Singletrack Trail

The MRWA builds and maintains the McIntosh Run Singletrack trail system in the watershed, with help from other groups, businesses and individuals. The trails are for nonmotorized users including mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers.

As of 2021 there are 23km of singletrack, about 18km of which has been built by MRWA since 2016 and the remainder adopted older trails.


Vision

A network of sustainable singletrack trails which enhances stewardship of the Watershed, preserves integrity of the Watershed’s natural values, and provides benefits for nonmotorized trail users, the community, and visitors.

Guiding Principles:
  • Environmental stewardship of the watershed
  • High-quality, sustainable trails that provide memorable experiences
  • Respect for First Nations traditional territory and land uses
  • Respect and understanding between diverse nonmotorized trail users
  • Partnerships and collaboration with land owners, other associations, and businesses
  • Benefits for residents of adjacent communities, greater Halifax, and visitors.

An up-to-date clickable map is always available here, or you can also download a map by clicking on the map thumbnail.

Trailforks App. For real-time navigation on the trails using a smartphone, we strongly recommend Trailforks.  MRWA maintains the Trailforks maps so they are always up-to-date and include information on trail name,  difficulty, land ownership status, etc..

To use Trailforks, download the app and add the Nova Scotia map. Mapping will then work even without a data connection.

Trailhead maps: Major trailheads have physical maps. These are currently out of date but new maps will be installed in 2021.

Paper maps: There are no paper maps. If you want to contribute or volunteer for this, please contact us.

McIntosh Run Trails are shared by hikers, runners, and mountain bikers of various ages and abilities. Following these guidelines helps everyone enjoy their trail experience and keeps the trails in great shape.

For Everyone:

  • Motorized vehicles of any kind are not permitted on the trails (unless they are being used by trail managers or enforcement officials to carry out their duties).
  • Stay on marked open trails. Short cuts and 'braids' cause navigational confusion and damage the natural environment unnecessarily. Keeping singletrack "single" is better for the shrubs, lichen and trees, and preserves what we all come here to enjoy: a narrow, engaging trail.
  • Respect other users; listen, communicate, yield as appropriate. Please leave head phones and music players at home.
  • Yield rules for oncoming traffic: Mountain bikers yield to hikers. Descending mountain bikers yield to climbers. That said, if you are a hiker or climber, and you choose to yield anyway, please go ahead. Sometimes it is more convenient or easier.
  • Keep traffic moving. Don't stop on trail. If a faster user is coming up behind you, yield the trail at the earliest opportunity it is safe to do so without unnecessarily trampling vegetation. If you are the faster user, communicate politely that you are approaching (with a 'hello' or a bell) and wait patiently.  Stopping to take a break, chat, or fix your bike right on the trail, or below a drop, means you are obstructing other users. Bikes may come down or up things that surprise you.
  • Leave no trace. Pack it in, pack it out. That includes dog poop bags and broken bike parts.
  • No fires.
  • Never feed or scare wildlife.
  • Do not alter trail or add trail. MRWA works hard to maintain positive relationships with landowners and managers, including only building trails they approve and inspect. Unsanctioned alterations and trails compromise this.
  • Avoid riding or hiking on sensitive, muddy trails. If you leave a rut >2cm, it's too muddy. Deep ruts and footprints trap water and can accelerate trail erosion. In wet and/or shoulder-season conditions, stay on the granite or hardened trails such as Divide, the Attic, Lous.
  • Go through puddles on a trail, not around them.Trampling the area around a puddle just makes the puddle and disturbed area wider.
  • Take breaks on the granite. Many of the trails are in Jack Pine Coastal Barrens, an ecosystem sensitive to trampling and soil compaction.

Additional considerations for Mountain Bikers

  • Avoid startling others; use a friendly greeting or bell, and slow down.
  • Stay on trail, no ride-arounds (unless it was built into the trail). If part of a trail is too difficult for you right now, please carry your bike over that feature instead of trying to ride or create your own easier line. Don't create 'blue' ride-arounds on a black diamond trail, for example. Keep trying those difficult features, though!
  • Control your bicycle. To yield, you need to be able to stop. Don't put yourself and others at risk.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Plan ahead. Maintain your gear.
If you drive to the trails, the recommended starting locations with parking are (please consult the map or click on a location below):

Municipal parking lots are shared spaces for all park users.

Parking is minimal at other trailheads and most streets in residential neighbourhoods are too narrow for 2-way traffic.

The McIntosh Run Trails are urban trails, please respect the trailhead neighbourhoods:

  • Drive slowly
  • Keep control of your pets
  • Lower the volume - both tunes and voices at trailheads
  • Apres at the pub
  • Gear up at home, don't strip at trailheads
  • Use the washroom in advance
Call 911 in an emergency when you or another trail user need help.

  • If you are not near a trailhead, if possible give your geographic coordinates, "McIntosh Run", and the trail name to the 911 operator so you can be found quickly. We recommend you familiarize yourself in advance with a method of doing this. The Trailforks app provides a quick method to call 911 and provide your coordinates and trail to Emergency Responders.
  • Station 6 in Spryfield has wildland rescue equipment.
Rules about dogs are set by the landowners.

  • All trailhead areas are on municipal public land and dogs must be leashed under HRM bylaw.
  • On HRM park land, dogs must be leashed at all times This includes the area from Clark Kent east to Flat Lake, plus In-N-Out and Joe Cracker trails.
  • On Crown land, dogs must be in sight, under control, and not interfere with other trail users.
  • A map of Crown versus HRM park land can be viewed by enabling 'polygons' under 'layers' on Trailforks and MRWA's online trail map.
  • Information about Halifax dog bylaws
  • If you encounter a problem dog and want to report it, call 311 and check here . Call 911 in an emergency.

The trails are busy, multi-use, and in a near urban setting. Aggressive or unpredictable dogs do not belong in this setting, on-leash or off.

Many dogs love trails and make good trail users. The key to getting along is to be understanding of other trail users (who may not be dog lovers) and control your dog.

Individual trails are rated using a nearly-universal green to double black system. As difficulty increases, more skill and balance is required and the consequences of a mistake or fall may significantly increase.

The rating system was developed for mountain bikes but is also useful for hikers and runners.  Download PDF

None of the singletrack trails are suitable for a road bike or hybrid bike. Mountain bikes are required.

  • Difficulty ratings are relative ratings of trails and may not match your individual experience of a trail. Depending on your skill, you may find a green circle "easy" trail to be challenging.
  • Difficulty ratings can vary between trail systems and regions.  Trail users from other areas often find the McIntosh Run trails to be relatively difficult. You may find that a blue square intermediate trail here is as difficult as a black diamond trail in your home trail system. This is partly a consequence of our unique terrain, which has an abundance of steep, off-camber granite, and very little mineral soil in some areas.   
  • All trails are used at your own risk.  Using trails can be dangerous, on a mountain bike or on foot. You might fall and be seriously injured even on an 'easy' trail. A trail's difficulty can change depending on weather, maintenance, and unforeseen events such as treefall. Difficulty ratings are a guide, not a guarantee that you will not be injured. 
  • Short sections or optional features may be more difficult or higher consequence than the rating of the trail as a whole.
Always look ahead, ride or hike within your limits, be ready to stop and inspect.
  • For problems on the singletrack trails such as downed trees or broken structures, use the Trailforks reporting function if you can. You can include a photo and the GPS coordinates automatically. Otherwise, email MRWA a description and location including the trail name.
  • Community Trail issues should be reported to Halifax using the 311 telephone system. Reporting on Trailforks too may be helpful to other trail users, but 311 is the priority for getting Community Trail issues fixed.

  • To report prohibited trail activities and regulations infractions, please contact the appropriate landowner, and MRWA. Halifax can be reached through 311. For complaints on Crown Land, call 1-800-565-2224 (24 hour line).A map of Crown versus HRM Park land can be viewed by enabling 'polygons' under 'layers' on Trailforks and MRWA's online trail map.
  • For general concerns related to Crown Land within the Mcintosh Run Watershed, contact the Department of Lands and Forestry Waverly Office at (902) 860-2560.
The trails are within the remaining natural areas of the McIntosh Run river watershed. "Singletrack" describes trails the width of a hiker or mountain biker.

The McIntosh Run trails concept is to connect neighbourhoods using nonmotorized singletrack, as a tool for conservation and a resource for the community. A wide cross-section of users and conservationists rallied around the name and concept during public consultations, allowing the project to proceed. Since then the McIntosh Run trails name is the brand used in land use agreements, it rallys our diverse volunteer base, and the funding that has built 17km of new trails since 2016 .

McIntosh Run Community Trail, This is a 4 meter wide, crusher-dust trail that runs through Spryfield. It can be used to access the singletrack from some parking and public transit locations. It was first built by MRWA but is now managed and maintained by Halifax.

As of 2021, the McIntosh Run system is 23km of singletrack. 17km is new since 2016, built under MRWA's agreements with landowners.

6km are adopted, upgraded older trails:

  • Upper West Pine, an old fishing/hunting route, with about 25% rerouted.
  • West Pine trail , sections of old hiking and fishing footpaths spliced together with new trail.
  • 50m of "the old wagon road" is included in the middle of Duck N Run . This 200y old route once connected Spryfield to Fergusons Cove. MRWA hopes to restore more in the future.
  • 2km were adopted from what some mountain bikers considered the "fight trail system", which was several trails originally built across multiple parcels of private and conservation lands without permissions. The adopted trail is Flat Lake trail after a 300m reroute, and as of 2021 Lou's Basement and Conquer are also adopted. The original Fight Trail (as of 1999 to late 2000s) was outside the watershed and not adopted (see map).

    The land around the adopted "fight system" trails was converted from private land, slated for blasting for a residential development, into preserved parkland partly through the effort of several conservation associations include MRWA.

  • The Attic trail was roughed in on Halifax parkland without permission in early 2016 by independent mountain bikers, while MRWA was waiting to finalize agreements with Halifax to build a planned trail in the same general area. The route became sufficiently entrenched by 2017 that MRWA mostly adopted it, replacing structures and fixing most muck-holes in 2017-18.
At present, some mountain bikers call all the trails 'fight trail', perhaps out of habit and/or because they are unaware that the trails they ride today are mostly not near the original fight trail and were built by summer interns, hikers, and 12y old girls in pink backpacks, as well as mountain bikers, and funded as part of the McIntosh Run trails project. This 'fight' naming sometimes causes confusion and misunderstandings including that the trails were built many years ago by mountain bikers and then renamed.
Many trails connect into the McIntosh Run system, including hunting and fishing footpaths, old ATV routes, and unsanctioned MTB trails on private land.

MRWA attempts to post bright yellow information/warning signs on any obvious trail that leads a trail user outside the McIntosh Run system, particularly if it leads to private land.

If you are a landowner for one of these adjoining unsanctioned trails, and do not want people to modify or habitually cross your land, you should post no trespassing signs. MRWA cannot do this. If you wish to discuss having the trail sanctioned/insured/maintained by MRWA, please contact us.

The short answer: Everyone.  Mountain bikers, hikers, dog walkers, ages 8-80 have contributed to trail building. And others have contributed to conservation efforts. The hiker (or mountain biker) you see on the trail may be one of the reasons you are able to enjoy the trail network today.

As trail users, we should be grateful to many people and groups.


The long answer:  MRWA is a volunteer nonprofit association. Planning, permitting, accounting, payroll management and map production has been performed by volunteers on the Board and other individuals who have offered their services.

Trail Work Volunteers: Volunteers logged 11,000 hours of trail work from 2016 to 2020. Several key volunteers have individually logged hundreds to thousands of hours. Volunteers include life-long hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners who are part of MRWA's board. We've hosted open trail building sessions, corporate team-building trail days, ECMTB trail evenings, Scout Troop projects, etc... One of MRWA's goals is to build a diverse trail community through volunteer events.

Trail Crew: To speed up trail work, and for tasks that require greater experience and skill, MRWA has maintained it's own seasonal paid trail crew for several seasons with the support of wage assistance programs and funds provided by donations, sponsorships, and grants. Our trail crew includes several repeat members and is overseen by the most experienced volunteers on our Board. We've developed considerable expertise, particularly in handbuilding in our unique terrain.

Trail Contractors: MRWA has hired local trail-building contractors (TrailFlow, Shoreline Dirtworks, and Kodiak Trailworks) for specific trails since 2017. In most cases contractors are supported by volunteer crews.

MRWA was established in 1994. Developing non-motorized backcountry-style trails in the watershed has been one of it's goals since it formed.

  • The trail system plan, the types of trails, and the permitted uses (nonmotorized, bikes and peds) were reviewed and refined through two public community consultation processes spanning 2011-2015. Two public meetings were held in Spryfield and surveys distributed in hardcopy and online. Here is a summary of the process
  • All trails are approved under land use agreements with the landowners -- currently the city of Halifax and provincial Crown land which is managed by NS-DLF.
  • Trails are built to meet Whistler Trail Guidelines, with variances owing to the watershed's unique natural terrain. Bridges over major watercourses are built to NS-DLF trail bridge requirements.
  • Planning and many of the volunteer contributions toward the singletrack trails are made by the MRWA Trails Committee and MRWA Board.
  • As of summer 2021, all 23km of the Phase 1 trails will be built. Phase 2 trails were presented in the 2012-2015 consultations, and a refined version submitted to DLF in 2021 for approvals before building can begin.
  • MRWA holds regular volunteer trail sessions.
  • You can also donate to build and maintain trails: Donate to the Trails.

  • Are you a business or organization? Contact us for Trail Adoption and promotion opportunities!

  • MRWA also leads special volunteer trail days for organizations and businesses which are excellent team-building exercises. Let's get outside!

Trail system plan and current status as of 1/2021.
Key: Blue: Built, open trails. Red: Approved by landowners (HRM or Crown) and to be built in 2021. Gray: Later phase trail concepts. Black: Property parcels of lands under trail agreements.

Since 2016, MRWA volunteers have contributed 11,000hrs, and raised funds, to build the following new trails:

  • Nora
  • Warren
  • Upper West Pine
  • In-n-Out
  • Attic
  • Spar
  • I/O
  • Osprey
  • West Pine
  • Schnitzel
  • Divide
  • the Notch
  • Duck-n-Run
  • Fire Escape
  • Clark Kent
  • Joe Cracker
  • Time Flies
  • Time Out
  • Wrinkle
  • Granitude
  • Orange Jelly