Select Your Adventure
There are huge differences among trails. Think about who you are as a group and what you’re up for when you pick a trail. On the introduction page to each trail is the estimated time length, distance, difficulty level, and any notes about the accessibility of the trail for wheelchairs and strollers. Also, consider the season and weather in relation to the locale.
The trail introduction labels the difficulty level for kids based on the type of path and its length (easy, moderate and challenging). The longest trail is five kilometres round trip. That may not seem far for most adults, but it’s an eternity for some kids, depending on their ages and abilities. Hiking families and groups can likely do all of the trails quite easily, but if you’re not ‘hikers’, start with easy or moderate trails and see how it goes. Changing weather conditions and rocky terrain make wilderness and coastal trails more difficult. Be prepared.
The approximate time needed for a trail is based on our adventures on them with kids. But when different people do the adventures at a different time of year, the completion times may vary a lot. You will move more quickly on cold or wet days. Give yourself more time if you have younger children or participants with challenges or limited mobility.
Think about it! You may want to head for a coastal trail in late May to escape the black flies inland or snuggle along a woodland trail as it gets colder in November. Rivers and streams are more exciting in the spring, but bring your boots! For distant trails, like Taylor Head and McMaster Mill, you may want to go on a warm day and include a picnic or swim as well. That could be summer fun.
Can these trails be done in the winter? Snow cover makes some of the activities difficult; it’s hard to discover things on the ground under ice and snow. But much is possible with creativity and an adaptive spirit! Go for it. But remember that cold weather adds safety concerns such as frostbite, slippery ice and hypothermia. Make sure you are well dressed and have good snacks.
You may want to wear waterproof clothes in cooler seasons, including waterproof pants and boots so that you can still explore on the ground or play the games that suggest sitting on the ground.
A number of trails are stroller and wheelchair friendly, but some of the activities take participants off on short side paths that are not accessible. Possibly, a small child can walk this little section. With a little imagination, activities can be adapted to occur right next to the trail. Accessibility is always a relative term and we have tried to add information in the write-up for you to judge if and how a trail, which is seemingly accessible, really suits your challenges. If you see an accessibility icon, don’t assume it is accessible for your situation. Read the write-up ahead of time so that you understand the challenges.
Many adventures occur on a short section of a longer trail system. If you’re more ambitious, you can keep walking or take side trips! You can get full maps for many of the trails at trails.gov.ns.ca, or for Halifax, check out the trails website.
Be Safe and Responsible
Safety comes first. Only do what you are comfortable with for your group and the weather conditions. You are responsible for assessing the situation. Things may have changed since the text was last updated. You don’t want to be crawling around where wild raspberries are invading a clearing. Stop and retreat if fog rolls in at Polly Cove and you are unsure of which small path to take. Every activity in this book is simply a suggestion. You are responsible for determining whether it is safe given the circumstances.
Most accidents can be prevented if someone is thinking ahead. If you note a “near miss” on a trail, take action so that it doesn’t reoccur. Check the footwear of a kid who slips several times. If you ignore it, a sprained ankle may result further down the trail. If you discover a safety issue on a trail, please send in your concern via the feedback links so that we can post an update.
Here are some tips to remember:
- Before you leave, let someone else know where you are going and when you’ll be back.
- Stay together as a group on the trail.
- If activities take you a short way off the trail, stay oriented to the trail. Kids get excited exploring and can wander off without paying attention.
- Dress for the weather and potential weather changes, especially on the more distant and coastal trails. Dress for the worst, especially on the coastal trails and in cooler seasons.
- Do not drink untreated water from streams or lakes.
- Most of the trails are in non-hunting areas but hunter orange is important during hunting season outside Halifax parks.
- Ticks, including those that carry Lyme Disease, are increasingly present in the region. They are most prevalent in spring and early summer but their season is expanding with their range. Learn about Lyme Disease and what you can do about it here. It could be anywhere in the region.
What to Bring
Be prepared on the trail. Always bring a daypack with the following essentials:
- water and plenty of snack food
- sunscreen and non-toxic fly repellent
- small first aid kit
- extra clothes for changing weather
- a folded piece of plastic for shelter
Always bring your Adventure Journal, a pencil and a crayon (good for plaque rubbings). You might also consider bringing:
- coloured pencils or markers (they make drawing more special)
- binoculars (especially for good bird watching areas)
- magnifying lens
Food is important for safety but it also adds to the experience, particularly for kids. It gives everyone a break and is a nice sharing time. Packing up some snack treats makes the whole adventure more special. Or how about planning a picnic lunch as part of your adventure? All of the trails have beautiful picnic spots.
Respect and Care for Nature
Many people already use these trails. They are special places that must be respected. Remember these important guidelines:
- Don’t litter. If you take it in, bring it out.
- Be careful not to damage vegetation or disturb animal homes. You are a role model for the kids.
- Make sure the kids understand their impact and are not destructive… as in picking things, banging sticks, trampling fragile areas and pestering wildlife. Be extra careful in, or avoid, fragile areas.
- Before you decide to bring something home, consider the impact of taking it, especially if everyone using the trail takes one. Consider whether it will be of continuing interest at home.
- Dogs are often a distraction on the adventures and they pull at least one person out of the activities. This can break up the experience for everyone.