Hiking and Backpacking in Nova Scotia: Tips & Trails

Backpacking in Nova Scotia: Skyline Trail, Pleasant Bay, Canada

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Hiking and backpacking in Nova Scotia offers diverse natural beauty and outdoor adventure across its rugged coastline and forested interior.

Multi-day coastal hiking trails take travelers over windswept headlands with sweeping ocean vistas, through sand dunes and past secluded beaches. Inland, dense woodland trails crisscross dense forests and take hikers past deep lakes and up rocky hills for panoramic coastal views.

In this post, we’ll delve into the world of ultralight hiking and backpacking in Nova Scotia, providing tips to help you prepare for your upcoming outdoor adventure.

We’ll share the TOP 5 trails in Nova Scotia in two parts. The first is for day hikes under 25 miles, great for exploring in one day. The second is for longer multi-day trips.

Key Tips for Hiking and Backpacking in Nova Scotia

  • What to expect: The well-marked trails, a mix of easy paths and climbs, may require occasional navigational skills. Camping rewards hikers with peaceful sites near the ocean and in the forest under starry skies. Dress in layers for variable weather and moderate temperatures.
  • Essential gear: Pack adaptable layers for unpredictable weather, such as a waterproof jacket and pants. Essential gear includes a map and compass (or GPS), a first aid kit, a headlamp, and a water filter. In more remote areas, consider carrying bear spray and a bear-resistant food canister.
  • Wildlife: Black bears wandering forest paths looking for food or protecting cubs can become aggressive if disturbed. Hikers should also be aware of smaller mammals like coyotes that may attack pets but rarely humans. Venomous spiders and ticks prevalent in woods during warm seasons risk infection without prompt treatment. Along the scenic shoreline, hikers risk encountering seals that may feel threatened near pups.
  • Wild camping is permitted on Crown land in Nova Scotia, but there are some restrictions. You need to be at least 100 feet (30m) from roads and waterways, avoid environmentally sensitive areas, and move sites every 21 days. Some provincial parks allow backcountry camping with a permit. In general, wild camping is accepted in Nova Scotia if done responsibly, but you should check regulations for the specific area.
  • Best time to go: Late spring to early fall offers the warmest and most stable weather, with May through June providing green foliage and fewer bugs. July to September brings sunny days for scenic trails. Fall, from September to early October, offers cooler temperatures and vibrant foliage. Year-round enjoyment is possible, but November to April can be cold and wet, requiring extra gear.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 25 Miles)

  1. Skyline Trail (Loop) (5.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Cape Split Trail (7.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Admiral Lake Trail Loop (5.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Acadian Trail (5.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Pollett’s Cove (8.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

  1. Cape Chignecto Coastal Loop (29.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Refugee Cove to Keyhole Brook (27.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Liberty Lake Full Loop Trail (45.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Sentier de Clare Trail (43.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Liberty Lake Trail (34.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

Nova Scotia experiences a maritime climate influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean:

Spring (March to May):

  • Spring is a transitional season with gradually warming temperatures.
  • Expect cool and crisp mornings, with daytime temperatures ranging from 41 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 15 degrees Celsius).
  • Spring can bring rain, so be prepared for wet conditions and muddy trails.

Summer (June to August):

  • Summer is the most popular time for outdoor activities.
  • Daytime temperatures range from 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 25 degrees Celsius).
  • The weather is generally mild, but occasional heatwaves may occur.
  • Summer is the driest season, but rain is still possible, so it’s wise to carry rain gear.

Fall (September to November):

  • Fall brings cooler temperatures and colorful foliage.
  • Daytime temperatures range from 50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 degrees Celsius).
  • Nights can be chilly, especially in late fall.
  • Be prepared for variable weather conditions and the possibility of rain.

Winter (December to February):

  • Winters in Nova Scotia are cold and can bring snow and freezing temperatures.
  • Daytime temperatures can range from 23 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 to 5 degrees Celsius).
  • Snowfall is common, especially in January and February.
  • Winter hiking requires appropriate clothing and equipment for cold and snowy conditions.

Before you grab your backpack and head outdoors, take a look at the weather statistics for Nova Scotia (Sydney):

High °F303035455565737366554536
Low °F171622314048575751423424
Rain/Snow (D*)1089999999101110
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.


Can I have a campfire while camping in Nova Scotia? 

In Nova Scotia, campfires are usually allowed for campers, but there are some rules because of the risk of fires. Most parks and Crown lands in the province let people have fires, but they should be made in the designated fire pits using only cut firewood. During times when there’s a high risk of fire in the spring and fall, campfires are not allowed. In some parks, campfires are never allowed, and only portable stoves can be used. It’s important to check the specific rules for the campsite you plan to visit. Before leaving a campsite, always make sure to completely put out the fire, and the ashes should be cold to the touch.

What are some safety tips for backpackers in Nova Scotia?

If you plan to go backpacking and explore the beautiful wilderness and nature found in Nova Scotia’s great outdoors, be sure to follow some important safety tips. Make sure to inform others of your travel plans like where you’ll be hiking and when you expect to return. Pack essentials for your exploration experiences like extra food and water in case your travels take you longer than expected. Also bring a map, compass or GPS to navigate the remote areas you may experience off the beaten path. Be aware of potentially dangerous local animals and store your food securely to avoid animal encounters. With gear like a first aid kit and headlamp, you can ensure your solo adventures hiking Nova Scotia’s trails are both exciting and safe.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while hiking in Nova Scotia?

When you go hiking in the woods and along the coasts in Nova Scotia, it’s important to remember that you may run into wild animals that live there. If you see a bear, don’t run away or make loud noises. Instead, back away slowly and let the bear know you’re leaving its space. Give moose a wide berth too, since they can be aggressive, especially if they have babies. Do not feed or get too close to seals either. And remember that ticks may crawl onto you from tall grass, so do frequent tick checks. Being aware of the wildlife and responding calmly can help keep you and the animals safe during your outdoor adventures.

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