The community of Meat Cove has, over the years, created and maintained a set of challenging hiking trails in the northwestern corner of Cape Breton Island. Each leads to a place with interesting, pristine natural views, often with extensive panoramas. The Meat Cove Mountain Trail is one of those.
Meat Cove Mountain is a protrusion of the Cape Breton Highlands Plateau that juts out from that plateau. From the plateau’s edge, which I term the “South summit”, a ridge leads north out across the protrusion to the “North summit” of Meat Cove Mountain. The South summit is higher than the North: the ridge descends briskly to a col between the two and then ascends much more gently back up to the North summit and continues on over the summit down to the top of the rock face that so distinguishes Meat Cove Mountain when seen from below (from the Meat Cove Road in the village, it looks like the rock face is the summit, but you will see otherwise when you follow the trail to its end).
- Google Maps Name
- Not Shown
- Local Usage
- Meat Cove Mountain Trail, Mountain Trail
- North to South
- Start Point
- 47°01.211'N 60°33.665'W, on the Meat Cove Road
- End Point
- End of trail on the South summit: 47°00.529'N 60°33.408'W; end of trail above the rock face below the North summit: 47°00.982'N 60°33.678'W
- Trail head to col: 890 m (⅗ mi); col to South summit: 510 m (⅓ mi); col to North summit: 290 m (⅙ mi); North summit to end of trail above the rock face: 245 m (⅙ mi)
- Hiking Trail
- Dirt/rock/stony surface until close to the col; grassier surface intermixed with stones thereafter to col; ascent to South summit is on dirt/rock/stones, but summit is mostly grassy; ascent to North summit is a grassy surface with a few stones; descent to rock face is grass changing to dirt/rock/stony surface
- good; excellent at the col and at both summits
- Route Description
- The trail follows above and along the course of an unnamed brook, usually dry as a bone in the summer time, passing beneath a hardwood forest canopy as it ascends from the Meat Cove Road to the col. At 175 m (0.1 mi) up the trail, one reaches the first set of steel rods which have been driven into the ground to provide support for a rope railing with which to assist traversing a very steep spot; although that railing was missing when I last hiked the trail in 2014, the rods were still very helpful. Two more rope railings, at 305 m (⅕ mi) and 420 m (¼ mi), this time with the ropes present, help one over two more very difficult spots. The initial part of the trail is very sharp and steep, the second steepest I have hiked in Cape Breton Island; about halfway up, it gets a little bit less sharp, but only really levels out as it approaches the col, at 890 m (⅗ mi). From the col, the left fork takes one about 510 m (⅓ mi) further up to the South summit, whose highest point is 322 m (1056 ft),¹ from which one has fantastic views of the Cape North Massif, the Cape Breton Highlands Plateau with Willkie Sugarloaf on the far side sticking up, as well of as the Cape Breton Highlands on the west side of the Meat Cove Brook Valley and of the north summit of Meat Cove Mountain directly below. If you turn the other direction at the col, the right fork takes you about 290 m (⅙ mi) further up to the North summit, whose highest point is 290 m (951 ft); the amazing views here are of the Cabot Strait, the Highlands above both sides of the Meat Cove Brook Valley, the area through which the Meat Cove Mountain Trail ascends to the col, and the South summit. The trail continues past the North summit and descends over another 245 m (⅙ mi) to its end on a cliff just above the rock face on Meat Cove Mountain, at an elevation of 233 m (764 ft). From this vantage point, the views of the Highlands on the west side of the Meat Cove Brook Valley, the Meat Cove Brook directly below, Meat Cove village, Little Grassy, and Blackrock Point are spectacular.
- Vic’s Scenic Rating
- This trail is not for the faint (or weak) of heart; it’s one stiff climb, even though a relatively short one, and there are precipitous cliffs at both summits and above the rock face.
This is an arduous trail for me; it is a very steep climb with tricky footing on both the way up and the way down: it took me 1h50 to ascend and 0h59 to descend, considerably slower than the last time I hiked it in 2012. While I was on the mountain, I met three hikers in their twenties or early thirties, who managed the climb up in twenty-five minutes, which is a good indication of just how steep it really is—those folks could easily do a kilometre in under eight minutes on flatter terrain.
But the spectacular vistas in every direction repay a hundredthousandfold the efforts of the climb and you will want to spend considerable time exploring and seeing the terrain from different vantage points; the peace and tranquillity one finds there make it one of my favourite spots on earth, offering Cape Breton’s wild and pristine beauty at its finest. Moreover, I have been blessed with wonderful weather each time I have visited there; there is nothing like it on a clear day with the sun beaming down and the world at your feet!
¹ The distances and elevations are computed using Google Earth from my GPS track of a hike on 2014 October 7. My GPS is rather flaky in mountainous terrain and was more so than usual on this day, so take the distances with a grain of salt.↩