Monster Mania:

A Hemlock Ravine Adventure

2 - 3 hrs 2.7 km return Moderate

Trail Info:

This is a pleasant walk on groomed trails that wind through an old forest of hemlock, spruce and pine.


Hemlock Ravine Trailhead
View in Google Maps

Coming from Halifax on the Bedford Highway, turn left onto Kent Avenue (about 1 km after the light at Kearney Lake Road). Go to the end of the street and turn left into the parking lot. Start your adventure here. Transit buses stop on the Bedford Highway directly across from Kent Avenue. Find your bus route here by inserting “Hemlock Ravine Park.”

Trail Tools

  • Frame tool (instructions)
  • Small plastic cup
  • Monster hat (instructions)
  • Camera (for the group)
  • 80 cm piece of string
  • Noisemaker (500 ml plastic container with a lid)
  • Glue stick & tape (for the group)
  • Adventure Journal

Let’s Go to Monster Training

Walk on the main trail for about 150 m, past the heart-shaped pond and past the first path that goes around the pond. Turn right at the next trail onto the Rockingham Loop, following the stone reinforcing wall and railing on the right as you go uphill. Go uphill 90 m and stop at a second Rockingham Loop sign.

Calling all monsters for Monster Training Camp. Did you know that monsters really aren’t scary! They are friendly and gentle and only act scary for fun. In fact, they’re afraid of people. Meet the giant monsters in Hemlock Ravine and discover the skills you need to be a monster. Put together your own monster outfit as you go. If you’re clever, you’ll meet the Ravine’s oldest and wisest monster.

To begin, put on your funniest monster face and give your best monster roar. Now do the Monster March up the trail:

  1. Hold your arms out to the sides and let your forearms hang down.
  2. Keep your legs far apart and stomp up the trail.
  3. Make your monster face and roar as you stomp.

Do You Know?

In 1794 Prince Edward (Queen Victoria’s father) spent time in Hemlock Ravine with his companion Julie. The Prince had the heart-shaped pond built and called it Julie’s pond. He also had a round music pavillion built overlooking Bedford Basin as a gift for her. It is on the waterside of the Bedford Highway near the park entry road.

1. Mingle with Monsters

Walk 55 m on Rockingham Loop and stop at a dip in the trail with gnarly looking trees on the left.

Can you see the frozen monsters? Their faces are in the gnarly bark of these trees:

  1. Hold your frame tool in front of you.
  2. Look at the gnarly trunks through the frame and search for the faces close-up.

You can tell a monster’s personality by its face. Find and share faces that look:

  • happy
  • angry
  • silly
  • sleepy
  • sad
  • scared
  • scary

Beech Disease

These blisters or cankers on the beech trees at this stop, which create the monster faces, are from beech bark disease. This is due to an invasive species introduced by the British into Nova Scotia in the 1890s. It has now spread to beech trees across Eastern Canada and the Northeast US. It is caused by a collaboration between the invasive beech scale insect, which drills holes in the bark to drink sap, and a native fungal disease which then enters and flourishes in the bark and sapwood of the tree, producing the cankers. It poses a broad threat to beech trees and kills many of them with time. Mind you, it does not kill trees immediately and some trees do avoid it.

Make a monster necklace as you walk to the ‘V’ in the trail (70 m).

  1. Find three big cones and two sticks as long as your thumb.
  2. Take out your piece of string when you stop.
  3. Knot your string around the cones and sticks, separating them by a small bit.
  4. Tie the ends of the necklace together and put it on.

Look for 10 more monster faces along the trail ahead.

Hemlock Forests

Eastern Hemlock trees (Ksu’sk in Mi’kmaw) have slender, graceful branches that spray out horizontally and droop, with flat needles with two white lines on the underside. They can live up to 800 years, but trees older than 400 years are extremely rare because of all the logging that has occurred since Europeans arrived. The oldest trees in the Hemlock Ravine approach 375 years in age, making it a very special place. When these trees sprouted, Hemlock was a dominant species in the abundant forests of Mi’km’aki. Mi’kmaq had been using these forests for 1000s of years. They grated and ate the inner bark of the hemlock and also used it as a medicinal tea. Overcutting and the poor regeneration capabilities of hemlock have drastically reduced its frequency today. 

Learn about Netukulimk

2. Listen like a Monster

Stay to the left at the ‘V’ in the trail and walk for 130 m. Stop where the trail goes downhill into a hollow at a clearing with two standing dead tree trunks to the right. Sneak off the trail behind the trees into the forest a few metres.

Monsters listen closely to nature. Since they are frightened of humans, they hide if they hear someone coming. Can you listen like a monster?

  1. Sit down and get comfortable nearby.
  2. Tap your ears to get the cobwebs out.
  3. Have someone time a minute and a half with a watch.
  4. Close your eyes and be absolutely silent for this time.
  5. Listen to all the different sounds around you.
  6. Share your favourite sounds afterwards.

Now create some monster music.

  1. Place 10 rocks, cones or other small items in your noisemaker container.
  2. Put the lid on tight and shake your noisemaker.
  3. Create a wild monster rhythm.
  4. Have a loud monster concert.

Put your noisemaker away for later. Keep an eye out for little monsters with bushy tails as you walk down the trail. How many can you spot?

Do You Know… NatureWatch

NatureWatch is a great opportunity for individuals, families, and groups to observe and collect information on seasonal changes with frogs, worms, plants and ice patterns in Nova Scotia. This information is used as part of scientific investigations into climate change and contributes to our understanding of ecosystems and how they are changing. Another way to record and share your nature observations of all kinds is through iNaturalist.

3. Be Sneaky and Use Camouflage

Continue for 45 m to a trail intersection where there is a bench. Turn right onto Governor’s Loop and walk 200 m to the trail that enters from the right, passing three drainage pipes that cross under the trail on your way. The location is marked by two Governor’s Trail signs.

Monsters love camouflage. This allows them to hide from people. Add some camouflage to your monster costume so you blend into the forest better:

  1. Find 10 neat, dead leaves on the ground.
  2. Tape half of them to your shirt or jacket.
  3. Stuff the rest into your collar.
  4. Rub dirt on your face and hands.

Now practice hiding and sneaking with the Monster Mash Game:(6)

  1. One person is the human. Everyone else is a monster.
  2. The human counts to 10 with eyes closed and the monsters hide nearby.
  3. The human must always stay exactly in one spot, touching one tree.
  4. The human looks for the hidden monsters for two minutes.
  5. Monsters that are spotted must sit out until the end of the round.
  6. After two minutes, the human counts to 10 again with eyes closed.
  7. The remaining monsters try to find closer hiding spots.
  8. The human gets another chance to look for the monsters without leaving the tree.
  9. The closest monster to the human at the end becomes the next human.

With two people, take turns and see how close the monster can get to the human without being seen.

4. Have a Monster Party

Stay left on the main trail. Walk 120 m and stop where a drainage pipe crosses under the trail. There are fallen trees along the trail. Do your monster roar as you move up the trail.

Let’s have a monster party! Hemlock Ravine monsters love Sniff Sundae parties. You make your own sundae, but you sniff it instead of eating it. Sniff Sundaes are a feast for the nose.(8)   

  1. Fill your cup halfway with a handful of the basic ingredient: forest soil.
  2. Search for neat smell toppings by scratching and sniffing leaves, needles and other things.
  3. Give it a colourful or fragrant topping (a berry, a few needles or a coloured leaf).
  4. Name your sundae (e.g., monster maple).
  5. Take turns smelling each other’s sundaes and sharing their names.

Give a toast to monsters everywhere and take a final whiff of your sundae. Find a small plant nearby and dump your sundae beneath it. How does this help the plant?

Do You Know?

Keep an eye out in June and July for lady slippers in the park. Enjoy them from afar. Do not touch or pick these delicate flowers.

5. Stalk a Monster

Walk 150 m, stopping at a large boulder on the right with a big pine tree towering above it. Look for monster faces as you move up the trail.

There’s a monster here hidden in the big pine tree. Here is how to find it:(9)   

  1. Sneak up to the tree and gather around it.
  2. Lie down with your head close to the trunk.
  3. Look up into the tree.
  4. Can you make out the body (trunk) of the beast?
  5. Look at its many arms (branches) with twig fingers at the ends.

While you are lying under the tree, find:

  • arms crossed like an x
  • an arm with a hand and five fingers
  • a letter B
  • the first letter of your name
  • a number seven
  • a triangle shape
  • a good spot for a bird to make a nest
  • your favourite shape

This monster is hard to see because it is camouflaged well, but you can see it if you look carefully. Let’s add to your monster costume:

  1. Take out your monster hat and spread glue all over the outside.
  2. Roll the hat in the needles on the ground.

Now it’s a “hairy” monster hat. Display it proudly on your head.

Look for more evidence of monsters as you walk to the next stop. Search for monster drool (tree sap) on needle trees as you go. How many trees can you find with monster drool?

Do You Know?

Hemlock bark contains tannin, which was used by the Mi’kmaq to soothe burns. Early settlers used it to tan leather and dye wool. They also made brooms from the branches and tea from the leafy twigs.

6. Create a Monster Shape

Go 155 m on the main path to a trail intersection. Turn right at the bench at the trail intersection onto Ravine Trail. Stop 140 m down the trail just after a sharp turn towards the right and a rocky path climbs up to a rock ledge. Go up the trail to the ledge and look left to find an old pine tree perched on the edge of the rock ledge.

Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. This one is perched on this ledge. This monsters’ arms, legs and tentacles are disguised as tree roots and branches. Try imitating them, but be careful not to scare them.

  1. Carefully climb up along the rocks to the monster if you can.
  2. Face the monster and study it.
  3. Try to make the same shape with your body, arms and legs.

Can you do it? You might need more arms and legs:

  1. Pair up and stand one behind the other, facing a monster of your choice.
  2. Together, move your bodies into the monster’s shape.
  3. Have others help by giving you directions on which way to move.
  4. See how long you can hold the position.
  5. Take a picture of each pair’s monster shape with their monster behind them.

These monsters are big but there are smaller ones in the forest. Look for mini monster caves along the trail. How many can you find?


Hemlock Ravine has many different types of trees of various ages. This variety is important because some creatures can only live in older forests while others live in younger forests. The northern flying squirrel can sometimes be seen at dusk in Hemlock Ravine. It needs old trees for its home and food. Without old forests, it and other creatures with similar types of needs could not survive. This squirrel is rare in Nova Scotia. A natural community is more stable and healthy when it has a great variety of life. It is important to have a

of living things.

Learn about the Earthworks

7. Meet the Master Monster

Follow the path about 200 m with the rock ledge on your left.

Stop at a large angular boulder on the trail just before the trail makes a left turn and dips into the ravine.

Find the biggest monster around here on the hill to the left of the rock. It is the Master Monster. How many people does it take to hug its trunk before your hands touch? Find these parts of the Master Monster.

  • scales
  • fangs
  • wings
  • eyes
  • claws
  • arms
  • hair
  • drool

You’ve completed your monster training. Make sure you’re wearing your full costume: necklace, noisemaker, hat and camouflage leaves. Perform the Monster Training Graduation Ceremony:

  1. Get in a circle around the Master Monster.
  2. Bow to it and do the Monster March around it.
  3. Roar your scariest roar and shake your noisemaker.

Take a picture of the monster from an interesting angle!

You are now an official monster. Gather around the Master Monster for a picture. Be sure to put on your monster faces.

Earth Steps

Here are some things you can do to use less paper and help protect old growth forests in Nova Scotia:

  • Share books and magazines with others so they don’t have to buy them. Use your library.
  • Use paper on both sides before recycling it. Make notepads out of paper used on one side.
  • Buy recycled paper.
  • Stop using paper towels. Air-dry your hands or use a cloth towel instead.
  • Use a cloth handkerchief instead of Kleenex.
  • Buy wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as it ensures that the lumber company is meeting minimum environmental standards.

The protection of old-growth forests, forestry practices and clearcutting are critical public issues in Nova Scotia. 25% of Nova Scotia’s forests were older than eighty years in 1958. Today it is 1%. The amount of wood harvested nearly doubled between the early 1980s and 2000. Most all of this wood is harvested by clearcutting.

Before you return, you could go further down the trail into the ravine itself and check out some of the other monsters.

8. Apply Your Monster Skills

Return the way you came, doing the following activity as you go. Stop at the first trail intersection with the bench, where the Governor’s Trail splits off to the left.

Test out your new eyes as fully trained monsters as you return. Try to discover the hidden monsters you missed before. Find monsters hidden in:

  • a tree with broad leaves
  • a stump
  • a tree with needles
  • a log
  • a rock

Check out The Mystery of Hemlock Ravine by Dorothy Perkyns (Hantsport, NS: Lancelot Press Ltd., 1986) at the library. This fictional story was inspired by Hemlock Ravine and is about the adventures of two twelve-year olds and a ten-year old in the park.

9. Find the Scary Symbol

Continue back as you came until the Ravine Trail (orange trail), which you are on, intersects the Governor’s Loop Trail (red on map).

Your last challenge is to find the hidden plaque. Face down the Ravine trail (towards the direction you just came from), turn to your right, and follow a little path 15 m to a ‘monster’. Check around it. Make a rubbing of the mystery creature on it in your Adventure Journal with the side of your pencil.

You can return the way you came by heading to the left from the bench, retracing your steps. If you want a bit of a different return, go to the right along the Rockingham Loop trail. The trip is slightly shorter this way.

The plaque symbol is:



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Keep using your monster skills!

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