Halifax in fall is a tremendous place to be. The City of Trees has plenty to offer in terms of fall colour and activities, but if you want to escape the city streets teeming with students coming back to school, there are plenty of options. The following trails are a sampling of awesome trails around Halifax, none more than 40 minutes’ drive from downtown Halifax. Bring a sweater and plenty of beverages (the choice is yours), and walk into fall.
The BLT Trail is gorgeous in any season, but there’s something special about it in the fall. The woods that line the trail are ablaze with fall colour, the trail is level thanks to its railway roots, and there are plenty of access points, so it’s easy to plan a walk that’s fun for all. If you’re looking for a special stop, you should check out the Bike and Bean, a café built out of a former railway station. If you enjoy the hike, I highly recommend it as a place to bike, especially because it’s mostly flat so you can go a longer distance.
There are several points of entry to the trail.
Belcher’s Marsh Park Trails
The marshes of Nova Scotia look awesome in the fall. Belcher’s Marsh Park Trails allows you to experience that beauty on a flat 1.5km loop. It’s also next to the Mainland North Linear Parkway Trail (see below). If you’re interested in birdwatching, you’ll find a great time here, especially in the evening when you’ll see a murder of crows (that’s the name for a group of crows!) fly home to roost. There’s also a lookoff in the middle of the park, so you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the marsh.
Address: Parkland Drive, Clayton Park
Cole Harbour Heritage Park
This is a beautiful park full of trails that explore the beauty of falls past and present. The trails range from easy to moderately challenging, so you can pick your path depending on how you feel that day. As it’s a heritage park, you’ll find old farms, a cemetery, and even an old inn along the way. Enjoy the natural beauty of the area while making memories in the company of the past.
Crowbar Lake Wilderness Trails
Crowbar Lake is roughly 40 minutes’ drive from downtown Halifax, but it’s worth every minute. A challenging and unmarked collection of trails, you can hike for up to 18 km on some of the loops. The scenery is gorgeous all through the park, so if you’re new to navigation you can still enjoy a gorgeous day. Bring a GPS and lots of water and head for the lake to enjoy a wild fall hike.
Address: 1800 Myra Road, Porters Lake
Duncan’s Cove Nature Reserve
Doing a coastal hike in the fall is a special kind of beauty—the water seems bluer, the vegetation changes colours, and everything feels closer. Duncan’s Cove is one of the top coastal hikes in Nova Scotia, not least because it’s also a nature reserve where you can see everything from deer to pitcher plants! Bring a set of binoculars to see all there is to see, and hike mindfully, making sure you protect this place of natural beauty.
Address: Chebucto Head Road, Duncan’s Cove
Fort Sackville Walkway
The cities that make up the HRM are close together, so it’s not surprising that the Sackville River goes through both Sackville and Bedford. The Fort Sackville Walkway takes you on a 2km trip through Bedford, from Range Park to Fort Sackville (hence the name). There are plenty of Bedford points of interest along the way, and you can get off the trail at several points if you need a warm drink and time to warm up.
Address: Range Park, 1800 Bedford Highway, Bedford
The Great Trail
Now this isn’t the whole trail, of course—that goes all the way to British Columbia. This 7km stretch is still a beautiful part of the trail, going past Canals and two lakes. It’s a gorgeous way to enjoy watery fall views and even see local waterfowl before they migrate south (don’t feed the ducks though, or they’ll miss their flight!) If you’re interested in exploring the Great Trail, this is a great place to start!
Address: Corner of Crichton Avenue and Ochterloney Street, Dartmouth
Halifax Urban Greenway
The Halifax Urban Greenway is currently quite short, at just 1km in length. There are plans to expand it, but for now that 1km holds plenty of natural beauty just on the edge of urban busyness. It’s a great walk for a mixed group of walking ability and/or interest. Since it goes just above an active railway, you’ll be able to see trains go by at certain points in the day. Someday the Greenway may stretch for several kilometres, but for now it’s a quick stop to enjoy nature.
Address: Beaufort Avenue, Halifax
While this park might sound a bit intimidating, it’s actually a fantastic place for a family outing. You can take a city bus right to the park, or just take a fifteen minute drive there, so it’s easy to make an escape around tantrum o’clock. The majority of the trails are in loops, well marked, and dog friendly (one of the loops is off-leash walking). If you are looking for more adventure, venturing into the ravine will bring you to a rugged and tricky trail along the floor.
Address: Kent Avenue
Hobson’s Lake Hiking Trail
If you like lakes, you’ve got to check out this lake loop! The full loop is unmarked (but well-defined) and passes three lakes—Hobson’s Lake, Ash Lake, and Fox Lake. It’s a fun adventure in the fall and gives you a great chance to learn some nature navigation while enjoying fall colours. If you’re not up for the full hike, the first part of the hike goes only to Hobson’s Lake, and you can still see the lake, a footbridge, and a beautiful lookoff.
Address: Collins Road, Clayton Park (right around Kearney Lake)
Kearney Lake Trail
Kearney Lake is a popular summer swim spot, but in the fall it transforms into a paradise for experienced hikers. Not far from Hobson’s Lake Trail, Kearney Lake’s trail system starts as a path along the lakeshore, but beyond that becomes an undeveloped trail system in the backwoods. You can hook onto the system of the Hobson’s Lake Trail in the backcountry, or you can stick to one lake trail system, up to you! Pack supplies and be ready for all kinds of adventure in beautiful fall scenery.
Address: Kearney Lake Road, between Bedford and Clayton Park
Long Lake Provincial Park
This wilderness park isn’t all wild, making it a great stop for the whole family. There’s a myriad of activities to do here in the fall, everything from kayaking to tossing a frisbee to observing wildlife before winter changes everything. There are several trails within Long Lake at a range of difficulties so there’s something for everyone. Make sure you’ve got a full phone battery for picture taking before you head off, but don’t worry if you forget something—Long Lake is only a fifteen minute drive from downtown Halifax!
Address: At the intersection of Cowie Hill Road and Dunbrack Street
Mainland North Trail
This trail connects to Belcher’s Marsh Park (see above), but it’s happy to take you on another adventure. With crushed gravel and several hills, it’s a great place to get a workout while still being in the heart of Clayton Park. In fact, it connects schools to the library and Canada Games Centre, so it’s a great walk for back-to-school time. If you call Clayton Park home, you need to check out this route that lets you enjoy natural beauty while being conveniently close to major areas.
Address: Parkland Drive, Clayton Park
McIntosh Run Community Trail
Fall is the time for apples, so why not take a community trail named after a popular apple variety? This is a mainly flat trail that starts in Spryfield and extends out to Roach’s Pond. As it winds through town and a forested area, you get the best of both worlds on this track. It’s a great place to introduce kids to the idea of hiking since it’s a bit easier to do (and you can get off the trail quite easily), and if you enjoy the walk you can also bike here, so this might become a new fall family fun destination.
Ah, McNabs Island, a familiar sight on the edge of the Harbour, but more rarely explored. If you’ve never been, you should change that as fast as you can get on a water taxi (or if you have your own boat I suppose you can just ride over). McNabs Island was once home to a settlement, and their marks are still there in overgrown buildings and gardens. The trails on the island let you get a great view of these old memories, as well as letting you see the grand diversity of flora and fauna on the island, some of which is unique to McNabs. And if you can’t bear to head home, there are even some camp sites!
Address: Halifax Harbour
Nichols Lake Hiking Trail
Another lake, another great trail! The main trail is fairly level and takes you out to the lake (where you can swim) and a waterfall. There are other trails that branch off the main one, but these are still under construction, so bring a navigational aid if you want to adventure. Whether you stick to the main trail or venture off the path, make sure to have some ice cream from the store by the cemetery!
Address: Accessible from the Prospect Road cemetery
Pennant Point Trail
Crystal Crescent Beach is home to stunning views, wide sandy beaches, and at least one bunny that my parents and I saw about a month ago. If you venture further than the boardwalk, you’ll find yourself on Pennant Point Trail. Taking you through the forests that line the beach and out to a lookoff, you’ll want some hiking experience under your belt before you take this on. But looking out to the water with fall colours behind you will be worth every minute of practice.
Address: Crystal Crescent Beach Road, Sambro Creek
Polly’s Cove Hiking Trail
Most people (visitors and tourists alike) have heard of Peggy’s Cove, but they’re not as familiar with Polly’s Cove. Which is a shame, because although it’s close to Peggy’s Cove there’s a lot less foot traffic. Polly’s Cove has a 3.9 km loop trail that takes you around, between, and over the large rocks that characterize the area. Full of wildflowers in the summer, Polly’s Cove takes on autumn colours just as well, and your view of the sea is just as wonderful as its sister cove.
Address: Prospect Road, NS 333 (near Peggy’s Cove)
Shubie Park is home to the main start of the Shubenacadie Canal Waterway (see above), but it’s more than that. A beautiful park in the heart of Dartmouth, Shubie is full of level trails to explore and plenty of activities to do once you’re tired of hiking. Green turns to bright reds and golds and you’ll be able to make leaf piles for jumping (maybe not too big), get some awesome family fall pictures, and then be only a few minutes’ drive from Dartmouth Crossing, where you can warm up in one of the stores or restaurants.
Address: 54 Locks Road, Dartmouth
Susie’s Lake Hiking Trail
This is a fascinating lake, because even though it’s in the Bayer’s Lake area, you wouldn’t know there was still a lake there that you could hike around. You have to go behind KENT, but Susie’s Lake is definitely there and ready to welcome you in fall beauty. It’s a 3.1km loop around the lake, and moderately difficult. Folks suggest that you bring a map (downloaded), because there are a few offshoot trails where you could lose your way. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll be developed and it’ll join Kearney and Hobson’s Lakes as a great place for backwoods hiking, just steps away from the Business Park.
Address: Bayer’s Lake, just behind Kent
Sackville Lakes Park
Ah, the Sackville Lakes. Just outside Sackville, it’s a great place to spend a fall afternoon since you can go and get snacks and drinks quite quickly. The Park has a couple of trails to explore around the lakes that show off the forests, wetlands, and drumlins of the park. A drumlin is a type of hill formed by ice that looks like either an upside-down spoon or a buried egg—find one and decide which simile you like best! New trails are slowly being added, so if you get the chance you should offer to do a test walk of a new one; that’s great community service.
Address: 440 First Lake Drive, Lower Sackville
Salt Marsh Trail
If you love birds, you’ve got to hike the Salt Marsh Trail. There’s really no question about it; it’s internationally recognized for the diversity of bird species in the marshes and forest that line the trail. Since it’s fall, you’ll be able to observe birds readying for migration, as well as a few bunkering down for the winter weather to come. The trail is flat for all its 9km, so you can take a day and head into the marsh to make some feathered friends.
When you hike, you use your legs, so why not give an Arm a try! Okay, that was bad, but the Seawall Walkway goes just beside the Northwest Arm, so I had to try for a pun. This trail is 1.9 km long, and other than a steep incline at the beginning is reasonably flat. The trail circles the Dingle Park, which is a great place to stop and play with your kids, and if you feel like doing more walking, you can head up to the Sir Sanford Fleming Trail or Frog Pond. And if you want to get another perspective on the Arm, you should climb the Dingle Tower all the way to the top for a great view.
Address: Dingle Road, Spryfield
Shaw Wilderness Trail
Shaw Wilderness Park is the newest wild park in Halifax—thanks to COVID-19, it’s actually not quite open yet. You can still go in though, and enjoy the marvels of this place. Some are well known paths and natural features (they’re why they’ve created the protected wilderness park), and some are new adventures. Bring supplies and head into a wild fall experience.
Address: Highway 253, Purcell’s Cove
Shubenacadie Canal Waterway
The Shubenacadie Canal Waterway is surprisingly long—the canal locks from the 1800s exist from the Halifax Harbour to the Bay of Fundy. That gives you plenty of space to walk the waterway (I wouldn’t suggest doing the whole thing in one day though!) You can start in Shubie Park (see below), but there’s plenty to see along the whole waterway. Pick the access point closest to you, and explore the canal.
By: Adrienne Colborne