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Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Hiking Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Skyline Trail, Nova Scotia

There’s a reason Travel & Leisure magazine named Cape Breton the number one island destination in North America and third in the world. The landscape is a mesmerizing mix of rolling summits, precipitous cliffs, high headlands, sweeping white sand beaches, and glacially carved lakes, all bordered by the ocean. The Cabot Trail hugs the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the rugged northwestern edge of the island, where around every bend you want to pull over, spew expletives of joy at the stupendous vista, and take another snapshot. Indeed, it’s as close to Big Sur as the East Coast gets. Add bald eagles, moose, coyotes, and pilot whales fluking in the nearby waters and you want to leave the car behind and soak it all up.

One of the most popular trails, Skyline, is a 9.2 km (5.7-mile) loop atop the ridge of a coastal headland. I took the 3-hour loop yesterday morning, when the rain that’s been following me the past two days subsided, replaced by blue skies and a trace of thin clouds. I veered right at the start to walk through a bog topped with pines and carpeted with moss. I took deep breaths of the sweet pines as I meandered over the roots and rocks on the grassy path. Eventually, the trail snakes to the left offering expansive views of the sea. At the halfway point, a boardwalk leads down the headland and wow, what a majestic stroll it is. To the left is a backbone of peaks, to the right is all ocean as far as your eye can see. I sat down on a bench and bit into my honeycrisp apple, watching a whale spout. It was hard to leave, but after having my fill, I made my way back on the loop. Within minutes, I was staring at a mother moose and her calf. Talk about icing on the cake.
  Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.
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  1. October 10, 2012 at 7:49 am — Reply

    Glad you hiked Skyline One of our favorites also. Always see moose and other wildlife on this trail. Did ypu know we have a hiking festival every Sept Check out website, hikethehighlandsfestival.com
    Love your reviews

  2. October 10, 2012 at 7:51 am — Reply

    check out our hike the highlands festival website Every sept the festival Skyline is one of my favorites as always see moose and other wildlife. If lucky from the end you may see a pod of whales

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