We welcomed the New Year in Nova Scotia, staying at the Big Hill Retreat near Baddeck Nova Scotia. The weather was un-believably warm, we had days close to 8 degrees Celsius and on New Year’s Day we decided to go for a hike to see the Uishge Ban Falls Trail. We had wanted to visit the park when we were in Cape Breton in the Fall but just didn’t have enough time to visit everywhere on our wish list so we decided that January was as good a time as any!
We’ve heard that it is a very busy trail in the summer and sometimes the parking lot is completely full but when we got there on a snowy late morning on New Year’s Day there were only two other vehicles in the parking lot. There was some fresh snow but it was just below freezing, we took the River Trail along the Baddeck River which is not the direct route to the Uisge Ban Falls but we wanted to see as much as possible so took the River Trail which, after a nice loops through the forest and along the river, catches up to the Falls Trail and takes you to the base of the falls.
DD was glad to have her hiking poles as the trail, with the snow and icy patches, was slow going at sometimes on the steep sections of the trail along the river. It would definitely be an easy hike in any other season but there were a few wet patches and navigating the hidden roots and rocks hidden under snow wasn’t always possible to look for birds in the trees as we had to ensure our feet weren’t stepping in a covered hazard.
It’s always interesting to hike a trail in winter because, without the leaves in the trees, we can see deeper into the forest and could see across the Baddeck River to the other banks and up to the hills. It gives us a new perspective when we don’t have a tight canopy of leaves over our heads but instead can see into the distance at the curves and valleys of the landscape all around us.
It’s about 2.8 km to do the River Trail loop and arrive at the Falls Trail for the final run towards the falls. By the time we started the gentle ascent on the final 500 meters to the falls we were really looking forward to our lunch. We had packed a thermos of hot water for some chicken noodle cup-o-soups and had sandwiches as well…we were getting very hungry!
As we made our way through the valley that leads to the Uisge Ban Falls we saw hundreds of bluish icicles hanging off the rock faces of the valley. With no leaves in the trees we could see far and high up and hanging off every rock surface was a multitude of gorgeous icicles, some of them looking over 3 meters long.
We crossed a bridge over the brook and the sound of the falls was getting much louder. As we finally approached, with the icy pools of water and smooth contoured ice formations we felt really excited to be there! The cascading water from the falls with the snow nestling on the rocks and icicles everywhere created a serene winter wonderland.
There is a bench at the foot of the falls and we set out our two hot-seats, made ourselves a hot cup of chicken noodle soup and enjoyed a sandwich while watching the water splash and dance on the rocks from above.
While we were there we only saw two other hiking groups who arrived to take pictures, we were lucky to get the bench! I’m sure during the summer there would be a constant crowd on the trail so we felt fortunate to be able to enjoy a few minutes alone by the falls by ourselves.
Uisge Ban is Gaelic for “white water”, and is pronounced (ish-ka-ban).