Skyline Trail


Google Maps Name
Shown as an unnamed road in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Local Name
Skyline Trail
East to West
Start Point
46°44.274′N 60°52.854′W, in the parking lot just off the Cabot Trail near the summit of French Mountain
End Point
46°44.887′N 60°54.577′W, at a headland at the end of the trail
9.2 km (5.7 mi) loop
Hiking Trail
Wide paved footpath with boardwalks over wet spots on southern part of the loop; footpath with mixed tread (dirt, rocks, gravel, roots, and grass in various mixtures) on the northern part of the loop.
Route Description
One of the many glories of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, this very well-known and very popular trail traverses a ridge descending very gently until you get near the ocean, when a series of stairs, so cleverly camouflaged it would be impossible to see them from afar were it not for the people on them silhouetted against the sky, leads you closer to the edge of the headland. The views along the southern part of the loop trail (the left fork) offer fine views of the Highlands to the south and, as one gets closer to the ocean, those views become nothing short of spectacular, reaching as far south as Sight Point on Cape Mabou. A look-off on a short side trail just off the main trail not far before you reach the stairs juts out over the Jumping Brook Valley down far below, offering a stunning view of French Mountain and the Cabot Trail. Descend the stairs (270 steps) to the viewing platform high above the Gulf below for even better views to the south. From the stairs, the trail turns north and follows the coast along the headland, with fine views along the way; on a very clear day, the Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands) can be seen out in the Gulf. The trail then turns back east and returns to the main trail, offering fine views of the Highlands to the north on the way. If you’ve never hiked this trail, you should! Highly recommended.
Vic’s Scenic Rating
The Parks Canada web page for the Skyline Trail has a map showing the course of the trail. You are likely to see moose, bald eagles, and other boreal birds; from the stairs, whales are regularly seen feeding in the waters down below. Coyotes and bear also share this habitat, but I’ve never seen either when I’ve hiked there. In high summer, the trail across the ridge is usually very crowded; you may avoid much of the crush by taking the northern part of the loop (the right fork). The views are usually clearest in the afternoon, after any morning fog has burnt off, but the late afternoon sun will be shining into your camera where the views are best, so it is best to visit the stairs well before then.

Photo Catalogue

Click on any thumbnail to be taken to the photo essay page for that photo.

Thumbnail Date GPS Locality Where Caption
../essays/1/thumbnails/pa136077.jpg 2005
French Mountain at its end on the stairs Skyline Trail View