The term Cabot Trail is used in two different senses. The common usage refers to the provincially-designated scenic highway, a closed loop of approximately 298 km (185 mi), the southeastern portion of which follows the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) from St Anns (Exit 11) to Buckwheat Corner (Exit 7). The remainder of the scenic highway is a distinct road, known to the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal as Trunk 30,¹ but also called, confusingly, the Cabot Trail. Unlike other trunk roads, however, this road is the only one “in Nova Scotia which does not have a signed route designation. Road signs along the route instead have a unique mountain logo”, seen at the top of this web page. [Source: The Wikipedia article on the Cabot Trail]
Parks Canada, not the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, is responsible for the maintenance and plowing of those parts of the Cabot Trail that lie within the boundaries of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, i.e., north of Chéticamp on the Gulf coast and north of Ingonish on the Atlantic coast.
In this photo catalogue entry and in the description which follows, I use the term Cabot Trail in the Trunk 30 sense and do not include the section of the scenic highway that follows the Trans-Canada Highway. Photos from that section of the scenic highway are catalogued in the entry for the Trans-Canada Highway.
- Google Maps Name
- Cabot Trail
- Local Name
- Cabot Trail
- Trunk 30 forms a crudely drawn letter C with a very long descending serif at the top right; it is an intentionally very circuitous west-to-east road with its starting point to the southwest of its ending point.
- Start Point
- 46°05.656′N 60°51.998′W, at Exit 7 on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) in Buckwheat Corner
- End Point
- 46°12.492′N 60°35.635′W, at Exit 11 on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) in South Haven
- About 278 km (172 mi)
- Trunk Highway, the major part of the scenic highway of the same name
- Paved, two-lane road
- As Cape Breton’s premier scenic highway, the Cabot Trail is in generally fine condition: although some older portions of the highway may lag the standards of the newest ones, repaving and some reconstruction occurs each year, with attention paid to those older segments first, so improvements are continually made, keeping the highway as a whole in excellent shape.
- Route Description
- This road (including the section along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) not described on this page) is regularly rated as among the top scenic drives in the world, passing south of the Cape Breton Highlands (outside the park) through the Middle River and Margaree River valleys, along the beautiful Gulf of St Lawrence littoral to the west, over the incredible ups and downs of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in the north, and along the rugged and rocky Atlantic coast in the east; the varied and constantly changing terrain is among its main attractions. While it is possible to travel the Trail (including closing the loop along the Trans-Canada Highway) in a single day, this is not advisable: the many vistas, look-offs, and interpretive panels along the entire course of this highway merit stops (and photos!); the beaches, picnic areas, and hiking trails, many well-suited to family walks, will repay exploration; you will want to take short drives just off the trail in Northern Cape Breton and in the Margarees that are the equal of the Trail proper; whale and bird-watching tours will give you an altogether different perspective of the Highlands from the water; and you will savour spending time in the communities along the route, each with its unique flavour and most with music, crafts, and other cultural activities to give you a break from driving and entertainment at night. Take several days and enjoy the incredible experiences. And explore it during all of Cape Breton’s seasons—it looks altogether different in each season—from its summer beauty to its gorgeous fall foliage to its stunning beauty under a thick blanket of snow.
- Vic’s Scenic Rating
A goodly portion of the Cabot Trail passes through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Although the Cabot Trail itself is not a toll road, you are expected to purchase a park visitor’s permit at either of the park entrances outside Chéticamp or in Ingonish. See this web page for the kinds of permits available and their cost.
Moose are regularly encountered along the Cabot Trail, most frequently inside the park, but also along other sections, even the most southerly. Use caution during the day and avoid the road after dark if at all possible, particularly those sections over French Mountain and North Mountain.
¹ See this introduction for the definition of a “trunk highway”.↩