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Lady slippers along trail

South Granite Ridge trail

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I hiked this trail almost six years ago when I first moved to Nova Scotia. I was looking for a good, lengthy, challenging trail and I found it. It’s been a few weeks since getting back from Tanzania and it was time to get back on the trails here at home. The weather so far this spring hasn’t been great for hiking — unless you like hiking in the pouring rain — and this past weekend I found myself with both the time and weather to get out for a good long hike.

There are two Granite Ridge trails — north and south loops — that you can do separately or together in one long hike. A friend and I decided to head out and do the south loop as it’s about 18km round-trip, about 10km of which is in the White Lake Wilderness Area and the other 8km or so are on the rail trail. We drove the 45 minutes or so from downtown Halifax and parked at the lot just outside Musquodoboit Harbour. These trails are part of the excellent Musquodoboit Trailways Association, a collection of six trails of varying length and difficulty.

Lookoff over Admiral Lake
Lookoff over Admiral Lake

The first 2.5km or so is on the rail trail, a good chance to stretch the legs and finish your coffee. Enjoy it now because the wilderness trail is a difficult hike. The trail is a true wilderness experience, there are no amenities like picnic tables or benches and the trail is narrow. Your legs will get a painful workout as you scramble over the many, many rocks. The trail is well maintained, cleared of logs, so at least you don’t have to climb over those. The design of the trail is such that if there is a higher spot to get up to, it will take you there. That’s nice for views, but over the course of the 10km, it’s punishing on the legs.

Rocks along trail, going up!
Rocks along trail, going up!

We made our way around the trail, keeping ourselves hydrated as it was a warm, sunny day. There are many signs warning to keep on the trail, good advice along the ridge portion of the hike as you get high above the valley. It looked like there hadn’t been too many people on the trail yet this season, no footprints to speak of and a ton of spiderwebs to clear with our faces. Why do spiders do that? Just a bit lower and we’d be free of web in our mouths all day.

Dense trees along trail
Dense trees along trail

After a gruelling 10km of hiking, legs screaming and my right knee complaining loudly, we found ourselves at the junction of the north and south loops. This is where you can keep going north or head down the ridge about 600 metres to the rail trail and Norma’s Place, a covered picnic shelter right on the Musquodoboit River. This is where we stopped for lunch, warming up a couple of sausages on our stove, enjoying a cup of tea and filtering some more water for the 7.25km walk back to the parking lot.

Getting almost lost in the tall plants
Getting almost lost in the tall plants

Overall this is a great trail. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is it. Make sure to wear very sturdy backcountry hiking boots, your ankles won’t survive the day if you don’t. The trail itself is well-maintained and marked so you shouldn’t find yourself getting off the trail. Bring lots of water, you’ll drink it. We found the cell reception quite good — there are towers on the hills opposite the trail — but as always in the backcountry, do not rely on your cell phone for navigation or safety.

Here’s a map of the trail I recorded with my GPS. Enjoy!

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