Mountain Biking in Nova Scotia
Finding the trail: To reach Arisaig Provincial Park from Antigonish, head west on NS Highway 245. Bear left at a fork when you reach the ocean, and continue through the small town of Arisaig. You will pass a road on the right that descends to Arisaig Point. The park entrance is clearly marked and will be on your right. There is parking available at the trailhead for the interpretive centre, which is adjacent to the outhouse and water pumps.
Notes on the trail: From the parking area at Arisaig Provincial Park, ride back out to Highway 245 and turn right. After passing one road branching off to the left, turn left on the unpaved MacDonald Road. This road crosses Arisaig Brook and then narrows considerably. At this point, you will be riding in the shadows of the steep walls of sedimentary rock that rise high above the road, creating dramatic slopes of crumbling rock and a dark, tunnel-like atmosphere. You will cross Arisaig Brook again before coming to a Y in the road. Bear right at this fork.
Beyond the fork, continue on the main trail for some distance. You will pass a road heading uphill to the left. You will then round a bend to the left and pass a driveway on the left. You will ride past two houses, one on either side of the road, before arriving at a point in the road where a double-track road branches off to the left, heading uphill. Bear right past this road and begin a short, gradual descent. You will pass grassy trails branching off either side of the road at irregular intervals; keep to the main road, which is obvious and easy to follow. Beyond a clearing on the left, you will cross a wooden bridge over Doctors Brook. Past the bridge, there is another Y intersection. Bear right onto the less distinct, grassy trail. When we pedaled this ride, there were several small white signs with a red mountain bike stencil marking this route.
Turning right past Doctors Brook takes you along a very pretty section of this ride. You will be in the woods, a combination of hard- and softwoods that are spectacular in the autumn, and the trail often comes very close to the brook. The most startling characteristic of this portion of the ride is how quiet it is; the canopy of branches and leaves seems to muffle even the gentle sound of the brook. The trail climbs steadily but gradually along a hard-packed trail. You will cross an old culvert, which now looks like a wooden frame strewn with stones, before coming to a rickety wooden bridge across the brook. Use caution across this bridge, which may not prove stable enough to ride over.
As you approach the top of the climb, you will pass an open, clear-cut meadow on the right. A grassy trail branches to the right into this cleared area, but be sure to continue up the main trail. A short distance beyond this point, you will come to a T junction with a major logging road. Turn left. At this point, you will be leaving behind the shade of the tall, old hardwoods along Doctors Brook and entering a landscape created by the timber industry. The logging roads along the top of Eigg Mountain have opened up the previously dense forest. While this has dramatically altered the landscape and forced riders to endure the heat of the sun, it has also opened up some views and increased the opportunities to spot wildlife. We were lucky enough to watch the graceful movements of a deer bounding off into the trees as we quietly rolled along one of these roads.
After turning onto the first logging road, ride past another double-track logging road branching off to the left. Continue straight on the main road and pass the signed K. Teasdale Road, also on the left. At a T junction with another major logging road, turn right. You will climb a short distance before entering a cleared area with a logging road branching off to the left. Continue straight past this road, and descend a short slope before looking for another logging road, this one branching off the main trail to the right. At this junction, the ride continues straight on the main logging road. However, the road on the right will take you down to Vincent's Lake, a worthwhile side trip that offers several good rest and snack spots.
If you opt to take this trip, follow the road straight past a left offshoot. On your right, you will notice a water-filled channel that is actually an old canal. For the humorous story surrounding this abandoned project, you may want to refer to Geoff Brown and Kermit Degooyer's Mountain Bike Nova Scotia. Ride alongside the canal to where the trail curves around to the left. Here, a short, steep slope straight ahead of you leads into a grassy area, where you can see the lock to the canal and Vincent's Lake in the distance. Although you can follow the main trail out to the lake a short distance farther on, the route becomes muddy and there are no ideal places to stop and linger by the lake. When you have finished exploring, turn right, back onto the main logging road.
Continuing on the main logging road beyond the side trip to Vincent's Lake, you will ride through a recently logged area that boasts a fine network of snowmobile trails, judging from all the signs. A short distance farther on, you will pass a road branching off on the right that is signed for snowmobiles as Trail 716. Continue on the main road, passing an offshoot on the left just before the road enters the woods and begins to descend. At this point along the ride, you will pass a sign that reads:"Caution: Steep Descent." Indeed, it is all downhill from here!
A short way along the descent, you will pass an opening that affords a tremendous view across the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island. Beyond this opening, the descent is long and winding, and follows a rocky old road around several sharp bends and over a few culverts. You will cross one bridge, passing a right offshoot just beyond it. At a clearing and three-way intersection, continue straight, passing a bridge on the left and following a sign for McArras Brook. From here, the trail is easy to follow. You will pass several side trails branching off in both directions, cross another bridge, and pass a logging yard before reaching a T junction with Highway 245. Turn right and ride on pavement back to Arisaig Provincial Park, which will be on your left.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication