Hiking the Hemlocks and Hardwoods Trail
At Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy and exploring.
The National Park is near Caledonia, Nova Scotia.
Jeremy’s Bay offers traditional (front country) camping for both tenting and RVs, with both serviced and unserviced sites. You can also go backcountry camping. You pre-book sites still but you’ll be hiking and canoeing into these more remote areas of the park.
One of our family’s favourite things to do is walk/hike the many trails you’ll find in the park. There are a couple of longer backcountry hikes, a 24km overnight, and 56km 3-night, but most are one to five kilometres and easily finished in an hour or two.
The Hemlocks and Hardwoods 5km trail is a favourite of mine. Mainly because of the 300-year-old Hemlocks and the wooden boardwalk through the forest.
The boardwalk was built to keep the forest floor and tree roots from being damaged by foot traffic. I love the peacefulness and quietness of the forest. Seeing the odd chipmunk, squirrel or snake is common.
Dogs are welcome but must be leashed and not running free.
Below I’ve captured the Hemlocks and Hardwoods trail in photos so you can see the beauty of the forest. Maybe you’ll be inspired to visit Kejimkujik National Park one day. For now, follow me …
The Trail in Photos
A short drive will bring you to a parking area, where you will begin walking to the start of the trail.
There is good signage to let you know where to go.
The Beginning of the Trail
This is the first sign, at the start of the hike.
These signs are used throughout the hike to give information and point out various facts.
The hike starts in a new growth forest of hardwoods and pines. A history of fires and logging here, hence the young forest.
You will then move into an old-growth hemlock forest, which is rare and protected.
This section of hardwood forest is filled with large-toothed Aspen.
This trees life span of 85 years means you will see many fallen logs and standing dead trees. This attracts woodpeckers.
Eventually the white pines will take over, growing tall and changing the forest.
The tall white pines look old but are approximately 75-85 years old and they can live to be three or four times this age.
The forests are protected here in the National Park and will go through a natural process of growth and change.
This may one day become an old-growth pine forest. Some will die from lightning strikes or winds.
Hot and Dry
Here, you’ll find oaks and maples, and openings where sunlight finds its way through the trees and to the forest floor.
The leaves fall and decompose creating good soil for shrub growth. This is suitable for wildlife such as birds, to build nests amongst the ferns.
I disturbed a small snake resting in the sun on the trail. As I got closer he quickly moved into the cover of the leaves and under a fallen log. Can you find him?
You will pass through a transition zone, where young hemlocks have started growing. As they get bigger their branches which are covered in needles, will shade the forest below.
This creates a cooler and moister environment and an acidic soil that other trees and plants don’t like.
Eventually the hemlocks take over and spread to further areas.
The Middle of the Trail
The boardwalk was built to protect the roots of the oldest growth. This section of forest is so peaceful and quiet, and my favourite part to walk through.
The center trees in the photo ‘The Oldest Growth’ are 400 years old, and further along the boardwalk are trees aged 275 years approximately.
Strong winds will fell older trees, creating openings in the canopy allowing light to stream in.
Ferns and other plants and trees will grow, and eventually one tree will take over and fill the gap.
Moist and Cool
Moss grows in the cool moist shade of the hemlocks. It covers the ground and creates a soft green floor.
The moss creates a perfect environment for Hemlock seeds to germinate and grow. Another reason for the boardwalk is to protect the moss, as it’s very sensitive to trampling.
These signs along the path remind you of this, and why it is so important to stay on the boardwalk. Reminding us to do our part in the preservation of this great forest.
The Hemlock in the pictures below started growing in moss and dirt on the rock, and the roots now reach down around the rock and into the ground below.
With so much of the tree’s roots exposed, it’s fragile and care must be taken.
The sign asks us to please not climb on the rock, which would further damage the roots.
I love this tree! It’s so unique, not something you see often.
The boardwalk continues for a short time, and when it comes to an end the dirt trail continues.
In an old-growth forest, you will see young trees and seedlings and old trees like the Hemlocks.
This great diversity in the forest is a good habitat for birds, plants, and fungi.
The sign tells us that old-growth forests are protected in Kejimkujik National Park.
The End of the Trail
As you hike the last of the trail you make your way back around to the beginning where you first came in and started the trail.
Just before you reach that point there are information boards. One tells of using a controlled fire to renew the forest, the other tells a story about the forest passed down from the Mi’kmaw elders.
If you visit Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site in Nova Scotia, and enjoy nature hikes and walks, I recommend the Hemlocks and Hardwoods trail. It takes about 60-90 minutes to walk the trail and makes for a nice morning or afternoon activity.
Several trails are shorter in length and therefore it’s possible to do two or three in a day. I hope you enjoyed following along and viewing the trail in photos. If you’re looking to follow along on more hikes, my family has walked the Gold Mines trail and Snake Lake trail.