The powersports market, comprised of traditional four-wheelers (ATVs) and newer-style side-by-side rigs (UTVs) has always been a going concern in rural corners of Nova Scotia. Hitting the trails for a day of wheeling with friends or jumping on a machine to traverse into a favourite duck blind has always been a staple of life outside our urban areas.
Heading into the woods for recreation is popular as well – especially since the phrase ‘social distancing’ popped into the modern lexicon two-and-a-half years ago. In between lockdowns and general malaise, retailers of ATVs and UTVs began seeing a spike in demand for their products.
After all, how better to get away from the neighbours than to don a helmet and pile into a machine designed to easily drive over rough terrain?
Nova Scotia has a vast network of off-road trails, many of which are maintained and signposted by local ATV or snowmobile clubs. And when we say signposted, we don’t mean a damp piece of cardboard marked up with a Sharpie and nailed to a tree at drunken angles.
The vast majority of official trails in this province employ metal or wooden signs of nearly the same design as what you’d find on our highways – complete with directional arrows and the scattered stop sign.
This is good news for anyone new to the sport or the province. It wasn’t all that long ago that finding one’s way through the warren of trails required the knowledge of a local and a solid dose of luck. Dead ends were common, as were sudden pits of mire and fallen trees.
These days, the trails are much more welcoming to anyone who’s slapped down the bucks for a new machine, making it easy to spend a relaxing day in the country on your ATV or side-by-side.
Ample parking at trailheads is important for those trucks and trailers
In your author’s neck of the Nova Scotia woods, some trailheads have ample parking facilities for a truck and trailer – important since anyone hailing from a suburban area is likely to load up their machine on a flat deck and cart it to the riding area instead of taking off directly from their backyard.
The areas of East Mountain and Kemptown are two of this rider’s favourite spots, with a variety of surfaces on approved trails ranging from messy mud to wide-open dirt roads. The local Eco-Trail Society keeps an eye on sustainability while club members maintain the routes.
RideCommand app helps navigate the network of trails
In an inspired fit of forward thinking, someone in the province has had the presence of mind to incorporate our trail system into a navigational app which runs under the Polaris banner. Called RideCommand, it obviously works seamlessly with the nav systems in rigs from that brand but can be used by anyone, even owners of machines from other marques or folks who’ve rented a machine for a day.
Trails are clearly marked as brown lines on the RideCommand app, properly labelled with their attendant numbers which match up with the aforementioned physical signs on the trails. It’d be a bridge too far to suggest the network is a thoroughly signposted as the Trans-Canada Highway but they are generally very well marked and easy to follow.
Speaking of bridges, there are no shortage of water crossings in this province, some of which are deep enough to require the services of a bridge.
This is where local ATV clubs come into play, with members volunteering their time to construct and maintain these connections, sometimes with the help of local businesses who supply materials or donate money.
An auto recycler, for example, donated much of the metal required to build the span on one of your author’s favourite trails; a sign thanking the business for its contributions has stood there for years and will for many more. It’s a great example of community involvement by small business – and if ATVers shop there because of it, so much the better.
Cell service can be spotty along some of the trails, while others provide up to five bars if you stand on one foot and chew on some tinfoil.
Despite knowing the area well, this rider thinks it is a good idea to install a two-way radio in an ATV or side-by-side, with units like the Midland Micromobile being the weapon of choice.
All functions are handled right on the mic surface, permitting the base to be stashed out of sight. Since these things don’t rely on the cellular network, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be able to reach another user in case of an emergency.
ATV-Friendly Nova Scotia
Restaurants on the North Shore of this province, such as Big Al’s and a few others, are ATV friendly and provide trail-adjacent parking for off-road rigs. It isn’t uncommon for a group of buddies to meet up at a trailhead in the morning, stop for lunch at a place like Big Al’s in Tatamagouche around midday, then make their way back to their trucks by suppertime.
It is a great idea to get a trail pass from the provincial ATVANS group, which funnels some money to local clubs for ground maintenance, so you can enjoy all the off-road adventure our area has to offer.
Whether you’re on the go with a bunch of friends or riding solo, Nova Scotia has ample space – and beautiful scenery – for off-road gearheads.