Province/Territory: Nova Scotia

Hike to where mountains meet plunging sea

  • 400 metre views above a fire-lit ocean
  • 1000 moose roaming the park
  • 01 sweeping hike above the Cabot Trail

Hug the coastline and sway through highlands on the breathtaking  Cabot Trail. You'll soon wind through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where steep cliffs and river canyons carve into a forested plateau. Meet your park guide and set off on the signature Skyline Sunset Hike, a breathtaking journey to where mountains plunge into sun-drenched sea.
The walk leads through thick boreal forest. Bald eagles soar overhead. Spot the large antlers of the 1000 resident moose roaming the park, turning the landscape into a savannah-like setting. On the final boardwalk, you'll descend 300 gentle steps to where the ocean plunges 400 metres (1300 feet) below.  Feel the horizon stretch out to infinity, the waves and wind in constant movement. If you're lucky, you'll catch minke and pilot whales surface below. Hold your breath as the sun finally dips in the ocean. As darkness descends, feel completely safe as your eyes slowly adjust to the dramatic dark, and your senses heighten. Listen to the sound of frogs and chickadees, the bull moose feeding in the distance, take in the starry sky twinkling above. You'll understand why this is Nova Scotia's most famous trail.

Why you should visit

• Visit one of the most famous spots on the Cabot Trail in a park that spans across a rugged peninsula from the Atlantic to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
• Meet a passionate Parks Canada guide who will keep you safe and share dramatic details about the area's natural and cultural heritage.
• Wander through beautiful boreal forest, thick with spruce, balsam fir, birch and fern, that opens up to a windswept promontory.
• Spot one of the island's 3000 moose, weighing up to 545 kg (1200 pounds) and learn how they're transforming the park's landscape.
• Bird lovers can listen for the Boreal chickadees and spot grouse.
• Spot minke, pilot, and the occasional humpback whales frolicking 400 metres below you.
• Enjoy a romantic moment as the sun sets, and don't be surprised if you hear a marriage proposal on the trail!
• Wonder when was the last time you saw the sky lit up by so many stars.

Weather

• Cape Breton climate is noted for warm summers, cold, snowy winters and moderate rainfall.
• Expect hot temperatures (25-30°C) in July and August. Occasional tropical marine storms hit the park in the fall and expect some foggy days in spring.
• Discover local weather information.  Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.

Visitor information

• The Skyline Sunset Hike is available four days a week, in July and August only.
Book Tours in advance at the campground kiosk or visitor centre.
Park admission and tour fees.
• Wheelchair access is limited due to stairs at the tip of the trail.
• Tour meets in the Skyline trail parking lot.

When to go

• The Skyline Sunset Hike is offered during July and August exclusively, when there are also 50 weekly activities in the park.
• Summer is an active time throughout Cape Breton Island with abundant music and cultural festivals and events.

Need to know

• Plan to spend about 2.5 to 3 hours on the hike.
• Hike is 7.5 km return.
• Trail is suitable for most fitness levels.
• Recommended for visitors 12 years of age or older.
• Bring along water, wear comfortable shoes, and dress in layers as weather may change rapidly on the plateau.
• Sections of the trail include boardwalks and crushed stone paths.

Getting Here

• Cape Breton Highlands National Park is located on northern tip of Cape Breton Island, part of the Cabot Trail.
• The Skyline Trail is situated on the park's western side, a 25-minute drive from the Chéticamp Visitor Centre.
• Directions to Cape Breton Island are available by land, sea, and air.
• Closest airports are the Sydney Airport (YQY) on Cape Breton Island and the Halifax International Airport (YHZ)[http://hiaa.ca] on the mainland.