Belcher’s Marsh Park Trail fulfills both of those requirements. The trail crosses through the woods and wetlands of the park, so you get to see varied winter beauty, and it’s 2.5km one way, which makes it much more approachable than some other entries on this list. If you live in Clayton Park, this may very well become your new favourite ski destination.
Address: Parkland Drive (near #429)
Chain of Lakes Trail
This is one of the trails that connects onto the BLT Trail, so you can easily extend your ski adventure past the Chain of Lakes 7.25 kilometre length. Another rail trail, the Chain of Lakes is long and flat, passing close to several city centres. Since it begins just across the street from the Joseph Howe Superstore, you can pick up trail snacks before you head out…and/or you can pick up celebration snacks once you get back.
Address: Main Trailhead: Joseph Howe Drive, across from the Superstore
Graves-Oakley Memorial Park
The first of the Halifax Nordic Ski Club’s groomed trails on this list, the Graves-Oakley Memorial Park trail is designed for beginners. It’s flat grass terrain, so it’s perfect for cross-country skiing once the snow has fallen. The trail is a 1km skate loop that’s groomed regularly, and there’s plenty of parking available. Best of all, if you want to try out some night-time activities you can! If the conditions are good you can expect the trail to be lighted up, but you can also just bring a headlamp and head off on your own adventure.
Address: Guildwood Crescent, Spryfield
The Great Trail
It’s fitting to do some cross-country skiing on a cross-country trail. The Great Trail technically reaches all the way to Vancouver, but there’s about 500 km of it within Nova Scotia! The Trail winds through the HRM, particularly in Dartmouth, but there’s plenty of different places to explore. Grab your skis and head out for your favourite part of the Trail…or the flattest part, which is 100% fair, cross-country skiing uphill takes a lot of practice.
The Links at Brunello
Who says golf courses are useless in the winter? The Links at Brunello is tended to by Halifax Nordic in the winter, where the golf courses are groomed to become cross-country ski trails. There are loops throughout the golf course, which are mainly easy (although there is one that’s a bit tricky). And if you get hungry or thirsty, as long as Brunello’s Pro Shop is open, food and bar services are available, and so are the bathrooms!
Long Lake Park
When the winter comes, you need to think about road conditions, storms, and extra driving time—in short, you want to make sure that your activities are close by. Long Lake Park provides an extraordinary park experience with trails that can be skied ranging from beginner to advanced all year long. And the best part is that it’s only a fifteen minute drive from downtown Halifax—you could leave work and get there before it gets dark on a sunny day!
Address: At the intersection of Cowie Hill Road and Dunbrack Street
MacIntosh Run Trail
Yes, there’s ‘running’ in the name, but the MacIntosh Run Trail is welcoming to all kinds of activities. Tended by volunteers, you can explore this 3 km trail through the marshlands out to Roach’s pond. The terrain is rougher here, so you should get comfortable with wooded trails before you take this on, but the natural beauty of the trail more than makes up for the challenge. Like Long Lake, it’s close to central Halifax, so you can sleep in to prepare for a day on the trail—and hey, you could always bring MacIntosh apples for snacks!
McDonald’s Sports Park Trail
The McDonald’s Sports Park Trail system was actually the first dedicated ski trail system in all of the HRM. This experience has led them to create 7.5 km of trails throughout the park, groomed for all skill levels. You can even bring your four legged companions—you can bring your dog to these trails! The trail system itself is called Bryan Scallion Ski Trails, named for the late Bryan Scallion who designed the trail system.
Address: 280 Champions Way, Waverly
Oakfield Golf and Country Club
This is another trail system maintained by Halifax Nordic, but it’s actually a brand-new system! Like Brunello, it sits on a golf course, and from the map on the site, there will be several different trails across the course. Some will be groomed and some will not, providing a good amount of variety. Since this is the first winter, this is a great chance to explore new terrain, give your feedback, and help make Oakfield your new favourite cross-country skiing place.
Address: 6055 Highway #2, Oakfield
Point Pleasant Park
Point Pleasant Park offers cross-country skiing by the sea—what more could you want in the winter? While there are trails all over the park, there are several that are too steep and narrow to be fun for cross-country skiing (unless you really like a challenge, you do you). You’re better off sticking to the wider and flatter trails, which are mainly beside the ocean and provides plenty of room to learn and improve your skills. You can also bring your dogs here, so it’s another chance for dog and ski time.
Address: 5718 Point Pleasant Drive
Salt Marsh Trail
Well known for its bird watching opportunities, make sure you bring your camera on this cross-country trip! The marshland trail is flat thanks to its past as a railroad, and at 6.5 km one way it’ll be a solid work-out for a winter’s day. You can also do a trial run and just ski out to the first bridge, which is 1km in. It’s a popular destination for cross-country skiers, so you’re sure to make friends along the way.
Shearwater Flyer Trail
The Shearwater Flyer Trail is the sister trail to the Salt Marsh Trail, so if you’re feeling ambitious you can try both on the same day (or maybe just plan for a weekend). Another of Nova Scotia’s awesome Rails-To-Trails, it’s also part of the Great Trail (see above). It connects the town of Shearwater to the Salt Marsh Trail, and at 8.5 km of flat terrain, it’s a satisfying and beautiful way to spend a day. You’ll find benches every kilometre (talk about a benchmark), so if it’s not too snowy you can sit down, catch your breath, and enjoy the atmosphere.
Address: Corner of Provider Road and Swordfish Drive, Shearwater
Smileys Provincial Park
Last but certainly not least of the trail systems maintained by Halifax Nordic, you’ll find this park near Brooklyn, Nova Scotia (in case you confused it with Brooklyn, NYC). Once there’s sufficient snow, the groomers roll out and create a trail system that goes throughout the park. The individual loops are under 1 km, so if you’re ready for trickier terrain but not for a long trek, this is a great place in between. Get out and enjoy the snow, it’s sure to put a smile on your face!
No, I’m not sorry.
Address: 109 Clayton McKay Road, Newport
St. Margaret’s Bay Rails to Trails
Enjoying the St. Margaret’s Bay Rails to Trails by cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy the South Shore. It actually carries on the BLT Trail and heads all the way down to Hubbards, a 33 km distance in total. Obviously, that’s a bit far to go in a day, but if you want to do a day trip or you’re staying in the South Shore area, it’s easy to hop on and off (in boots at least, it’s harder to hop in cross-country skis). With kilometres of flat, even terrain through the beauty of the South Shore, this is definitely a trail system to enjoy before spring.
Address: Multiple access points
By: Adrienne Colborne