One of my favourite areas for hiking and mountain biking in the Halifax area is the Birch Cove Lakes area that can be entered near the Bayers Lake Shopping Centre and also accessible from boat club parking area behind Kearney Lake. (MASKWA AQUATIC CLUB).
This is especially convenient for people who live in West Halifax, Clayton Park and Bedford areas since it is so close and offers so many different points of access and a variety of terrain and activities from hiking, biking, canoeing and winter activities like skating and snow shoeing.
“Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes is an wilderness area of Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) that have been designated under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act. The total area of this near-urban wilderness area is 1,312 hectares (3,242 acres), or almost 3/4 the size of Halifax Peninsula.”
“The wilderness area includes forests, lakes, granite plateaus and barrens, and wetlands along the many lakes and small streams encompassed by the area. It protects some wildlife habitat and offers a range of wilderness recreation opportunities, all within minutes of Halifax / Bedford. The area has long been a favorite of Mountain Bikers, Hikers and Canoe Enthusiasts that have developed trails and portages from repeated use over the years.”
A large percantage of the trails in the area have been developed by mountain bike enthusiasts an is well known as the “Whopper Dropper” trail. There are many other trails along Suzie Lake, Quarry Lake, behind Kearny Lake and Charlie’s Lake that form a large system of trails that follow along Hobsons Lake, Ash Lake and Crane lake that eventually return to the “Whopper” trails behind Suzie lake.
There are many trails that can be explored ranging from 4-5 kilometre hikes to full day hikes depending on the areas you might want to explore and how long a hike you would like. This gives choices of smaller short hikes, longer hikes and or Mountain Bike trails ranging from easy / intermediate to more technical and challenging bike trails. Most of the bike trails area centered in the whopper trails system and area single track that begin in the granite plateau behind the Burger King on chain lakes drive. The bike trails branch out from there in many directions and in different terrains. The bike trails also connect to the power line access trails and can be used to connect to even more trials further away.
A complete loop of the Birch Cove Lakes area can be hiked in one day for an overview of the area, it is a strenuous hike (approximately 28 kilometers for the complete loop). It involves following many of the recently existing trails but also requires navigating areas where there is no trail to connect to other trails. Some of these off trail connections can be up to 1km through dense bush and should not be attempted without a compass, map and GPS. That said it is a great way to check out the different trails and get an overview of the varied terrain, lakes and streams.
Link to Map and GPS of Hike around Birch Cove Lakes
Recent development plans have raised concerns from the many users of these trails as well as those concerned for protecting the remaining wilderness. HRM has sold land to private developers and rumours have it that large retailers are interested in space behind Bayers lake shopping area and adjacent to the Birch Cove lakes area. Unfrtunately this will destroy many of the Mountain bike trails that have been developed and maintained over the years by the users of these trails.
Trail Head and Access – There are several areas to access the many trails and lakes in the area. The most used is the parking area behind the Burger King on chain lakes drive and on the opposite side of the area from Maskwa Aquatic Club.
There are also other areas to access hiking trails and portage a canoe into the lakes, below is a list of access points to the area.
- Burger King – Chain Lakes Drive – great for access to the whopper dropper trails, for mountain biking and hiking.
- Maskwa Aquatic Club – Access to Charlie’s lakes trails and Ash Lake Hobsons Lakes trails.
- Future Inn / Starbucks – Lacewood Drive – Access on the corner of Lacewood and the 102 highway to trails leading to Suzie lake in one direction. Another trails that leads to “Quarry Lake and “Evil Birch” trail system.
- Coke Plant – Beechville – Trail head parking lot for the BLT ( Beechville – Lakeside – Timberlee trail) Take left about a 100 meters down the trail to access the powelines behind the whopper trails that intersect many trails along the way.
- 102 highway – not the best or safest place to access the area, however many use this old road half way between kearny lake road and lacewood intersections on the 102 highway to pull over and use as a place to portage a canoe into Suzie lake. This entry can also be used by Mountain bikers to ride into the area behind the quarry and access the “Evil Birch Trail” for mountain biking.