Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Ingonish Beach, NS, B0C 1L0
902-285-2535 Year round: 902-224-2306

This park covers 950 sqaure kilometres (366 sq mi) the northern tip of Cape Breton Island, which marks the dividing point between the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. The park is best seen using the 300 km (186 mi) winding Cabot Trail, the only unnumbered major roadway in North America. There are two entrances, one is 5 km north of Cheticamp on the west side of the island and at Ingonish Beach on the east.

View of Highway along Cabot TrailThe park, the first National Park in the Maritimes, protect rugged landscape that is similar to the coastal regions of Scotland. Along the western shore there are many steep hills, up to 330 metres (1100 ft) overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence, leading to a high plateau that covers much of the park. The landscape of the plateaus is rocky barrens with peat bogs and stunted spruce forests, which in many ways resemble the sub-arctic regions just below the tree line. The eastern coast is generally rocky with many coves and sandy beaches. The park’s highest point is 532 m (1,745 ft) at White Hill.

The park features several species of large mammals including black bears, foxes and moose. There are 200 species of birds including eagles and hawks. The waters are home to several species of whales, which can be viewed on wale-watching tours from nearby communities.

Moose on the Skyline Trail

Please Help Protect This National Park:

  • No collecting of any kind (plants, butterflies, rocks, kindling, etc.).
  • Pets must be leashed and kept under control at all times and must not interfere with wildlife or with the enjoyment and safety of other visitors.
  • Do not feed or disturb wildlife.
  • Pack out all garbage.

Licensed motorcycles and mini-bikes are permitted on roads only. Driving off-road in fields, bogs, beaches or along hiking trails is not permitted. Damage from motorized vehicles can take decades to restore. Public use of all-terrain vehicles and motorized boats are not permitted in national parks.


Daily Park Fees

Commercial Group, per person$2.50
Fully Independent Traveller (Commercial, with voucher)$3.50


Dunvegan Beach


Ingonish Beach has two superb beaches, with lifeguards on duty in July and August.
Other swimming areas include: North Bay, Black Brook and Warren Lake on the east side and La Bloc on the west.


Tee off at Ben Franey, and prepare to enjoy a 10.5-km (6.5-mi.) nature hike through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. The Highlands Links, in Ingonish, one of the world’s best courses. For tee-off times, reservations and tournament play, call the Golf Pro Shop at (902) 285-2600 (mid-May to mid-October) or year-round call (902) 285-2691.


Ingonish Beach offers three paved tennis courts, free of charge, from late April to mid-October. Rental equipment is available at the Golf Pro Shop. To arrange tournament play, call (902) 285-2691


The highlands rise steeply along the Cabot Trail from sea level to over 450 m (1,500 ft.) – an unforgettable cycling experience. Rental mountain bikes are available for short treks at the Cheticamp Information Centre.


There are over 20 hiking and walking trails that run over 150 km. Three trails permit mountain biking. Ttous de Saumons: which is a 13km return, Lake of Islands: 25.8 km return and Clyburn Valley: 9.2 km there and back. A 1:50,000 topographical map of the whole park is available for a fee from the park office.

Cape Smokey Trail: Intermediate, 11km.This is a trail has spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the highlands. Allow 3 to 4 hours.
Coastal Trail: Intermediate, 11km.Following the granite headlands,withviews of Neil’s Harbour to the north and Black Brook Beach to the south. Allow3 to 4 hours.
Corney Brook: Easy, 8km.Hike along the brook to a beautiful waterfall.Allow 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Franey Mountain: Intermediate, 6.4km, loop.This loop trail climbs to the top of Franey Mountainan, with an elevation gain of 366 meters. The peak gives a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding area. Allow 2 to 3 hours.
L’Acadian Trail: Intermediate, 9.6km, loop.From Cheticamp Campground you climb several hundred meters alongside Robert Brook to a lookout with a panoramic coastal views.Allow 3 to 4 hours
Le Buttereau Trail: Easy, 1.9km.Self-guided interpretive loop along the coast, great for bird watching, nature viewing and spectacular sunsets (but don’t get caught out after dark). Allow 40 minutes.
Pollett’s Cove: Intermediate, 19km return,From Pollett’s Cove, said to be one of the most beautiful places in Canada, to Pleasant Bay with a 366m elevation gain. Allow 8 hours.
Skyline Trail: Intermediate, 7km, loop.Head up to Headland Cliff, where you often see whales spouting in the distance. The trail offers sightings of moose and bear as well as many land and sea birds. Dogs are not permitted on the Skyline Trail. Allow 3 to 4 hours.
Trous de Saumon: 13km.Head up to Headland Cliff, where you often see whales spouting in the distance. The trail offers sightings of moose and bear as well as many land and sea birds. Allow 3 to 4 hours.

Backpacking/Back-country camping

All backpackers must purchase a back-country use permit. Drinking water should be boiled; backpacking stoves recommended. Garbage must be packed out. Information on bears available at information centres.

Fishing Cove: Expert, 16km return, linear.The trailheads down from highway 19 (the Cabot Trail on the Cheticamp side of the park) to a cove in the beautiful rugged Gulf of the St. Lawrence coastline. There s is a superb campsite and a great hike but keep in mind the climb all of the way out.. Allow 4 to 6 hours, and you MUST register for backcountry camping in the park.
Lake of Islands: Expert, 25.8 returnThis trail climbs from highway 19 (the Cabot Trail on the Ingonish side of the park) to a plateau and the Lake of Islands backcountry camping area. On your way in, about 0.4 km into the hike, is a path that branches off to a very worthwhile lookout. There is no longer a backcountry campsite along the trail.. Allow 8 – 9 hours return.

Sea Kayaking

The area is exceptional for expert level kayakers, or those who have hired a good guiding company. The area’s exceptional natural beauty, many areas for exploration, and whale watching make it a superb area for paddlers. The waters are very challenging, and the open ocean with sheer cliffs making landings difficult or impossible.


The park has several front country campgrounds, and two backcountry backpack sites. For Backcountry Camping, see Fishing Cove see the hiking section. For group camping, Robert Brook is recommended. Qualified groups should inquire with the park about reservations. Camping costs around $20 per night, depending on campground facilities. Camp for free from mid-October to mid-May.

Cheticamp Campground:Located just inside the Cheticamp entrance. The campground has showers and washrooms. 162 sites (not all with fireplaces), 37 serviced. Some sites in this wooded area have wheelchair facitilies.Corney Brook Campground:Swimming in the ocean showers are available at the Cheticamp campground 10km from Corney Brook. 20 unserviced sites.MacIntosh Brook:Closest showers at Cheticamp campground 50km (30min.) away. 10 unserviced sites.Big Intervale:About halfway between the two park entrances. This is a forested campground, with showers at Cheticamp campground 100km (1hr.) away. 10 unserviced sites.Broad Cove:Located north of the Ingonish entrance. Some sites in this partially wooded campground have wheelchair facilities and the campgrounds have showers. 256 sites (not all with fireplaces), 83 serviced.Ingonish:Just outside the Ingonish entrance to the park. This open campground has showers and access to the ocean just a short distance away for swimming. 90 serviced sites, 90 unserviced sites.

Winter Activities

Winter scene on the Cabot Trail

Backcountry and Cross Country Skiing

Ther park has 70 km of groomed trails (Black Brook, Many Ann Falls, Warren Lake, Highlands Links) and 66 km of ungroomed trails. The Acadian Trail, just outside the park provides another 500 km of ungroomed multi-use trails. There is a $5 cost ($10 family rate) for a trail pass.


You can snowshoe anywhere in the Park. Please, no walking on groomed ski trails. If you plan on venturing any distance off the Cabot Trail you should check in with Park staff.

Winter Camping

Winter camping is permitted in the park. Ingonish and Cheticamp Campgrounds have pit privys, kitchen shelters and water. Cheticamp connects with Trous de Saumons and Campground ski trails.

Downhill Skiing

Downhill ski at Cape Smokey 


Toboggan on the steep 5th fairway of the Highlands Golf Links.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia Area Map

Cape Breton Experiences