Check out the Cabot Trail & Cape Breton Highlands National Park on your visit to Canada
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
It may not be a household name around the world like “Everest” or “the Alps,” but just utter “Cabot Trail” adventurers and cyclists in the know and watch them get visibly excited. Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail and Cape Breton Highland's park contain too much to describe in a single go--there’s over 100 miles of coastline to drive or cycle through,, hiking, and all kinds of other outdoor activities. It takes over three hours to drive the whole circuit, but with all the incredible stops it could easily take over a week, so a few words are in order.
The Cabot Trail offers a range of excursions, for different fitness levels and for different things to see. You can select the kind of terrain or landscape you feel like seeing. Cliffs, rivers, forests. Take an easy walk, a tougher trek or a literal climb. There are so many options available in this enormous park that there is a full guide online describing the different paths, with profiles of what you’re likely to encounter on each one, from the terrain’s difficulty to the wildlife.
… to make things easier our hikes are listed in order from the south west and then follow north… but there is so much to write, so will stop and cover the east end in a future post. These trails are especially accessible if you’re staying at Cheticamp or Pleasant Bay.
Acadian Hike Cabot Trail - Great Canada Tour Experience
This is a great first big hike you should check out. Altogether, it’ll take between three to four hours. The entire thing is just over 8 kilometres. Make sure you begin it early enough, so that daylight isn’t an issue. You don’t want to feel rushed, especially if you stop along the way to eat or enjoy stopping at a particularly scenic stretch.
It’s really close to Cheticamp, which many people stay at because of all the cabins and bed and breakfasts there.
There are multiple forested trails forming a loop. It’s a bit of a hill, which provides you the great view, but if you’re generally active you’ll have no trouble on it. It’s pretty much a walk. But if you do feel tired and not up for a four hour hike you can do a half loop, but you won’t get all the great views. Obviously we recommend doing the full thing.
Skyline Trail - Gorgeous Viewpoints Traveling Canada
This is one of the most famous hikes in Canada or dare we say the world. This means two things: it’s beautiful, but it’ll get busy. It’s located just a bit north from Acadian, but just south of Pleasant Bay. Don’t miss it! It’s really a gem.
It’s also about 8 kilometres but it’s flat in most parts, so it takes about 2.5-3 hours or so to walk, but plan on enjoying more with some extra time. We strongly recommend taking the optional extra steps down the wooden walkway towards the shore and enjoying. You’ll have an incredible coastal vista to your right the whole time, and you’d be crazy to come out all this way and not see it. Seriously, this view is the reason you’re here.
Apart from ocean views the other thing you’ll see a lot of is moose. They’re everywhere! But don’t get too close, especially during mating season.
Pro tip: to avoid people and get views with the most dramatic sunlight, go at sunrise or sunset. If you’re going to go late, don’t forget a headlamp/torch! It gets dark. It is also dramatic in its own way at this time.
other spots worthy of exploration and hiking in Cape Breton Highlands Canada
North of Pleasant Bay you’ll see six more awesome hikes, each with tons of great places to stop and take in a scenic view. Remember, there’s no reason to rush: you came here to relax, so stop and take it in. Out Here really liked Blue Ban Falls. It’s a short walk, only an hour and a half. Middle Head is another cool hike. In addition to the regular nature you’ll see, there are also cool Canadian Military fortifications that are no longer in use.
Exit the Cape Breton Highlands Park to the north to get to Meat Cove. The roads here are newly paved, the little place is beautiful and the campground can be described as “epic.” The winds howl, and the views are magnificent. Tie your tent down tight! There’s a great, short hike to the north. Work up an appetite, because when you’re finished there’s no shortage of things to eat the local Chowder Hut: Crab, mussels, and, of course, chowder. Of course, wash it down with some beer.
Keep your eyes open! There’s all kinds of birds in the air, moose on the earth. If you look at the open water at the right time, you’ll even see seals or whales. If you do see deer or moose, don’t feed them or get too close. They may seem friendly, and they can be, but they have not signed contracts with the park, guaranteeing they won’t bite, attack, or just straight up eat you.
The treks will change depending on the season. While the park is open year-round, certain services are only offered between mid-May and mid-October. There may be less to no maintenance in off-peak times, too. Many people choose Fall for the brilliant colours, and because the brisk but fresh air is ideal for hiking. Wear layers properly, and you’ll never be cold. In winter, there’s snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Paddle, travel and adventure on.
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