As part of our efforts to get lots and lots of kilometres on our legs and be Camino-ready by September, my friend Lori and I are quickly burning though our 20-kilometre walking route options in Halifax and Dartmouth. So, we started looking for new trail ideas a short drive from Halifax in the 10-kilometre range or a 20-kilometre loop/return. One that jumped out connects two of my favourite spots on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, the Bay to Bay Trail connecting the towns of Mahone Bay and Lunenburg on an abandoned rail line.
About the Bay to Bay Trail
There’s a very basic map and trail description, but I had some challenges finding more specific information online. In fact, I found the best map and description by accident. Using this GPS-captured map from a cyclist, I produced my own enhanced version of the approximate route. Feel free give it a try! Follow the red line, you can’t go wrong. (Krista’s Nova Scotia Bay to Bay Trail Map, PDF, 366k)
Trail length: The trail is about 10 kilometres. There’s parking at either end, but unless you have someone picking you up, plan for a 20-kilometre return trip. It’s a multi-use trail, so be on the lookout for other walkers, cyclists and motorized off-road vehicles. The speed limit is 20 km/h and we encountered many pleasant and respectful trail users on foot and all sorts of vehicles.
Parking: There’s a fair amount of parking on the Lunenburg end at the old train station, follow the signs for trail parking. We started on the Mahone Bay end, and parked on the Fauxburg Road (space for 1-2 vehicles), using our Lunenburg turnaround as a lunch stop. (More Lunenburg ideas here!) The map I created shows a Mahone Bay starting point connecting from the Dynamite Trail, but we couldn’t find the trailhead in the town of Mahone Bay. (If you do, please let me know!)
Trail conditions: The trail is flat and well-maintained. There aren’t any services, so take a bathroom break where you can find one before setting out if you don’t want to go in the woods. Mobile phone coverage was good for Telus and Bell (your mileage may vary, especially with Rogers). While the trail is very flat, you’ll want to wear sturdy, closed footwear, as the terrain is mostly crusher dust. Once you get away from downtown Lunenburg, the trail is very sheltered. We found it quite hot in places, so you’ll want to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat.
There’s no seating or garbage cans along the trail, but at a number of points on Lunenburg end, there are boulders to take a break or rummage in your pack. Please keep the trail clean for the next users and carry out your trash.
We started on the Fauxburg Road in Mahone Bay and walked into downtown Lunenburg, taking a break for a terrific lunch at the Grand Banker before walking back in the early afternoon sun. I mapped from downtown Lunenburg back to the car on the Fauxburg Road, this piece clocking in at approximately 9.5 kilometres:
Leaving from the old train station, the first part of this trek is actually the starting stretch of Lunenburg’s Back Harbour trail. Before too long, there’s a fork, so bear left to continue on the Bay to Bay Trail. The trail continues for a short stretch until it meets Route 3. Ascend a short staircase and cross the street.
The first four kilometres or so run fairly close to Route 3, there’s a fair amount of noise from the roads and homes nearby, as well as many driveway crossings. They’re easy to see on foot, but may come up faster on wheels.
At about the half-way point, the trail veers deep into the forest and it’s just you, the birds, and whatever else you may see.
Our total trip clocked in at just over 20 kilometres and a little more than four hours, not including lunch. As beautiful as it is in the spring, I’d love to make this a regular trip every season, because I have a feeling trees with leaves will block some of the direct sun in the summer and the autumn colours will be simply spectacular.
The Bay to Bay Trail connects to more trails on either side. On the Mahone Bay side, there’s the intriguing Dynamite Trail which merits further exploration just to find out what the dynamite reference is all about. On the Lunenburg side, the trail continues on the Lunenburg Back Harbour Trail, as well as walking routes into downtown Lunenburg.
The towns on either sides of the trail have a lot to offer, which makes it possible to turn the trip into a multi-day adventure. There are no shortage of lovely inns and bed and breakfasts, as well as fine dining, cafés and interesting shops. If you do turn it into a longer trip, share your favourite things in the comments!
Our day on the Camino
Even though we were in Nova Scotia, we were preparing for the Camino de Santiago and found our day had many similarities to what other peregrinos describe as a typical day. We walked, stopped for food, chatted with locals, and continued on to our next stop. Since Lunenburg has a long and rich history as a fishing community, it was no surprise we found many examples of Camino symbolism, the scallop shell. We took this to be a sign we made the right choice for our day of adventure.
In terms of a Camino-like experience, this trail was marvelous. It had a blend of town and country, with lots of beautiful scenery to hold your attention while the birds and frogs chirped away. Compared to a 21-kilometre trek we did the week before, the after-effects of walking on trail were practically nonexistent. That is, my legs didn’t feel like they were going to fall off, like they did a week earlier after our trek on concrete and asphalt. More of that, please!
What we heard: Spring peepers!
As an aside, we were able to enjoy the ultimate spring tradition in Nova Scotia – the return of the Spring Peepers! On quieter parts of the trail away from Route 3, we were greeted by a loud, chirping chorus of spring peepers. Their unmistakable chirp is a flashback to my childhood in rural Nova Scotia and it was treat to hear them again.
If you find this trail overview helpful, please let me know in the comments. If you have any questions, fire away! Nova Scotia hikers, where should we explore next?