After a long pandemic and life-related hiatus from hiking I thought it was about time to get back on the trail. After not having been out on a trail for so long I had to choose carefully: something challenging but not too challenging. After a quick look around I landed on the Admiral Lake Loop, part of the very good Musqudoboit Trailways Association. I’ve done a couple of their longer, more challenging trails, the South Granite Ridge and North Granite Ridge trails but knew I couldn’t handle either of them at the moment.
The trail is just under 10 kilometres long, including the start and return to the parking lot along the rail trail. It’s a decent distance and the flat, gravel rail trail is your chance to stretch your legs and finish your coffee before hitting the trail proper. When you’ve not been hiking in as long as I have this is a welcome introduction! If you prefer, you can ride your bike to the trail head and lock it up the provided rack.
Once you’re on the trail it goes up! There’s a little bit of an up-and-down at the beginning to get you started, but after that there’s no messing around. You’re onto the large rocks and boulders heading up the ridge. This is why it’s a good idea to wear a decent pair of boots. The trail itself isn’t wet in many places but it’s covered in wet tree roots and rocks along the entire length in the woods. I lost count of the number of times I slipped, and my ankles being what they are they are, I would’ve twisted them a number of times.
The trail is a well-marked backcountry trail, mostly easy to follow, though there are one or two spots where a hiker could get off-trail. As always keep your eyes open and stay alert. As mentioned, the trail is quite dry with just a few small streams to hop over. There aren’t any bridges or boardwalks on this trail, there’s no need, but again, there are lots and lots of rocks. You’ll find yourself scrambling over them both up and downhill.
The trail goes up and down, up and down. There aren’t too many flats spots, but that’s fine. This isn’t a race — even though some crazy guy went flying past us on a trail run — so there’s plenty of time so stop and catch your breath if you need to. There are a few lookoffs along the trail — Skull Rock, Rolling Stone, Harbour, and of course, Admiral Lake — to stop, take off your pack and take a well-deserved rest. When the weather’s not completely foggy there are beautiful, wide vistas to take in while eating a chocolate or granola bar. Bring lots of water, on a warm day you’ll go through it all. If you’ve got a water filter, bring that too just in case as there are few spots along the trail to fill up if you find yourself low on water.
The day I hiked the trail, the entire Musqudoboit Valley was socked in with fog. It would’ve been nice to have a rewarding view for the sore legs but I didn’t mind. The fog added a little drama to the place and kept the hike a comfortable temperature. Thankfully there are signs along the trail to tell you where you’ve arrived, when the fog’s as thick as this, there’s no way to get your bearings from the surrounding landscape!
After a couple of hours and some tired legs, we finally started heading downhill for good. Time to get the front of the legs burning! After eventually making our way all the way down the escarpment we were back on flat land. The trail association has done a fantastic job of putting two large benches and a pit toilet right at the end of the trail, where it meets the rail trail. A perfect spot to stop and relax for a few minutes, maybe take your boots off and let your feet breathe, or enjoy another well-deserved snack. From here it’s an easy walk back to the parking lot.
If you’re interested in doing the North/South Granite Ridge trail, the Admiral Lake Loop is a great introduction. You’ll experience much of the same terrain but in a shorter distance. It’ll give you a good idea of what you’re in for on the longer trails. Overall, this is a great backcountry trail that provides a real challenge and wonderful views, if the sun’s out!
Check out a map: Hiking the Admiral Lake Loop