1. Celtic Shores Coastal Trail, Cape Breton Island
Part of the 92-km Celtic Shores Coastal Trail, this gorgeous off-road ride along the western coast of Cape Breton combines the north section of one trail (the Ceilidh Coastal trail) with the south section of another (the Judique Flyer trail) for an approximate distance of 13 km one way. Start at Christy’s Lookoff trailhead, with beautiful views of St. George’s Bay. Head north to Michael’s Landing on the hard-packed, mostly level dirt trail. While you pedal, you’ve got a lot to look out for: whales, lobster boats, several small fishing communities, natural ponds with tons of wildlife, history panels with info about the early Scottish pioneers and two pioneer cemeteries. If you need a break, there are several rest areas and picnic shelters. Just north of Michael’s Landing is the town of Judique and the famous Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, where you can get authentic Cape Breton fare (chowder and fish cakes and more) as well as plenty of good tunes.
Go biking: Christy’s Lookout trailhead, Hwy 19 north of Creignish, Cape Breton Island
2. Miller Point Peace Park, Dayspring
Time to go loop-de-loop! This 3-km trail system near Lunenburg has level, wide trails that are just right for smaller cyclists, and you can choose how many loops to do to customize your bike-ride distance. Bike through mature red pines on the intersecting loop trails, zip over little bridges and watch the rippling LaHave River. There are interpretative stations with info about the area’s flora and fauna, as well as picnic tables, benches, outdoor washrooms and ample parking.
Go biking: Dayspring, just off Hwy 3
3. Bay to Bay Trail, Lunenburg/Mahone Bay
Bike from pretty, coastal Lunenburg northward to the equally pretty Mahone Bay along the 10-km (one way) Bay to Bay trail. In Lunenburg, park at the old train station, follow the Back Harbour Trail signs and watch for the signs directing you to the Bay to Bay Trail. The wide, well-maintained trail follows the path of an old railway bed. Enjoy a simple inland bike ride along a beautiful big wetland (look for muskrats and beavers) and mixed hardwood and pine forest, passing over a few railed bridges along the way. There aren’t washrooms or picnic areas en route, but you can use facilities at either end of the trail. In Mahone Bay, follow the “Town Centre” signs (this involves some riding on lightly travelled roads) to explore the town’s fun shops and eateries. One local fave is Rebecca’s Restaurant, which offers fresh seasonal dishes.
Go biking: Bay to Bay Trail, parallel to Maple Ave/Rte 3, Lunenburg
4. Jakes Landing to Merrymakedge Beach, Maitland Bridge
Affectionately known as “Keji,” Kejimkujik National Park in southern Nova Scotia is beloved for its wild beauty. Check it out by bike on a 3km (one way) multi-use trail that starts at Jakes Landing (a great place to watch canoes and kayaks) and a steep climb through scattered boulders. Continue down the forested path, keeping an eye out for big black-and-white pileated woodpeckers. Stop by the viewing tower, which highlights the dense canopy of hemlock and beech trees, and continue to the fun playground at Merrymakedge. Next, follow a flat and easy path along the shore of Kejimkujik Lake to the canteen (time for a snack!) and the beach for plenty of playtime. When you’re ready to head out, pedal back the way you came.
Go biking: Kejimkujik National Park, 3005 Main Parkway, Maitland Bridge
Price: Family day pass $14.70
5. Salt Marsh Trail, Cole Harbour
Do a little island hopping! This 6.5-km (one way) crushed gravel trail east of Dartmouth is level and takes you across and beside half a dozen little islands connected by bridges and causeways in a protected conservation area. It follows the path of a former railway line called The Blueberry Express. It brought blueberries to market, although some say it also made lots of stops for passengers to pick berries—can you find some? At the 1-km mark, you get to Bald Eagle Bridge, which has restrooms and a picnic area. View the vast saltwater marsh that’s home to all kinds of shore birds, including eagles, and smell the salty sea air. Bike the whole route or turn around whenever you’re ready. The trail is marked at every kilometer, which may encourage kids to go the distance!
Go biking: Cole Harbour Heritage Park, 256 Bissett Road, Cole Harbour
6. Chicken Cougar Trail, Keppoch Mountain
If your kids can’t wait to bike down a mountain (gulp!), try the Chicken Cougar, a 1.3-km beginner trail that winds through the woods on the west side of Keppoch Mountain near Antigonish. Visit the bike-park website and you can even watch a two-minute bike-cam video of the trail to see exactly what it’s like. There’s parking at the bottom of the trail, as well as a pump track to practice skills and a lodge where you can use the bathroom and munch on your own snacks.
Go biking: Keppoch Mountain, 193 Keppoch Road, Northumberland Shore
Price: Day pass $35, including shuttle ride to the top