Our favourite indoor activities may be on hold, but nature is always there for us. As we seek to curb the spread of Novel Coronavirus Covid-19, outdoor activities become much more relevant to our physical and mental wellbeing.

Getting outside and breathing fresh air is naturally calming, and with so much wild space in Nova Scotia, we can easily explore and be active without fear of close contact with others.

At the time of writing, Nova Scotia residents are allowed to use trails, parks and beaches for exercise and fresh air with members of their household or “bubble” (two households who are otherwise healthy and share mutually exclusive contact) as long as there are no more than five people in a gathering.

Beaches are wide and open and an easy space for maintaining the two-metre physical distance required to protect against the spread of Covid-19. Trails are a little different, but we can still enjoy healthy, happy, hiking. We need to watch where we’re going, be aware of our surroundings, and always be mindful of others when we walk or run on trails.

Rail Trails are a perfect fit for walking and running while keeping a distance from others, especially when walking with children. Their wide right of way and straight, flat lines make it easy to see people coming, and easy to get out of the way. Use headphones on a low volume, or not at all, so that you can hear people coming and not be caught off guard. Rail trails are often shared-use as well, meaning that ATV’s, bicycles, dirt bikes, walkers, runners and riders on horseback, are all sharing the same trail, so some rules of etiquette apply.

Rail Trails on the North Shore:

The Great Trail, also known as the Trans Canada Trail, is a series of community trails, connected by road and water, and many miles of reclaimed railway. Our local route includes:

  • The Short Line Rail Trail from Oxford to Pictou, connecting to the Jitney Trail on the same route
  • The Samson and Albion Trails that connect New Glasgow and Stellarton
  • The Old Guysborough Railway Trail

These are just a few routes, and lots of other Great Trails connect through parks, bike lanes, fields and forests.

To find where The Great Trail passes through your community, check here: thegreattrail.ca

Hiking trails are a wonderful way to experience nature and wild spaces. Narrow paths make it a little harder to distance, but it can still be done. The rule of thumb is for the person heading downhill to yield to the person heading uphill. The person who is exerting the most energy (ie: the uphill hiker) should be allowed to keep their momentum. When someone approaches on the trail, simply step to the side, or off the trail if necessary, to allow two metres passing space between you and the other hiker.

Generally speaking, the rules of multi-use trails go like this:

  • Pets must be on a leash
  • No littering – “Pack It In – Pack It Out”
  • The maximum trail speed is 30 km/hr unless otherwise posted
  • All wheels yield to all heels (a biker yields to a walker, an ATV yields to a horse, etc.)
  • Travel on the right side of trail, pass on the left
  • Announce your approach well in advance

A word on tick prevention:

All this stepping off trails can mean that we expose ourselves to more tick habitat than we might normally. Ticks will be present anywhere there is long grass, brushy or wooded areas. These are also the places we love to hike! Make sure to use an approved insect repellent, wear sleeves and long pants, and tuck pant legs into your socks. Remove clothing as soon as you get home and check yourself and your pets.
Cobequid Eco Trails System and the Cape to Cape Trail System are excellent examples of locally built and maintained hiking trails. Find information about them here: cobequidecotrails.ca | capetocapetrail.ca
Both organizations are active contributors to Hike Nova Scotia, a provincial organization that provides safety and training, advocacy and promotion for hiking as a recreational sport in our province. Check out their course offerings, webinar on Intro to Hiking, and Hiker Challenge Badges.

New Challenge: Pictou County Badge

Hike in beautiful Pictou County, known for its sandy beaches, warm community spirit and a fascinating industrial history. To qualify for the Pictou County Badge you must hike just over 30 km along the trails and old rails of this region including the Steeltown Park and the Airport/Smelt Brook Trail in Trenton, the Jitney Trail in Pictou, Caribou-Munroe’s Island Provincial Park’s Shoreline Hike in Braeshore, the Samson and Albion Trails in New Glasgow and Stellarton, Acadia Park in Westville and the Fitzpatrick Mountain Trail in Scotsburn. This badge is a partnership with Active Pictou County.