Get back to nature year-round on the Bay of Fundy, exploring its hiking and biking trails, unique tidal range and distinct ecoregions.
By Darcy Rhyno | March 17, 2021
Banking my bike, with its super-wide, heavily treaded fat tires, around a snowy bend on the Maple Grove Trail here in Fundy National Park, I let out a full whoop. Popping into a clearing, I glimpse the chocolate-coloured Bay of Fundy in the distance and the coast of Nova Scotia beyond. Unlike in summer, the coast is frosted with snow and ice.
Our guide and the source of our rental bikes, John McNair of Outdoor Elements in nearby Sussex, leads my group to a rustic cabin, where we make a fire and cook up a comforting lunch. Back on the bikes, we dart down Cygnus Trail. Other park trails like Ursa Major and Cassiopeia are also named for constellations in honour of Fundy’s designation as a dark-sky preserve.
I remember hiking these same trails in summer, when emerald moss carpets the forest floor, mushrooms pop up in the fog-dampened shade, and summer birds flit about the branches. Swimming in pristine lakes and backcountry paddling are favourite visitor activities, then. In spring, Dickson Falls gushes over mossy rocks beside the trail of the same name. Now, all that green is tucked beneath a blanket of snow.
I remember hiking these same trails in summer, when emerald moss carpets the forest floor and mushrooms pop up in the fog-dampened shade.
Other park trails like Ursa Major and Cassiopeia are also named for constellations in honour of Fundy’s designation as a dark-sky preserve. This is a designated area that makes a special commitment to protect and preserve the night.
We ride to the Headquarters visitor centre at the park entrance. Across the street is a manicured dip in the landscape called “the bowl.” We grab some toboggans and jog to the top of the hill. From up here, the way down seems extra steep and the bottom far away.
Equally anxious and excited, I settle onto what now seems a flimsy piece of wood. With a shove I’m off, flying down the side of the bowl. The closer I get to the bottom, the icier it gets, until I totally lose control and go into a tailspin. At last, I come to a stop at the edge of the golf course, so green in summer, so blindingly white now.
Barrelling down the bowl and fat-tire biking are just two of many winter activities here. Other visitors are cross-country skiing and snowshoeing the trails. I’ve booked a spot on tonight’s winter walk and tour of the night sky with interpretation supervisor Dan Sinclair.
Right now, it’s time to join him on a walk on the ocean floor, because the world’s highest tides have receded nearly a kilometre into the bay. As he does year-round, Sinclair leads a group out to the water’s edge, where we find creatures like slipper limpets, barnacles and periwinkles. Returning to shore, we check out fishing boats at the wharf in the village of Alma, settled into cradles that prevent them from tipping over when the tide drains the harbour.
To warm up, I stop at Buddha Bear Coffee Roasters & Holy Whale Brewing Co. for a cappuccino. As I sip, I learn that brothers Peter and Jeff Grandy built their dual-purpose business in this former church because they had fond memories of visiting the park as kids. I plan to return after this evening’s adventures for a pint of Champ, their citrusy APA.
It’s time for the short walk back to the park and my cozy oTENTik—a gas fireplace keeps it toasty warm. As I walk through town, it feels like I have this spectacular place nearly to myself, unlike in summer or even autumn, when visitors are attracted by the fall colours. If I had to pick a favourite time of year, I’m not sure I could. As I’ve learned on this trip, Fundy fun is a full four seasons long.