7 Best Hikes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Cape Breton Highlands National Park Overview

Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a picturesque park located on northern Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. The park is home to breathtaking scenery, diverse wildlife, and stunning hiking trails. With its gorgeous coastal vistas, majestic mountains, and vibrant green forests, Cape Breton Highlands National Park offers an outdoor enthusiast the opportunity to experience the beauty of nature. The Cabot Trail, one of North America’s most scenic travelways, loops around northern Cape Breton and runs for nearly 300 km. Approximately one-third (106 km) of the Cabot Trail is located within the park’s boundaries.In this article, we will explore the best hikes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

LocationNova Scotia
Nearest Metro AreaHalifax, NS
Area Size333,746 acres
Hiking Trails52 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Skyline Trail 

Skyline Trail on the Cabot Trail - Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Skyline Trail on the Cabot Trail, Photo by Tony Webster

A dramatic headland cliff overlooks the rugged coast from the end of this level trail. You can enjoy an eagle’s view of the Cabot Trail as it winds its way down the mountain – vehicles look like toys. Watch for whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the viewing decks. Moose, bald eagles, bears and numerous boreal birds live in this habitat. Be cautious with children around the cliffs and give moose a wide berth. The headland plants are very fragile and easily damaged by trampling, so stay on the boardwalk. It is best to hike the trail during the early morning or late afternoon when the lighting is perfect for capturing beautiful photographs.

  • 5.1 mile (8.2km) loop
  • 950′ (290m) elevation gain
  • Moderate

Franey Trail

Franey, Photo by Graigory Sutherland

You climb up and up and your reward is at the top! Large flat rocks give you a nice place to sit and enjoy the 360º views of the entire Clyburn Brook canyon and the Atlantic coastline from Cape Smokey to Ingonish. Gaze back at the mountains, the sheer rocky face of Franey Mountain, or the river winding through the valley, 425 m below. Keep an eye out for wildlife – moose like this habitat too.

  • 4.6 mile (7.4km) loop
  • 1,100′ (335m) elevation gain
  • Moderate

Middle Head Trail

Middle Head Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Middle Head Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Photo by Buddha Dog

The Middle Head Trail is a moderate hike that takes visitors along the coastline and through a forested area. The trail offers stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, cliffs, and wildlife. The trail is perfect for those who are looking for a shorter hike and want to experience the beauty of the park’s coastline.

  • 2.4 miles (3.8km) out and back
  • 150′ (45m) elevation gain
  • Easy

Blueberry Mountain Trail

The Blueberry Mountain Trail is unmarked but still one of the best hikes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This trail is a true gem for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and a challenging yet rewarding trek through the rugged wilderness.

  • 4.5 miles (7.3km) out and back
  • 1,450’ (442m) elevation gain
  • Strenuous

Acadian Trail

Cape Breton, Canada
Acadian Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Photo by katiebordner

Climb 365 meters above the Chéticamp River for panoramic views of the Acadian coastline, the Chéticamp river valley and the park’s highland interior. Benches along the way let you rest periodically and enjoy the scenery. Watch how the forest changes as you climb steadily to the top and be on the look-out for black bear and moose.

  • 5.2 mile (8.4km) loop
  • 1,130′ (345m) elevation gain
  • Moderate

Fishing Cove Trail

Fishing Cove from Cabot Trail
Fishing Cove from Cabot Trail, Photo by A S

You are 355 meters (1,165 feet) above sea level! Hike from the top of the mountain about six kilometers down to a small ocean cove and grassy clearing – the only designated wilderness camp site in the park. This was once the site of a Scottish fishing community and these settlers traded with the French for supplies. Explore the beach, roam the hills or swim in fresh or saltwater. You must register at a park visitor center prior to camping.

  • 7.5 miles (12km) out and back
  • 1,165′ (355m) elevation gain
  • Moderate

Aspy Trail

DSC09918 - Aspy Fault
Aspy Fault, Photo by Dennis Jarvis

This trail meanders along the Aspy fault, through an Acadian and mixed forest. As nature reclaims land once used for farming and logging, a regenerated forest begins to blend in with the old growth. The magnificent red oak and the hoots of the barred owl or great horned owl will appeal to the true nature enthusiast. Recent work on this trail has made several stream crossings easier, but waterproof hiking boots are recommended.

  • 6.0 miles (9.6km) out and back
  • 1,280′ (390m) elevation gain
  • Moderate

Featured Image: Cape Breton Highlands National Park- Cabot Trail- Green Cove, Photo by Mhsheikholeslami

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2 Responses

  1. peter hinman

    I found this post very useful to my upcoming visit to Cape Breton NP. in early October. I am planning visits to Canadian NPs in every province and territory as well as to every US national park. So, I’d be interested in your blogs on any of those. Thanks again for this one!

    • Trailhead Traveler

      Many thanks, Peter! There are posts on most of the hiking-friendly Canadian National Parks as well as best hikes in each of the US National Parks and National Forests! Enjoy your upcoming trip!
      -Chris / Trailhead Traveler

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