My mom and I turned into the French Mountain parking lot in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I pulled into a parking space and walked over to the Skyline Trail sign. I had heard about this trail, it was supposed to be the premier Cape Breton hikes in the park for views. I had seen pictures, I had been told it was a ‘must-do’, I had read about it, I had drank the Skyline Trail Kool-Aid; and I wanted to do it. We looked at the trail map and determined it wasn’t hard, but it would take a couple of hours to complete.
We looked at each other and realized we didn’t have time to do it. We had to keep going. We’d never make it around Cabot Trail and to our hotel if we started stopping to hike at all of the incredible trails in the park. I reluctantly got back in the car and we kept going.
I drove around the trail with a sinking feeling. Nova Scotia is known for outdoor activities and adventures, and I didn’t really have time to do any of them. The only solace I could muster up was making a pact with myself I would come back again and just stay on Cape Breton so I could do all of hikes and adventures I wanted to.
Fast-forward four years and I’m back in Cape Breton to fulfill that plan. I spent a week on the island with friends Pete and Dalene of Hecktic Travels . We focused on getting outside each day on a different walk, hike, or adventure. This way we were able to see and experience the variety of adventures the island offered.
Easy Cape Breton Hikes and Adventures
These are not the hardest hikes on the island, these are simply nice short day hikes or walks you can do and also enjoy other things the island has to offer. If you are looking for hard-core hikes, then check out the hiking and camping options in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Difficulty: Easy – the trail is well marked and there isn’t much elevation change. The trail itself is well groomed and easy to walk. The loop section is a bit more rugged, but still in the easy category.
Distance: 4 miles return or 5.1 mile loop
Location: Located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park along the Cabot Trail at the top of French Mountain. There are signs for the parking lot.
This is it – the trail that brought me back! The trail is fairly average for the first 2/3rd of the walk as you wind through the forest and get teased by views of Cabot Trail through the trees. But it’s the last 1/3 that will have you oohing and aahing as you suddenly leave the forest area behind and are high on top of a headland cliff overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A boardwalk with stairs leads you down to a viewpoint with benches. Keep your eyes peeled for whales and enjoy the view. This is also a great place for a sunset hike!
Mabou Western Coastal Hike
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate – the trail is well marked, but in spots you’ll need to watch your footing as there are tree roots in some parts. However the short distance of this trail also makes it pretty easy.
Distance: 1.8 miles if you go all the way to the end and back
Location: Trailhead and map is near the parking lot before you head down to the beach.
This is a short little hike but I was slowed down by the beach views. This can be a simple out and back trail, or you can go along the bluffs on the way out and follow the trail down to the beach and walk back along the beach. You start out in a dense area of Spruce trees, and then you pop out on top of the sand dunes where it’s more of an open field. We walked back along the beach and enjoyed the crashing waves and meeting locals along the beach.
Difficulty: this is a simple walk anyone can do.
Distance: Nearly 1 mile to the end of the boardwalk
Location: 158 Beach No. 1 Road, Inverness – head towards the ocean until the road ends, and you’ll be at the beginning of the boardwalk. There is parking by the beach.
This really isn’t a hike, it’s just a nice little walk where you can soak up the sea air and a lovely place for sunset. The boardwalk begins at the public beach, runs above the beach, and ends overlooking the Cabot Links Golf Course. If you are tired of watching the ocean, you can watch golfers tee off on one of the best courses in the world. There were a lot of locals out walking their dogs along the beach and swimming in the shallow waters.
Difficulty: easy to moderate. There is some rolling up and down – but nothing steep. The trail is well marked and groomed. There are some places where you need to watch your footing.
Distance: 2.4 mile loop
Location: Parking is located at the trail head behind the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish.
Hike out the narrow peninsula separating two ocean bays and end on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll wind through the forest and then out a slight uphill to the end of the peninsula. Here you can sit and watch the sea birds soar overhead and take in the beauty of Cape Breton. There is a loop trail that will take you back a more forested way, or go back the way you came.
Full Moon Kayak Adventure
If you are looking to give your legs a break and give your upper body a workout, then try this full moon kayak adventure. This isn’t just a paddle adventure, you will also be treated to gourmet local food and wine.
As the sun goes down you’ll leave the shore in Baddeck and do a golden hour paddle around Kidsten Island. Keep your eyes peeled for seabirds around the island. Right before the sun disappears you’ll end up at the Kidsten Island lighthouse where you can beach your kayaks and get photos of this idyllic setting.
We paddled up to the shore where there were platters of food being prepared at our own private gazebo. The food was prepared by chef Brian Pickard of the popular local restaurant, the Bite House. The food was paired with Nova Scotia wine and beer, as well as some music! Our guide suddenly got out a guitar and we had live entertainment. I loved the vibe of this whole evening; it was like a gourmet camping night.
They only run this nighttime tour during the full moon so be sure to check the North River Kayak website for the dates. And if you are in Baddeck when it’s not a full moon, you can still do a spectacular kayak trip around the area during the daytime hours.
Unlike my trip 4 years ago, this week on Cape Breton was a complete look at the island. We didn’t have to rush, we could get outside and enjoy the views, nature, and culture of every part of the island. In addition to these adventures, we also spent a day at Cabot Cliffs golf course, and a day on the Cabot Trail. As I left the island at the end of my second Cape Breton trip I wondered what was left for me to explore when I came back a third time! The one thing I’m certain of is this island will never be done, there’s always more to see and do.
How do you get to Cape Breton for outdoor adventures? It’s easy!
It’s easy to get to the Cape Breton with daily direct service from the NYC area to Halifax! There are several flights a day via Air Canada/United direct to Newark and via Delta direct to LGA. Its just a 2 hr flight and you have US Customs pre-clearance at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport for the return trip! PLUS…you can carry on and carry home fresh lobster from the Halifax airport!
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I was a guest of Nova Scotia Tourism however my desire to go back to Cape Breton for a second time was all mine so that I could have more time in this lovely place. All opinions expressed here are mine.