Distance: 21 km
Elevation gain: 1050 m View map Download GPS track
Each year I take a trip to Nova Scotia to visit family and go trout fishing, typically in early May when the fishing is best and before the blackflies hatch and begin swarming. This year record snowfall in NS delayed my trip until mid-May, but thankfully the snow delayed the good fishing times and blackfly hatch too and we had a week of supremely successful fishing. By the last week of May, however, the fishing had died down and the blackflies were out in force so Sandra and I went hiking instead.
I've taken Sandra hiking in Nova Scotia before and one thing we've noticed is that the stated difficulty of a hike differs heavily between NS and Alberta. Last year, for example, we completed a hike
in under 8 hours that was "supposed" to have taken 24 continuous hours and we didn't even rush. We'd even taken heavy packs to be prepared to spend an emergency night out! So this year when we read of two connected trails, each advertised as a very difficult full-day hike, we figured we'd do both in the same day. These two trails were the North and South Granite Ridge trails in Musquodoboit Harbour, excellent trails developed and maintained by the Musquodoboit Trailways Association
We started our hike at the north end of the trail around 8 am under sunny skies and temperatures cool enough to keep the ravenous blackflies at bay. After a steep climb to the first lookout we headed south along the trail, reaching the junction for the north and south trails around 11 am. Here we had a choice: We could descend to the old railway bed trail and head to either the north or south parking lots, or stay on the ridge and follow it to its end, connecting up with the railway trail about 2.5 km north of the south parking lot. We chose the latter, then called my parents for a ride.
In general we found the ridge trail to be very rugged. It was very well maintained, but the nature of the terrain had us hiking over rocks, through small swampy areas, and as other trail users have noted in their reports, tagging every highpoint along the way. My GPS showed a cumulative elevation gain of over 1000 m for the day, so it was certainly a good workout. Most of the highpoints came with nice views though, but near the south end the trail inexplicably crossed the same ridge 3 times instead of just following it in a straight line.
Overall this was a great hike and one that I'd recommend to anyone with the stamina to complete it. Descending to the railway trail at the halfway point is certainly a very viable option if the entire length of ridge trail is too much, and as the railway follows the Musquodoboit river valley the scenery is very nice along there as well.