The MRWA builds and maintains the McIntosh Run Singletrack trail system in the watershed, with help from other groups, businesses and individuals.
The trails provide opportunities for healthy and fun nonmotorized recreation only a few kilometers from downtown Halifax. The trails are also a tool for conservation of the river and wild areas of the watershed, by increasing the number of people who speak for the watershed in it’s natural state, and by establishing a valuable, legally-recognized use of watershed areas that currently have no formal protected status.
The trails are designed to link multiple neighborhoods with natural-surface singletrack trails (trails the width of a single biker or hiker). The trails are built to accommodate mountain bikes but are for all nonmotorized users: hikers, bikers, runners, snowshoers.
We follow a trails-for-all, trails-by-all approach, so planning and physical labour contributions have come from a volunteer community of hikers, mountain bikers, runners, conservationists.
As of 2023 there are 27km of singletrack. About 21m has been built since 2016 under the McIntosh project. 6 km are adopted older informal trails.
Phase 2, which was started in late 2022, will add approximately 16km of new singletrack of varying difficulty, close loops, and connect more neighbourhoods with trails. The first 3km of Phase 2 opens in Fall 2023.
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.
- Environmental stewardship of the watershed
- Respect and understanding between diverse nonmotorized trail users
- High-quality, sustainable trails that provide memorable experiences
- Partnerships and collaboration with land owners, other associations, and businesses
- Benefits for residents of adjacent communities, greater Halifax, and visitors.
- Motorized vehicles of any kind, including e-bikes, are not permitted on the trails, unless they are being used by trail managers or enforcement officials to carry out duties, or as electric wheel chairs for users with a mobility requirement. E-bikes and motorized uses are prohibited under land use permissions, and respecting agreements is essential to continued project success, minimizing environmental impacts of recreation, and successful shared use by human-powered users.
- 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 or block trail.
- 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 makes the puddle and disturbed area wider.
- Take breaks on the granite, not on the shrubs. 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.
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. New maps and markings were installed in June 2021.
Paper maps: There are no paper maps. If you want to contribute or volunteer for this, please contact us.
- Call 911 in an emergency when you or another trail user need help.
- Tell 911 that you are at McIntosh Run trails. Give the civic address of the nearest trailhead, if you can. Trailheads with civics are listed below.
- Also give the trail name and geographic coordinates if you can.
- The free Trailforks app for smartphones provides a quick method to call 911 and give your coordinates. We recommend you familiarize yourself with this or another method before heading out.
- Trailhead addresses:
- 125 Angler Drive : Angler's Path trail
- 91 Norawarren Drive : Upper West Pine trail
- 529 Alabaster Way (the cul-de-sac): Osprey trail
- 25 Lois Lane / Hartlen Park : Clark Kent trail
- Sarah Drive, between #15 and #18 : Orange Jelly trail
- Hartlen Park, at the beginning of Clark Kent Trail
- Lions Rink, 2 blocks from Clark Kent trail
- Long Pond, near In-N-Out trail
- Roach's Pond, a central location with abundant parking, a 5 - 10 minute pedal to the trails
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
- Dogs must be leashed at all times on trails. This is by order of HRM's dog bylaws and by the Provinces's Trails Act.
- 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 requirement to leash dogs at all times on Crown lands was added by the Crown to MRWA's land use agreements in 2023.
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 follow the land owner rules, be understanding of other trail users (who may not be dog lovers), and control your dog.
HRM does not permit hunting in parks. Hunting is permitted in Crown land areas according to seasons, regulations, and legal set-back distances that are set by the province ( Nova Scotia hunting). As of 2022, the set-back distances for rifle hunting deer are 402 m from a dwelling, 804 m from a school, and 30m from a road. Seasons change every year.
The trails remain open to other purposes during hunting seasons. Trail users should wear orange during hunting season.
The rating system was developed for mountain bikes but is useful for hikers and runners too. 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.
- Ratings can vary between trail systems and regions. Trail users from other areas often find the McIntosh Run trails to be relatively difficult, probably because of all our steep, off-camber granite and lack of dirt 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.
- Short sections or optional features may be more difficult or higher consequence than the rating of the trail as a whole.
- Do you want to hike, run or ride the length of the trails, from Spryfield to Herring Cove? Here is the most direct route. 9.3km one-way watershed thru-route
- New MTB rider, looking to start? Stay on Green trails to get a feel for things. First try Clark Kent, then Orange Jelly and all the Norawarren area trails to transition to blue.
- Looking for a granite-rich blue MTB ride? Try this, but warning that it includes dark blue. Granite loop tour, BLUE, 9km
- Want an MTB loop ride with more granite, and more challenge? Granite loops, BLUE/BLACK, 15km
- For problems on the singletrack trails such as downed trees or broken structures, use the Trailforks reporting function or email MRWA.
- Community Trail issues should be reported to Halifax Parks by calling 311. Reporting on Trailforks too may be helpful to update other trail users.
- 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 in the watershed with nonmotorized singletrack, as a tool for conservation and a resource for the community.
- The name and concept was presented and approved through public consultations and is used in all funding applications, land use agreements and rallies the diverse volunteer base that has built the trails.
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.
- Upper West Pine, an old fishing/hunting route, about 25% rerouted.
- West Pine trail , sections of old hiking and fishing footpaths spliced together with new trail.
- 50m of "the old wagon road", a 200y old route that once connected Spryfield to Fergusons Cove, is in the middle of Duck N Run .
- About 4 km were adopted from the so-called "fight trail system", which was several trails originally built by MTBers across multiple parcels of private and conservation land without permissions. The adopted trails are
- Flat Lake trail, after a 300m reroute and structure replacements.
- Lou's Basement will be adopted in 2021.
The original Fight Trail (as of ~1999 to late 2000s) was reportedly named for the 'Fight Club', was outside the Watershed, and was not adopted (see map).
- The Attic trail was roughed in on Halifax parkland without permission in early 2016 by independent mountain bikers while MRWA was working with HRM to finalize agreements to build a planned trail in the same area. The Attic route became sufficiently entrenched by 2017 that MRWA mostly adopted it, replacing structures and fixing most muck-holes in 2017-18.
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.
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.
- 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 usually holds regular volunteer trail sessions (but we've been slipping through the pandemic!)
- 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!
Since 2016, MRWA volunteers have contributed 11,000hrs, and raised funds, to build the following new trails:
- Upper West Pine
- West Pine
- the Notch
- Fire Escape
- Clark Kent
- Joe Cracker
- Time Flies
- Time Out
- Granitude (2021)
- Orange Jelly (2021)
- Gutterball (2023)
- Boulderama (2023)