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Cape Breton Highlands National Park
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Hiking Trails

History and Formation of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park

It wasn't until 1936 that the Cape Breton Highlands National Park was created, 950 sq. km (366 sq. mi.). Conserving and protecting the majestic highlands and coastal wilderness stretching across the northern tip of Cape Breton Island between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first national park in the Atlantic Provinces. By 1940 the Cabot Trail was reconstructed along the French Mountain.1948 saw a new road between Ingonish and Neil's Harbour. In 1951/52 construction on the North Mountain to Pleasant Bay included guard rails. By 1961 the paving of the Cabot Trail was achieved. Today the Cape Breton Highlands Park has 6 campgrounds, 27 hiking trails and a number of informational look offs.

Although the Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a very important part of the Cabot Trail, one must not forget the communities that are within and border the National Park, from Pleasant Bay to Neil's Harbour. Here is where you find the culture and warmth of the people in the Highlands.

There are two Information Centres, at both ends of the park, Cheticamp and Ingonish, where you buy permits for vehicle entry, camping, touring and licenses for fishing. You must pay for a permit to enjoy what the park has to offer, a small price to protect and enjoy this EDEN!

Entering the park from Cheticamp

The entrance in Cheticamp embarks you on a 105 Km (60 miles) journey through the western edge of the park which borders the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This is a jagged coastline with few harbours or beaches. Mountains plunge up to 300 metres into the gulf below. Swells endlessly hammer these cliffs, eating away the weaker material. The more enduring rocks prevail, creating headlands and secluded sea stacks. Visit the Park's Information Centre in Cheticamp, view a 10 minute slide presentation about the parks attractions. This is a excellent site for lunch stops; there are several tidy washrooms, shelters, pic-nic tables, telephones and easy parking. You can purchase fishing licenses here including the Park Entry Permit which is required to use any of the park facilities like campgrounds and for touring of the Cabot Trail. Located within the Information Centre is the orientation exhibit just to the right of the information counter and straight ahead is the bookstore which sells a wide range of maps, field guides, souvenirs and books about the National Park and Cabot Trail. The bilingual staff will only be too happy to assist you, open year-round: 1-902-224-2306 for more information.

As you drive form here to Ingonish on the Cabot Trail, you will examine fertile hardwood valleys, arctic-like barrens and some of the most beautiful coastal landscape found anywhere in the world


Entering the park from Ingonish

For the next 105 kilometres you will be fascinated by the land that traverses from defiant headlands chiselled by the steady grinding of the waves to views of immense tundra-like barrens. Beginning here at the Southeast entrance to the park in Ingonish Beach, you will journey for the next few hours over mountains, through valleys, and across barrens on the world-renowned Cabot Trail to Cheticamp. Like the other National Parks in Canada, the Cape Breton Highlands preserves a variety of habitats that are home to thousands of different species of plants and animals. And ensures that they will be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Full map of Cape Breton Highlands National Park
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© 1999/2009 For further information contact Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture,
call toll free in North America 1-800-565-0000.