Posts filed under ‘Cabot Trail’

The Cabot Trail

Cape Breton

It’s easy to see why the Cabot Trail is consistently called one of the world’s best road trips, most scenic drives, loveliest roads, etc. The crown jewel of Cape Breton Island, this was one of the days I was most looking forward to, out of the whole road trip. It didn’t disappoint, to say the least.

Cabot Trail

Speedy motorists can probably drive the Cabot Trail, which winds through the highlands on the northwest part of Cape Breton, in 2 or 3 hours, but guidebooks recommend at least 6 hours if you only have a day to spend here. If you really want to take it all in, you should stay a couple of days. Quite a few of the scenic spots are only accessible by hiking, so it takes some time to cover all of the ground. Unfortunately, the girls and I had tickets for a midnight ferry to Newfoundland, so we only had from lunchtime until about sunset. It was enough to fall in love with the national park, but not enough time to see everything, and I’ve been dreaming of a trip back ever since.

Girls on the Trail

From the first scenic pull-off, we knew it was going to be a great day! The weather was perfect, the water was sparkling, and Christina has a knack for getting all three of us plus a scenic background in her self-portraits.

Cabot Trail

The prettiest parts of the Cabot Trail are the ends, which follow the hills along the water. Thrilling in a magical way on a perfect day like the one we had, thrilling in a terrible way on days with bad weather, I’m sure! We drove the trail from west to east, because that’s how it fit into our itinerary, but it’s also the traditional way to explore it. Traveling along the innermost part of the trail used to be essential in the pre-guardrail days. I’m relieved they finally put some guardrails up!

Park Interior

When the Cabot Trail cuts across the interior of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the landscape changes from pristine to kind of craggy. The forest is rich and the hills are impressive, but the scenic turnoffs seemed a little less scenic without the super-blue water. So we cut down on our scenic turnoffs and plowed through, mostly. We did make one stop in the interior, and we turned out to be so glad that we did.

In the small parking lot, we were wandering and taking photos when we overheard a conversation coming from the only other car in the lot, a red SUV. An adorable boy, maybe about 4 years old, was running around, making faces at me, while his parents were arguing and changing a baby’s diaper in the front passenger seat of the car. The dialogue went like this:

“She POOPED! I told you she pooped!” – Mom
“Umm…well…” – Dad
“There’s POOP everywhere!” – Mom
“It’s okay, I’ll clean it up.” – Dad
“You got POOP on your HAND!” – Mom
“Oh…well, I’ll just get a wipe.” – Dad
“You got POOP on the WIPE BOX!” – Mom
“OH NO! NOT THE WIPE BOX!” – Little Kid

From then on, “Oh no, not the wipe box!” was uttered at random points, always resulting in giggle fits. It still makes occasional appearances in conversations between Jules, Christina, and me. So yes, I’m pretty glad we stopped there, even though the view was less scenic than other places.

Cabot Trail

Once we hit the eastern part of the Cabot Trail, the weather had turned cloudy, and I started to worry that the end of our drive would get rained out. The rain never happened, but I loved the look of the misty shots I got near Neils Harbour, including this panoramic. Click on it to see it a bit bigger.

Green Cove

We had picked up an official park guide to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which identified 20+ marked hikes in the park. Some were quite intense, and we didn’t have time, motivation, or proper footwear to tackle those, but Jules picked two short hikes that allowed us to see some of scenery away from the road. The first was Green Cove, which was really just a short walk from the parking area, and not really a hike until we started climbing on the rocks.

Green Cove

On stormy days, the waves can be treacherous here, but we had a calm, sunny day to enjoy the rocky cove. By the time we got here, the clouds had completely disappeared. The weather was gorgeous for standing on the rocks, but I actually prefer a few clouds for better landscape photography. Jules later decided that it was her favourite spot on the trip. I loved it too, and hope I can make it back here at sunset on my next trip to Cape Breton, whenever that may be!

Short Steep Hike

The second hike that we did near Ingonish, more or less the eastern hub on the Cabot Trail, was advertised as a “short, steep climb.” Very accurate description.

Sunset View

Worth it for one last scenic shot before the light faded and we had to go spend 15 hours on a ferry. But that’s a story for the next post.


February 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm 1 comment


A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.


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