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"Dartmouth's Salt Marsh Trail is perhaps the most popular trail in the region. It is a   
very well maintained multi-use, former railway that has been transformed into a
recreational asset . . . The main trail is linear (not a loop) and is well-used
for walking, biking, cross-country skiing, fishing, and kayaking"
~ Halifax Trails website
We initially chose Halifax as one of our "home bases" to explore Nova Scotia because of the numerous historical and scenic attractions in and near the city.

Then Jim got busy searching online for good places to hike and cycle. He discovered a good network of rail trails in the area, some of which are part of the extensive-but-not-totally-connected Trans-Canada Trail that stretches from British Columbia to the Maritime provinces.

Above and below:  scenes from the Salt Marsh Trail

How's that for a great trail??? Salt Marsh and Atlantic View are our favorites in the Halifax area.

This entry includes photos and information about bike rides we did on the five trails listed in the heading above, on three different days this week.


On Sunday we took Casey with us to the Bike & Bean Cafe on NS 3 about seven miles west of our campground. It's a bike shop and cafe in the former French Village train station, which was in use on the Halifax & Southwestern Railway from 1904 to the 1990s.



The temperature was still in the 50s F. and overcast so Casey did fine in the truck while we rode our bikes.

The St. Margaret's Bay section of rail trail is about 30 km long, stretching NW of Halifax and SW toward St. Margaret's Bay. It connects with other shared-use trails in the metro area and south shore.

The surface isn't as nice as the Celtic Shores Coastal rail trail that we rode on Cape Breton Island last week or the other four trails in this entry but it's still easy to ride -- a few ruts and gravel in some places instead of smooth crushed rock the whole way.


I rode 5.25 miles SW and Jim went about 7 miles that direction before turning around. I had a total of 10.5 miles riding when I got back to the truck.

I put my bike inside the truck and started walking with Casey to the SW, the same direction I rode. Just then Jim came back. He rode another five miles the other way (more hilly, he said), then caught up to Casey and me when we reached a reservoir above a dam where Casey could swim:

We threw sticks to her in the water, then went back to the truck and home. I walked a total of 1.5 miles with her on the rail trail. Jim ended up with a total of about 26 miles on his bike.

I was hoping for grand views of St. Margaret's Bay but we saw a lot more of the head of the bay when we were driving the truck around on local roads, hunting for a trail head. Trees blocked most of the views on the rail trail except for a half-mile section where I took these pictures:


The bike path lies about 150 feet above the water, between NS 3 and 103.

The best water views besides the ones above are half a mile along the reservoir where Casey swam. The rest of the trail we saw is mostly a green tunnel of trees -- various conifers and hardwoods. That's nice' but when water is nearby it's even better to be able to see it.

There were lots of tall yellow daisies/asters in bloom in the sunnier spots along the trail:

The parking area around the cafe was packed with vehicles that Sunday morning. We expected to see more people and dogs on the trail than we did. They must have been strung out along the 18+ mile trail.

Most people I saw were cycling; a few were walking. Two ATVs went by when I was walking Casey. Trails like these are also popular with cross-country skiers in the winter.


These two popular rail trails connect and are part of the vast Trans-Canada Trail northeast of Halifax. Built on the bed of a former railway, they lie within the Cole Harbour Coastal Provincial Park.

Two other trail segments we rode, Heritage and Shearwater Flyer, connect at the Salt Marsh trailhead on Bissett Road where we parked. I'll show photos of those later in this entry.

This track from Jim's GPS shows the relationship of the four trails:

# 1 = the Salt Marsh Trail, which goes across a lot of water on land dykes and wooden bridges.
# 2 = the first half of the Atlantic View Trail. It continues farther along the coast than shown here.
# 3 = the Shearwater Flyer Trail; Halifax Harbour is to the left of Shearwater.
# 4 = the Heritage Trail.

Both the Salt Marsh and Atlantic View rail trails are very well maintained and smooth, especially nice for cycling and running:

The Salt Marsh Trail lies very close to the water for most of its length:



The western trailhead for the Atlantic View Trail is on West Lawrencetown Rd. This trail is part inland and part marsh until reaching the ocean at Lawrencetown Beach:



I took more photos where there were scenic water views than through less interesting green segments so most of the photos in this entry on the Atlantic View section show water. Note that I've only seen 2.2 miles on the western side of this 6.2-mile segment. Jim did 4+ miles of it but he didn't take any pictures.


We liked these segments so much that we rode them two different days this week. That was interesting because we got to see them at various stages of the tides.

On this side of Nova Scotia's peninsula -- the eastern, Atlantic side -- the tides are nowhere near as variable as they are on the western side in the Bay of Fundy. Good thing, because these rail trails are not much above sea level. You can see that in many of the pictures in this entry.

When the tide goes out, however, quite a bit of mud is exposed in the shallow basins on either side of the trail. That's when the marsh really comes alive.

In the next set of photos, water was lapping against the rocks when the tide was up:




This is the same area as the last two shots when the tide is up:

Here's another example of one place on the Salt Marsh Trail with more, then less, water:


Although I loved the pretty blue water surrounding me when the tide was higher, I liked riding these two trails better at lower tide levels because more rocks, mud, and birds were visible then.

It was fun to watch the ducks, geese, herons, and sea gulls feeding at all stages of the tides:

Bottoms up!

A seagull is sitting on the large rock, possibly waiting for its next meal.

Above and below:  This fella was watching me closely because
Mama and two juvenile chicks were feeding several feet to the left.

Continued on the next page . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2014 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil