Rock Hounds:

A Polly Cove Adventure

1 hr 30 min 2.2 km return Challenging

Trail Info:

This is a spectacular walk across rock barrens to the ocean. Wear good walking shoes. Make sure small children are well supervised as there are dangerous drops not too far from the trail.


Polly Cove Trailhead
View in Google Maps

Take Highway 103 and get off at exit 5 (Upper Tantallon). If coming from Halifax, turn left at the end of the ramp and go about one km to Highway 3. Turn right onto Highway 3 and very shortly thereafter turn left onto Highway 333 to Peggy’s Cove. On the Highway 333, go to the entrance road to Peggy’s Cove (about 25 km). Continue on Highway 333 past the entrance road for 2.4 km. At this point turn right into a small, unmarked gravel parking area on the right. Watch carefully, it is easy to miss.

Trail Tools

Rock Hounds Needed!

Pause just in from the start of the trail.

Become an official Rock Hound and journey to Boulderland. Sniff out the symbols, patterns and gems nature has hidden in stone. Do you have the skills to uncover Boulderland’s secrets? Beware! Legends say this strange land has ferocious flesh-eating plants. Keep your nose to the wind and your eyes peeled!

Put on your Rock Hound Hat (real or imagined) and assume the Rock Hound stance:

  1. Get down on all fours. Bring one hand up in front of you, curv-ing it like a paw.
  2. Stare straight ahead.
  3. Do your best Rock Hound Howl–howl like a dog!

As you walk to your first stop, get out your scope and see how many giant boulders you can count.

1. Find a Rock’n Rainbow

Continue about 115 m up the trail and stop on the right at another large, flat outcropping of exposed rock.

Discover a rainbow hidden in Boulderland’s rocks. Search for a rock with each colour.

  • orange
  • yellow
  • red
  • milky white
  • pink
  • gray
  • purple
  • black
  • blue

Arrange your rocks in a rainbow arch. Now add to your rock collection.

Tips for A Great Rock Collection

Search for neat shapes. Find a rock in the shape of a…
tooth… heart… triangle… square… brick… pyramid… arrow…

Collect cool touches…
flat… round… sharp… dull… smooth… rough… bumpy…

Find special patterns…
striped… speckled… crystals… splotched… multi-coloured… solid coloured…

2. Reach for a Rock

About 140 m from the beginning of the cart track, stop on the right at a large, flat outcropping of exposed rock.

As a Rock Hound you must look closely for the tiniest of details:

  1. Find eight rocks nearby no bigger than what can fit in a hand.
  2. Each person picks one rock from the pile and studies its colour, shape and feel.
  3. Mix them up well and pile them on the stone table (boulder) sitting on the exposed section of rock.
  4. Now find your rock again.
  5. Mix up the rocks again.
  6. Taking turns, close your eyes and find your rock again by touch. Find the colours of your rock in the stone table for a final challenge.

This is a good place to start a rock collection. A good collection has rocks with different colours, shapes, textures and patterns. Take out your Rocks Box and start to fill in the compartments with neat specimens. Add to your collection as you go.

Do You Know – Glaciers

Glaciers – huge sheets of ice that covered Nova Scotia during the last ice age over 10,000 years ago – left these boulders behind. As the climate cooled, the glaciers grew, scraping the earth and picking up huge chunks of rock. When the ice melted, these giant stones remained.

3. Discover Rocky Planets

About 200 m from the last stop, take the path on the left. It leads up to a high section of exposed rock. Stop when you reach the top.

Spot the old foundation below you and turn so it is directly to your right. Now look ahead across a small depression to the next highest point on this ridge. There are two microplanets (boulders) on it. Your mission is to reach the planet boulders by “rock hopping”. That means getting to them while always having your feet on the rocks. Plan your route carefully. Rock hopping helps avoid plants that are delicate and easily damaged. When you reach the two microplanets, explore them in your special hovercraft. Enter it through the viewing window:

  1. Hold your third eye between your eyes with the edge touching your nose.
  2. Shut the viewing window by flipping it flat over one eye. Close the other eye.
  3. Zoom your head down close to the surface of a planet with the lens.
  4. Hover and study the planet features and life forms. Name the planet.
  5. Can you see tiny trees, valleys, mountains or little creatures moving around?

Do You Know?

The plant-like life forms on the boulders are lichens. As they grow, they release an acid that slowly dissolves and breaks off tiny bits of rock, giving them a foothold. Over time lichens die and decompose and more lichens grow on top. Slowly, a very thin layer of soil is created allowing mosses and grasses to grow. More soil is created when they die and mix with rock pieces.

Now think of the huge flat rock you are standing on as a giant planet. Follow the rivers of life on it, the cracks where the plants live. Look to see where the rivers meet together to form islands of life (patches of plants). Why do life forms live in the rock cracks?

On your way back to the main trail, add to your rock collection.

4. Search for the Symbol

Go back to the main trail and walk to the foundation.

Legends say that someone made a symbol in a boulder near the building. If you find it, do a howl to let the others know. Make a rubbing of the symbol:

  1. Lay a sheet of paper over the symbol and hold it firmly in place.
  2. Rub the side of your pencil over it until you see the symbol emerge.

Check out the brilliant yellow lichen near the outer left side of the foundation before you go. Add to your rock collection.


Stones play an essential role in traditional Mi’kmaw culture. Mi’kmaq gather special stones from the forest for a sacred ceremony known as a sweat, which is a process of spiritual cleansing. The sweat occurs in a lodge (small hut), specially built for this purpose. These stones are known as the grandfather or grandmother stones and are selected and gathered with great care through a ceremonial process involving many offerings of tobacco to the Creator. The grandmother/grandfather stones are heated in an intense fire outside and then brought into the lodge and splashed with water to create steam. This brings all four elements to the ceremony: the earth, air, fire and water (steam). Larger igneous rocks are best, as they hold the heat longer and do not explode when placed into the sweat lodge for the ceremony.

Learn about Netukulimk

5. Pick Out the Patterns

As you face the water at the back left corner of the foundation, go down the hill to the left to find the path. Follow this path another 100 m and stop where a tall wall of rock rises up on the left.

Stand back and look at the wall of rock on the left. What patterns can you see?

  • up and down stripes
  • layers
  • cracks

What different colours do you see?

Do You Know – Wintergreen

Wintergreen is very common along this trail. Search for the patch across the trail from the rock wall. Take only one leaf and taste it. What does it taste like?

This rock is granite. Feel the surface with your fingertips. Do another rubbing to make granite paper:

  1. Place your paper over a section of rock and hold it firmly in place.
  2. Choose the lightest colour of your crayons or coloured pencils.
  3. Rub the colour evenly and lightly over the surface of the page.
  4. Move the page slightly so the pattern will be a bit different.
  5. Colour with a darker shade.
  6. Repeat, using all the colours.

At home, trim off the edges where it was difficult to colour. Use it to write about your adventure. Add a neat tiny pebble from below the rock wall to your collection.

6. Become Stone Statues

Walk 100 m following the trail through a dip where there is a rock hollow on the right. At the ‘V’ in the trail, below a spruce tree, stay to the right. Stop under the highest part of the next rock face on the left with lots of cracks in it.

Official Rock Hounds can be as still and quiet as stones. Play the Stone Statues Game:

  1. Assign someone to be the joker. The others are statues.
  2. The statues find a comfortable position close by and freeze.
  3. Statues cannot hide their faces or close their eyes.
  4. The joker tries to make each one smile but cannot touch a statue.
  5. Once a statue laughs, it becomes a joker as well.
  6. See who is the last statue.

Now, search for frozen stone shapes in the rock wall. What can you spot?

Want to learn more about our geological history? Check out the Last Billion Years – A Geological History of the Maritime Provinces of Canada from the public library. Be sure to look for rocks in your own backyard or a nearby park–you never know what gems you might find!

7. Find the Ferocious Flesh Eating Plant

Stand looking at the ocean with your back to the highest part of the rock face and see how the trail bears right away from the rock face at this point toward the ocean. Follow the trail for about 15 meters and then follow it as it bends left and along a ridge of intermittent bare rock, which runs parallel to the ocean. After about 40 m on the ridge, you will see a marshy area down and to your left. Stop here.

Look on the exposed rock for sparkling small gems. The gems are protected by ferocious flesh-eating plants to the left of the rock in the moist area. Give a loud howl when you find one (see picture). Don’t pick any of these plants. They won’t harm Rock Hounds but small insects need to worry (see box).

Do You Know – Pitcher Plant

Pitcher plants are flesh-eating plants with leaves that are funnels and form toxic death pits for insects. The coloured leaves and sweet smell attract insects. Once the insects step over the lip of the funnel, tiny hairs make it hard for them to climb out. Deeper inside, the surface of the leaf becomes so smooth that the bugs can’t hold on. They fall into the pool of rainwater below. The plant then releases acid into the pool and slowly digests the insect in the same way that acids in our stomachs digest food.

8. Become Breezy

Continue about 40 m as the path dips. Turn on a short path to the right that brings you out on a large, flat exposed rock that goes all the way down to the ocean. Stop on the exposed rock.

It takes about one hundred years to make a centimetre of soil in the forest. Storms and high winds are a couple of reasons why it takes much longer here. Can you become a hurricane?

  1. Pick up a dozen bitsy pebbles plus a tiny pinch of soil.
  2. Pile them up.
  3. Become a gentle breeze: flap your arms slowly and blow gently against the pile.
  4. Become a storm breeze: flap your arms faster and blow harder.
  5. Become a hurricane: flap your arms wildly and blow with all your might.

What blew away first? Were you able to move the larger pebbles with your breath? Imagine what storms can do. Soil is blown away and rocks are worn down in Boulderland by wind, rain, waves, freezing and ice.


Pitcher plants grow in poor soil in bogs and swamps. They act like other plants, capturing sunlight and using it to make their own food. The difference is that other plants get nutrients from the soil while pitcher plants get most of their nutrients from digesting insects. They developed this special way of surviving in harsh conditions over a very long time. You won’t find maple trees living here. Other low-growing, hardy plants like juniper and stunted white spruce have found special ways to survive here as well. These are examples of

Learn about the Earthworks

9. Howl for Recognition

From the large flat rock, find and follow the small path continuing parallel to the water for about 60 m. Stop in a little dip with a huge triangle-shaped boulder to the right.

Discover some sparkling gems in the giant triangle-shaped boulder. Search with your third eye for:

  • glass-like gems
  • shiny orange gems
  • shiny black gems
  • crystal-like gems
  • white gems

Each time you find one, howl and share your discovery with someone else.

Do You Know?

Rocks are made up of minerals and metals. Minerals come in strange and beautiful crystal shapes. Diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires are among the most valuable. Metals are the shiny bits in rock. Silver, gold and platinum are some of the more valuable metals. These rocks are granite and were formed from molten rock from the centre of the earth that was slowly forced to the surface by pressure. Granite is made up of crystal-shaped minerals.

10. Meet the Boulders

Back on the path, head up the hill, staying to the right where the trail forks after about 12 m. Continue about 150 m up the hill to the highest point around with the giant boulders on top.

These boulders at the highest point are gems themselves. Find:

  • the most colourful boulder
  • the biggest boulder
  • the roughest feeling boulder
  • the smallest boulder
  • the smoothest feeling boulder
  • boulders with gems in them (use your third eye)

Check out the faces and personalities in these boulders:

  1. Find your favourite boulder and study it.
  2. Search for a face in the stone and name it.
  3. Take turns introducing your boulder to everyone.

Search around your favourite rock for a couple of special pebbles to finish your collection. Now, display it near your favourite boulder. Check out each other’s collections and trade rocks if you like. Sit quietly beside your boulder for a few minutes and enjoy the view. Sketch your favourite boulder in your Adventure Journal.

Earth Steps

Here are some things you and your family can do to tread more lightly on sensitive areas:

11. Rock Hounds Unite

Congratulations! You have done heaps of hounding and deserve to be official Rock Hounds:

  1. Get down into the Rock Hound stance.
  2. Do the Rock Hound howl and pat yourself on the head.
  3. Scatter your rock collection across the exposed rock area.

To test your abilities one last time, find the hidden plaque with the mystery creature on it when you return to the parking area. It is on a round wooden object. Use your pencil or crayon to make a rubbing of it in your Adventure Journal.

The plaque symbol is:



Please login if you would like to record your trail completion, provide feedback or upload photos to the trail gallery.

Login if you’d like to upload a photo to share in the Adventure Gallery

Take a picture expressing your skill as a Rock Hound that includes cool rocks. Upload it if you choose. Keep on hounding around home. May a keen eye and a wet nose always be with you.

Return back the way you came from the parking lot. Right around the parking area, look for the hidden plaque on a tall object placed there by humans. Make a rubbing of it in your Adventure Journal.

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Tap share and then "Add to Homescreen".