This article is more than 2 years old.

Five winter hiking trails to try this season

How to make the most of Nova Scotia’s winter wonderland

5 min read
People walk between birch trees on a trail covered in snow with a blue sky overhead.
caption Folks enjoy a winter hike on Jan. 16 at Shaw Wilderness Park after a winter storm.
Darcey Neale

A cold, deep breath and crunching ice underfoot are familiar sensations for winter hikers in Nova Scotia. 

There’s something peaceful about a winter walk in in the woods, with the sun struggling to warm the air and the snow quieting the forest.

Greg Taylor, the creator of Halifax Trails, believes that during the winter it is important to get into nature and to get some sun for both physical and mental health

However, using trails in the coldest season means less daylight. Taylor’s No. 1 tip is not to gamble with sunset and be extra cautious of time to avoid getting stuck in the dark. He also encourages hikers to use a popular winter layering tip: ‘Be bold, start cold.’

“You want to start with your minimal layers because you’re going to warm up quick as you start going,” says Taylor. Hikers should avoid too many layers in cold temperatures because sweat can turn to ice. 

Knowing the duration of the hike helps inform a hiker on what to pack. Bringing a first aid kit with an emergency blanket is good practice in the winter. Taylor also suggests telling someone where you are going, bringing water, high-calorie snacks like nuts or chocolate, a map of the trail, an external battery charger and warm layers. 

Winter hiking brings sometimes slippery conditions and for hikes with changing elevation, it is best to have gear that will combat any falls. Having a variation of waterproof hiking shoes, trekking poles and safety soles like Icer’s or crampons is recommended. Taylor always has a pair of traction cleats in his pack during this season. 

If you are looking for a new trail to trek, here are five hikes that pair well with a blanket of snow.

Shaw Wilderness Park 

This 4.4 km out and back hike in the Purcell’s Cove Backlands starts with a wide accessible trail to Williams Lake and continues on a narrow trail to Colpitt Lake with various hills to climb. Sticking close to the red trail indicators will keep hikers on track, as it is easy to get lost and divert from the trail. Other than the beautiful lakes and rugged scenery, streams and large boulders fill this Acadian forest. The hike is extendable around Colpitt Lake but is not well marked.

This trail is dog friendly and has a large parking lot. It is bus accessible by route 415.

Three people walk through the woods with snow covering the ground as dogs run in the distance.
caption A group of friends enjoys a Sunday afternoon walk with two dogs in the snow at Shaw Wilderness Park.
Darcey Neale

McIntosh Run Singletrack 

There is 23 km to explore in this trail system. The trails are the width of a single hiker or mountain biker, hence the name singletrack. These are popular mountain biking trails, so hikers and bikers must keep alert and use caution on the trails. An interactive trail map provides information for all routes, like the total distances, trail conditions and elevation. Trails are well marked throughout. 

These trails are dog friendly, however, while on Halifax parkland pets must be kept on-leash. It is bus accessible by route 25 or 9A/9B from Mumford Terminal.

A trail marker, with an easy trail rating, directs the hiker forward and stands in the foreground, as the rugged trail continues over granite boulders. There are trees and shrubs in the background.
caption There are lots of multi-use trails in the McIntosh Run Singletrack trail system with great opportunities for look offs. All trails are well marked and rated in difficulty.
Greg Taylor

Pockwock Falls 

This trail boasts views of an impressive waterfall a short distance from the trailhead. Hikers start on a rough terrain road for about 1km until taking a right turn at the bridge and moving upstream through the woods on an unofficial trail. Be mindful of ice and winter conditions here, especially when exploring around the waterfall. The main trail continues past the waterfall; however, this unmarked trail system is not monitored or maintained and should be used with caution.

Pets should always be on-leash as people have reported live bait traps in the area. There is no official parking lot for the trail and be courteous of the no parking signs. This trail is not bus accessible. 

A low-volume waterfall with rocks exposed sits above a dark pool surrounded by woods.
caption The main waterfall feature of Pockwock Falls located about 1 km from the trailhead.
Greg Taylor

Hobsons Lake Trails 

This 40 minute up and back trail is part of a larger 5.2 km loop that links Hobsons Lake, Ash Lake and Fox Lake, part of Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area. This sparsely marked hike is well used but exercise caution in the snow as there are spots prone to freezing. Old-growth forest, granite boulders, lake views and a waterfall are major features of this loop. There are limited maps and trail signage throughout, so it’s important to have a map of the route available as a guide. 

This trail system is dog friendly and accessible by several bus routes with a walk to the trailhead. Parking is available at the trailhead.

A wooden footbridge with a handrail stretches over a rushing brook as rugged terrain waits on the far side.
caption The footbridge over Hobsons Lake brook is often covered in ice and snow in the winter, so cross with caution.
Darcey Neale

Sackville Lakes Provincial Park: 

All multi-use trails in this provincial park are wide, well-maintained and marked with trail maps and signage. There are benches scattered along the trails to enjoy the old-growth scenery. Great Oak and Second Lake Trail is about 5.3 km and is one of several trails to explore.

These trails are dog friendly, but pets must be on-leash. The main parking lot for this trail system is located off First Lake Drive and the trail is also accessible via multiple bus routes. 

A wooden bench overlooks a lake surrounded by trees in fall colours.
caption This is a perfect spot to rest on the Great Oak Trail. All multi-use hiking trails in the park are open and accessible during the winter.
Greg Taylor

Be sure to use Leave No Trace principles on all hikes. 

Share this

About the author

Have a story idea?

Join the conversation

  1. G

    Greg Taylor

    Great suggestions! I love all of these spots. We are blessed to have them!
Comments closed.