The Cabot Trail
A cycling tour of the world-famous Cabot Trail on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island
"I have traveled around
the globe. I have seen the Canadian and
American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and
the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple
beauty Cape Breton outrivals them all "
--Alexander Graham Bell
renowned for its beauty, the Cabot Trail
is also the most popular multi-day cycling
route in Canada. It is the greatest protected
wilderness in Nova Scotia. As cyclists,
we may well get the opportunity to photograph
black bears, moose, and white tail dear.
The coast is famous for whales, porpoises,
We toured Cape Breton and the famous Cabot Trail in the summer of 2003. This route is hilly to mountainous, and requires riders to be physically in shape. We will ride a clockwise route in order to take advantage of the stiff tailwinds that will literally help lift us through the two toughest days of climbing. Our early September weekend was chosen so that the summer traffic, complete with wide campers and motor homes, has mostly dissipated. This is also the time when mosquitoes and black flies have disappeared. The slightly cooler weather is a plus for those long climbs you'll be enjoying!
DAY ONE: St. Anns. Our first destination was the village of St. Anns, on the Cabot Trail. We stayed for the night at the Chanterelle Inn, overlooking the valley where the North River joins St. Anns Bay. Borrowing from the lines of a classic Cape Breton barn, the Inn celebrates the regions First Nations, Gaelic and French heritage and the beauty of nature in an elegant setting along the Cabot Trail. That afternoon, take the opportunity to do a sweet preview ride of up to 35 miles around St. Anns Bay. For this ride, we take the Cabot Trail south to Rt. 205, then turn north along the east side of the Bay, and switching over quickly to local route Rt. 312. Two miles before reaching Englishtown, we take a 5 minute ferry ride (cyclists ride free, and the ferry leaves every 10 minutes.) Looking out into the Bay, you'll see rocky points known as the Bird Islands. Upon reaching Tarbotville, we turn south, returning to St. Anns on the Cabot Trail. Distance: 30 miles.
DAY TWO St. Anns to Margaree Valley. After starting out riding south on the Cabot Trail, we join the Trans Canada Highway (Rt. 105), with wide shoulders, only briefly. Then we take Rt. 205 to Baddeck. This charming resort village is often called the starting point of the Cabot Trail. Just before reaching town, well stop in at the Alexander Graham Bell museum, a National Historic Site. We turn west on the Cabot Trail, ride past Lake O Law, with rolling hills, following the Margaret River. Hunters Mountain at an elevation of 500 ft. (really a hill) offers only a moderate challenge.. Distance: 45 miles. Spend the night at the Normaway Inn.
FIVE Cape North to Ingonish
Although not as challenging as the
day before, there are plenty of climbs and
descents. We leave the Cabot Trail, and
follow the 15 mile Alternative Scenic Route
which has very little vehicular traffic
that affords spectacular views of the Atlantic
Ocean all the way to Neils Harbor, a very
picturesque fishing village. At Smelt Brook
, stop in at the Sea Spray Cycle Centre.
Along this route we visit a stunning coastal
panorama, with mountains climbing right
from the sea. White Point is one of the
most beautiful fishing villages on the route.
There's a 3 mile climb, and then a 3 mile
descent to New Haven. We rejoin the Cabot
Trail at Neils Harbor, another fishing village,
with shops and services. We ride close to
the Ocean, again with spectacular views.
Many people like to stop for a swim at Black
Brook, and Green Cove is actually the site
of magnificent blocks of pink granite! The
cycling's not too difficult here. Distance:
32 miles. Tonight's stay is at the
Keltic Lodge, perched on a narrow stretch
between two bays:
DAY SIX Ingonish to St. Anns After passing through the villages of Ingonish Ferry, Ingonish harbor, and Ingonish Beach, we begin a 3 mile ascent to the summit of Cape Smokey (elevation 366 meters), with a breath-taking view of the ocean and its coastlines. Then there's a 3 mile descent, with some very steep drops, an average 12% grade. From there we have gentle riding the rest of the day. At mile 35, we continue on the Cabot Trail where Rt. 312 joins from the left, to the ferry. We head back to St. Anns, through an area known as the Artisans' Loop, where you might want to obtain souveniers from the ride. Distance: 47 miles. We stayed again at the Chanterelle Inn
Recommended reading: Cycling Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail
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