Skip to main content

Cape Breton Highlands National Park


16 Visitor Centre Rd (West Entrance)

902-224-2306

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating

Trip Advisor Rating Based on 1530 Reviews

Highlights

Due to COVID-19, the visitor experience at Parks Canada-administered places may be different than it has been in the past. 

Please visit pc.gc.ca/ns and follow Parks Canada’s social media channels for information and updates on the status of all Parks Canada-administered places. 

See what awaits you in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park! English video | French video

Overview

Cape Breton Highlands National Park – le parc national des Hautes-Terres-du-Cap-Breton

Winter / Hiver

Wintertime in the Highlands

In Cape Breton Highlands National Park we encourage everyone to get out and enjoy all winter has to offer. By staying active and connecting with nature, you need have no fear of the winter blues! While visitor services close for the season on October 25, the world-famous Cabot Trail is open year-round, and ungroomed trails remain accessible for outdoor treks within the park. As you make your way through the enchanting and unique mix of taiga, Acadian and boreal forests, watch for majestic wildlife like moose and bald eagles. Scenic look-offs offer spectacular views, with sea ice filling the bays and frozen spray coating the rocks. Prepare for the ultimate winter road trip, where the mountains meet the sea. 

Near the Ingonish Beach entrance to the park, hike or cross-country ski through the winding Clyburn Valley, a river canyon surrounded by Acadian forest. Grab your snowshoes and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along Freshwater Lake. Or, get a glimpse of the wild Atlantic Ocean along Middle Head Trail, suitable for hiking or snowshoeing and located near Keltic Lodge. 

Near the Chéticamp entrance to the park, the Salmon Pools Trail is perfect for a family riverside stroll with snow-covered cliffs towering above. This trail also showcases more of the special ecology of the park, named for the Atlantic salmon that call the Chéticamp River home. More experienced winter enthusiasts should treat themselves to a snowshoe or cross-country ski along the Beulach Ban Road, which leads to a frozen waterfall and the Aspy trailhead.

The iconic Skyline Trail draws visitors all year-long. If heading out on this dramatic headland, be sure to follow the boardwalk, as ski poles and snowshoe cleats can damage the rare and fragile vegetation along the trail, even under snow cover. Added caution is also needed as snow drifts can disguise cliff edges.

Snowshoe rentals

Cape Breton Highlands National Park now offers snowshoe rentals so that more visitors can enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of being outdoors in winter. Reserve yours by emailing [email protected] at least 24 hours in advance. Equipment pick-up and drop-off take place at the Ingonish Visitor Centre. Daily and weekend rates available. 


Be prepared

To make the most of this winter wonderland, it is important to exercise caution and come prepared. Winter essentials include plenty of snacks and drinking water, layers of clothing, hand sanitizer, a phone or communication device, and emergency supplies such as a first aid kit and sleeping bag. Cell service can be unreliable in this mountainous area, so let someone know your plans in advance. 

  • There are no visitor services available in the park during the winter months. Be sure to check road reports in advance (call 511, or visit 511.novascotia.ca). Call 902-224-2306 from 9:00am to 4:00pm, Monday to Friday, except statutory holidays for updates and check our social media pages: @CBHNP on Facebook and @ParksCanada_NS on Twitter.
  • Be prepared for sudden weather changes, particularly along the coast and on the plateau. Be mindful of windy conditions when on trails, as snow drifts may cover your tracks and make it more difficult to navigate back along the same path. If you plan to explore areas along the plateau, such as Benjie’s Lake and Mica Hill, a GPS device is recommended as it is easy to become disoriented without a visible trail/tree line to follow. 
  • Visitor washrooms are available at the Chéticamp Visitor Centre year-round, although the Centre itself closes on October 25. Pit privies along the trails may become inaccessible after large snowfalls. 
  • Expect Cape Breton hospitality in the communities along the Cabot Trail, where visitors are welcomed year-round to get a taste of local Acadian, Gaelic, and Mi’kmaw cultures. Keep in mind, however, that many businesses are seasonal. Be sure to book ahead for accommodations and call for updated hours of restaurants and other services, as options may be limited in the winter months.
  • Snow clearing priority goes to maintaining access to the Cabot Trail highway, so trail parking lots may not be plowed directly following large snowfalls. Our asset management team does their best to maintain parking lot access for the following areas, which are popular with visitors and locals alike:

Skyline – Hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing

Benjie’s Lake – Cross-country skiing

Mica Hill – Hiking, snowshoeing

Aspy – Hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing

Clyburn Valley – Cross-country skiing, family friendly 

Warren Lake – Cross-country skiing

Middle Head – Hiking, snowshoeing

Franey – Hiking, snowshoeing 

Freshwater Lake – Hiking, snowshoeing, family friendly 

Salmon Pools – Hiking, snowshoeing, family friendly

Acadian  – Hiking, snowshoeing

*note that in some cases the parking lot is located several kilometres from the trailhead, so skis or snowshoes may be needed to reach the trail.

Contact Information

Web: parks.canada.ca/capebreton 

parcs.canada.ca/capbreton

Facebook: CBHNP

PNHTCB

Twitter: ParksCanada_NS

ParcsCanada_NE

Phone: 902-224-2306

Email: [email protected]

One of Canada’s most enchanting places, where the mountains meet the sea. As you hug the world-famous Cabot Trail coastline, you’ll wind through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where lush, forested river canyons carve into the ancient plateau, edged by rust-coloured cliffs. The cool maritime climate and rugged landscape of the park permit a unique blend of Acadian, Boreal and Taiga habitats, plants and animals. This special mix of northern and southern species is not found anywhere else in Canada. Within the park, several dozen species of rare or threatened plants and animals can be found, as well as old growth forests of international importance. Small populations of arctic-alpine plants left over from the last ice age can also be found here.

 

There are numerous viewpoints scattered along the Cabot Trail, giving visitors ample opportunities to pull safely off the road to take pictures, observe wildlife, or learn about a special aspect of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. In particular, the look-offs at French, North, and MacKenzie mountains offer unforgettable vistas of the rugged coastline, fishing boats in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and purple-hued Cape Smokey. Keep your eyes open for moose and bald eagles. You might even catch sight of a minke or pilot whale breaching the waves in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Outdoor Experiences


Hiking


One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the Park is by exploring the 26 hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging climbs—all leading to panoramic views of canyons, highlands, or seacoasts.  Visit the Parks Canada Visitor Information Centres in Cheticamp or Ingonish Beach to pick up a trails map.

Gone Fishing

Cape Breton Highlands National Park offers recreational fishing opportunities, in season, on its many lakes and streams. The most sought after species is the native brook or speckled trout. 

Before fishing in the national park, anglers should call ahead and confirm season dates and catch limits. There is a permit and licence fee applied, along with equipment restrictions. Regulations differ in most cases from those for fishing in provincial waters outside the park. Visitors can get updated information from Parks Canada at the warden office by calling 902-285-2582.

For more information on fishing in Cape Breton Highlands National Park visit https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ns/cbreton/activ/peche-fishing

Swimming

Cape Breton Highlands is home to a variety of superb beaches. Choose between salt or freshwater, or even enjoy both at one location. The Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of St. Lawrence and our tannin-rich brooks and lakes offer a wonderful variety for the water enthusiast. 

For more swimming adventures, visit our website: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ns/cbreton/activ/baignade-swimming. 

Cycling

Rated one of the world’s top ten cycling destinations by Lonely Planet, the Cabot Trail is a must-do for experienced cyclists. The Park also offers cycling on several designated trails, including Clyburn Valley, Salmon Pools, and Le vieux chemin du Cap-Rouge. For more information, visit our website.  

Visitor Centre locations
West entrance (Chéticamp): 16 Visitor Centre Road, GPS coordinates N46 38.784 W60 57.029
East entrance (Ingonish): 37637 Cabot Trail, GPS coordinates N46 38.450 W60 24.233

Parks Canada’s knowledgeable staff will launch your adventure by providing an itinerary tailored to your needs and interests. Along with your park pass and map, get safety tips and informed suggestions on activities and places to discover.  If travelling with young adventurers, ask about Parks Canada Xplorers and Club Parka activities.

 

In Chéticamp, stay connected with Wi-Fi, and visit the nature bookstore to pick up field guides, local cultural history books, and gift items. Charge up at our electric vehicle charging stations.

In Ingonish, check out the interactive map to help you plan your visit, and take a little something home from the official Parks Canada merchandise.

 

For those who want to sleep under the stars, without the fuss, Cape Breton Highlands National Park offers oTENTik units at Cheticamp Campground, Broad Cove Campground and Ingonish Beach Campground.

#KeepitWild

Please be responsible and join with us in caring for our environment. Take your garbage with you, keep wildlife at a safe distance, and stay on designated trails to protect fragile plant life. 

Nature, other visitors, and future generations will be thankful for your stewardship. 

Nearby Things To Do

Sugarwitch Cakes

Region: Cabot Trail

Community: Ingonish & Area

Bakery in Ingonish Beach, NS. Offering custom cakes & baked goods by pre-order, with an assortment of items available in-store daily. Al...


46.6410 -60.3948

Seagull Restaurant

Region: Cabot Trail

Community: Ingonish & Area

Located on the Cabot Trail in Ingonish, Seagull Restaurant boasts fabulous views of the ocean. Specializing in home cooked meals and family ...


46.691631 -60.364544

Warren Lake

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating

Trip Advisor Rating 13 Reviews

Regions: Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Cabot Trail

Note: Infrastructure improvements in the park may cause delays or reduce services while we complete this important work. We appreciate your ...


46.7127 -60.3838

The Chowder House

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating

Trip Advisor Rating 508 Reviews

Region: Cabot Trail

Community: North Highlands

The Chowder House is a hidden gem on the Cabot Trail. Located at the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean, with spectacular scenery. It is a...


46.8071 -60.3187

Locals Know Blogs