Outdoor Adventure May 14, 2015

5 Walks in Halifax to see Larger-than-Life Nature!

Blog written by Stephen Cushing

We often take nature for granted – especially in the city – so might surprise you to learn that larger-than-life trees grow within 10 km of the downtown core! If you look closely, you’ll see that these plants often hold clues about historical events and lives gone by. Get a move on and experience 5 walks in Halifax to see larger-than-life nature.

5.Point Pleasant Park

At the most southern tip of the Halifax peninsula, the well-travelled Point Pleasant Park stands at the mouth of the harbour. This popular space has seen many changes since the 1700s, with British settlement, fortification, forest clearing and natural disturbances. Most recently, Hurricane Juan changed the face of this park.

But, in the often-quoted words of Jurassic Park’s Dr. Ian Malcolm, “Life…finds a way.”

The park is naturally regenerating with a native Acadian forest establishing itself again. One noteworthy tree is the large non-native European Beech. This tree is resistant to a disease that kills our native variety and appears to withstand our tough fall storms. So get out there and hug a beech!

Fun fact: Some of the largest trees in the park are red oak, white pine and red spruce.

Park history, trails maps, vegetation overviews and directions to the park are found on the Point Pleasant Park website.

4. Halifax Public Gardens

One of the best intact Victorian Gardens in North America is the Halifax Public Gardens. This showcase of horticultural treasures was collected during the Victorian era. A substantial walk, this 16-acre garden boasts large elms surrounding Horticultural Hall and along pathways. In an almost magical way, weeping beech and elms border the Boer War fountain and provide cover for kids to play. The garden also claims one of the largest Ginkgo trees in the city. Large sentinel lindens surround the entire Public Gardens as if to guard the horticultural treasures within.

The Public Gardens is fairly central in Halifax. The main gates are found at South Park Street and Spring Garden Road. There are plenty of amenities available with washrooms and refreshments on-site.

3. Dalhousie University 

This may be an unexpected stop on your urban nature walk, but just off the Halifax Urban Greenway is a surprise for history and tree lovers! Hidden behind Shirreff Hall is a large red oak estimated to be almost 300 years old! This tree – and the surrounding tree stand – was intentionally left uncut by Nova Scotian architect Andrew Cobb, who saw this as an important resource for future generations. At Dalhousie, you can see over 1,000 trees spread over the three Halifax campuses.

This Hali-famous red oak is found just north of the South Street and Oxford Street intersection between the Ocean Sciences Building and Shirreff Hall.

2. McNabs Island

If you’re looking for adventure, McNabs Island is a day trip worth taking. A number of hiking trails cover the island, leading to features including native forest landscapes, beaches, remnant gardens, remnant homesteads and historical military forts. It’s easy to forget how close you are to the city while on this secluded island. Some of the oldest and largest trees on the island are deciduous trees (including horse chestnut, American Elm and Apple) planted by former residents to define roadways and private property, and as orchards.

For more information on McNabs Island history, island travel options and island amenities, see the Friends of McNabs Island society website.

1. Hemlock Ravine

This walk is the furthest from the downtown core, but it’s worth the trip. Formerly the residential and pleasure grounds of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and subsequently his grandson Prince Arthur, Hemlock Ravine is an example of an old growth forest. Protected from forest clearing in the early days of Halifax settlement – and from modern residential development – there are examples of 300-year old Hemlocks in this park (a rare sight in Nova Scotia!). Have you spotted one of our Nova Scotian Hemlocks?

For a trail map and park address visit the Province of Nova Scotia website.

What is your favourite tree or trail in Halifax? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!