Discover Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia

Tucked away on the northeastern tip of Nova Scotia, Canada, lies a hidden gem of unparalleled beauty and breathtaking landscapes—Cape Breton Highlands. This rugged and enchanting island, known for its dramatic coastal cliffs, lush forests, and vibrant culture, offers visitors an unforgettable journey into the heart of Atlantic Canada’s natural wonders. From the majestic peaks of the Highlands to the pristine shores of the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton beckons adventurers to explore its hidden treasures and discover the secrets that lie within.

As one of Canada’s most beloved national parks, Cape Breton Highlands National Park serves as the crown jewel of the island, showcasing the stunning beauty of the Canadian Maritimes. Spanning over 950 square kilometers, the park is home to a diverse array of ecosystems, including boreal forests, freshwater lakes, and rugged coastline, providing a haven for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Beyond the national park, Cape Breton offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and hospitality waiting to be explored. From quaint fishing villages steeped in maritime tradition to vibrant Celtic communities celebrating their Scottish heritage, the island’s charm and authenticity captivate visitors at every turn.


Top 3 Facts About Cape Breton Highlands National Park


World Biosphere Reserve

Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2016, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is recognized for its outstanding natural beauty and biodiversity, encompassing a diverse range of ecosystems, including Acadian, boreal, and taiga forests, as well as freshwater lakes and rivers.


Highland Wilderness

The park is home to one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in Nova Scotia, with over 1,000 square kilometers of pristine wilderness to explore. Visitors can immerse themselves in the tranquility of the highlands, where moose, black bears, and bald eagles roam freely.


Starry Skies

The park’s remote location and minimal light pollution make it an ideal spot for stargazing. On clear nights, visitors can marvel at the Milky Way stretching across the sky and witness the magic of the Northern Lights dancing above the highlands.

Camping and transportation in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

info_iconBackcountry camping permits required for wilderness camping opportunities.

How to Get to Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Getting to Cape Breton Highlands National Park typically involves traveling by car or bus, as there is no airport within the park itself. Here are the primary ways to reach the park:

  • By Car: Most visitors access Cape Breton Highlands National Park by driving along the scenic Cabot Trail, which loops around the northern tip of Cape Breton Island. The Cabot Trail can be accessed via the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) from mainland Nova Scotia. From Sydney, Nova Scotia, follow Highway 105 west to Baddeck, where you’ll connect to the Cabot Trail. From there, follow signs to the park’s various entrances.
  • By Bus: Several tour companies offer guided bus tours to Cape Breton Highlands National Park from nearby cities like Halifax and Sydney. These tours typically include transportation, guided commentary, and stops at key viewpoints and attractions along the Cabot Trail.
  • By Ferry: If you’re traveling from Prince Edward Island, you can take the seasonal ferry from Wood Islands to Caribou, Nova Scotia. From there, drive along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 104) to reach Cape Breton Island. Follow signs to the Cabot Trail and the park entrances.
  • By Air: While there are no airports within Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the closest airports are located in Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia. From Sydney, you can rent a car and drive to the park. Alternatively, you can take a connecting flight to Sydney from Halifax and then rent a car to drive to the park.

Places to Stay Near Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Near Cape Breton Highlands National Park, visitors have a variety of accommodation options, including campgrounds, RV parks, lodges, and hotels. Here are some popular places to stay or camp near the park:

  • Chéticamp Campground: Located within Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Chéticamp Campground offers tent and RV camping sites with access to amenities such as showers, laundry facilities, and picnic areas. The campground is situated near the western entrance of the park, making it convenient for exploring the nearby hiking trails and attractions.
  • Ingonish Beach Campground: Situated near the northeastern entrance of the park, Ingonish Beach Campground offers tent and RV camping sites with stunning views of the ocean and easy access to Ingonish Beach. The campground features amenities such as showers, laundry facilities, and a playground.
  • Lodges and Cabins: For those seeking a more comfortable lodging option, there are lodges, cabins, and vacation rentals available near the park. These accommodations offer cozy retreats with amenities such as kitchenettes, fireplaces, and scenic views of the surrounding landscape.
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Public Bus


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Best Time to go Cape Breton Highlands National Park



Perhaps the most popular time, Cape Breton in summer is a treat, with July and August hitting the sweet spot in temperature, averaging a high of 77.6°F.

  • Weather: Warm and pleasant—ideal for beach days and outdoor concerts.
  • Climate: The sea temperature becomes swim-friendly, and humidity is relatively low.
  • Outdoor Adventures: Whether it’s golfing at premier courses or kayaking along the coast, adventure is in full swing.


Although the cold may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the snow-dusted scenery is undeniably enchanting.

  • Weather: Snowfall blankets the island—temperatures hover in the 20s and 30s (°F).
  • Climate: A cozy time for winter sports or curling up by the fire with traditional music and local tales.


When the chill of winter begins to thaw, Cape Breton slowly awakens. It’s a fresh, crisp time to visit, with temperatures gradually rising from the 30s and 40s (°F) in early spring to the comfortable 60s later on.

  • Weather: Expect a mix of sun and showers—perfect for witnessing the bloom of spring.
  • Adventure: Outdoor adventures kick off, with hiking trails less crowded and nature brimming with new life.
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Nature’s grand show takes the stage as fall foliage casts a fiery glow over the landscape, making late September to early October prime time for your visit.

  • Fall Foliage: Witness the forests transform into a painter’s palette of reds, oranges, and yellows.
  • Weather: Comfortable for exploration, with cooler days perfect for hiking.
  • Celtic Colours International Festival: Immerse yourself in Cape Breton’s Celtic roots, with music filling the air throughout October.

Must-See Attractions

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Skyline Trail

One of the most iconic hiking trails in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the Skyline Trail offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the rugged coastline below. It’s a relatively easy hike with rewarding vistas, particularly at sunset.

Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail is a scenic roadway that winds its way through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, coastal cliffs, and rolling highlands. It’s considered one of the most scenic drives in the world, with numerous overlooks and viewpoints along the route.

Lone Shieling

Located near Ingonish Beach, the Lone Shieling is a replica of a traditional Scottish crofter’s hut, surrounded by picturesque landscapes. It offers a glimpse into the island’s Scottish heritage and serves as a popular photo spot.

Helpful Tips: Making the Most of Your Adventure to Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

Research the park’s attractions, trails, and facilities before your visit. Consider downloading maps or brochures from the park’s website or obtaining them from visitor centers.

Pack Appropriately

Stay Hydrated and Pack Snacks

Bring plenty of water and snacks, especially if you plan to spend the day hiking or exploring. While there are facilities within the park, it’s always a good idea to have provisions on hand.

Respect Wildlife

Respect Wildlife

Cape Breton Highlands National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including moose, black bears, and coyotes. Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never feed or approach them.

Stay Informed

Visit During Off-Peak Season/Hours

To avoid crowds, consider visiting the park during the shoulder seasons or weekdays. Popular attractions may be less crowded, allowing for a more peaceful experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Cape Breton Highlands National Park

The park covers an area of approximately 950 square kilometers (366 square miles), encompassing a diverse range of ecosystems, including boreal forests, freshwater lakes, and rugged coastline.

Popular activities in the park include hiking, scenic drives along the Cabot Trail, wildlife viewing, picnicking, camping, and cultural experiences such as visiting historical sites and attending cultural events.

Yes, there is an entrance fee to enter Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Fees vary depending on the type of vehicle and are valid for a specified period. Annual passes and senior passes are also available for purchase.

Yes, the park offers several campgrounds with tent and RV sites, as well as backcountry camping options. Reservations are recommended, especially during the peak tourist season.

The best time to visit is typically from late spring to early fall when the weather is mild, and most facilities and attractions are open. Fall is particularly popular for its stunning foliage.

Yes, there are several freshwater lakes and rivers within the park where swimming is permitted, including Black Brook Beach and Freshwater Lake. However, visitors should exercise caution and adhere to posted safety guidelines.

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