The world-famous Skyline Trail starts at the summit of French Mountain and follows the ridge (seen in photo #1), which lies to the north of French Mountain high above the ravine carved by Jumping Brook, out to a headland which drops precipitously into the Gulf of St Lawrence below. The mostly level trail, with boardwalks over wet spots, teems with wildlife (moose and eagles are almost always seen and whales regularly feed in the waters below) and ends in a series of stairs and viewing platforms that are so cunningly constructed that they cannot be seen from the Cabot Trail below. Its amazing views will stay with you forever: on a clear day, Sight Point with Margaree Island superimposed on it is off in the far distance; Chéticamp, Chéticamp Island, and Presqu’Île are closer at hand; and, at your feet, the Cabot Trail winds up French Mountain around a series of sharp curves, hugging the side of the mountain as it ascends. The dusting of snow on the terrain in this photo, taken from the lower of the two French Mountain look-offs from which one can see the Skyline Ridge, makes its relief stand out in wonderful detail; much of it is bare rock and looks quite different without a blanket of white, as this photo, taken in the fall on a much less fine day shows.
In photo #2, the Cabot Trail ascends to the summit of French Mountain along and around its side at the far right; it incidentally shows the fine state of the road’s surface. Taken from further up the mountain than the other three views on this page, it better shows the eastern end of the ridge close to the point where it joins the Cape Breton Highlands Plateau at the summit of French Mountain. Note, too, in both this photo and in photo #1, the high snow banks here: though not as high as near the webcam, they were still high enough to interfere with the view.
Photos #3 and #4 show details of the ridge seen in much less detail in photo #1. Photo #3 is a close-up of the headland on which the observation decks at the end of the trail are located. Years ago, it was possible to descend on the headland beyond where the observation decks are now; it was both because of the danger and because of the needless and unacceptable damage it causes to the very fragile alpine terrain on the headland that the observation decks were constructed. Photo #4 shows the central crest of the ridge, which contains an overlook, as cunningly concealed as the stairs and observation platforms, which leans out over the precipice to give one a magnificent view of the ravine and the Cabot Trail below.
Barrett’s always interesting Cape Breton Highlands National Part: A Park Lover’s Companion, indicates that the trail is skiable in the winter time: “The Skyline Trail can be good for skiing but it tends to be windswept. […] When there’s lots of snow, the wind tends to build it up into snow cornices that overhang the edge of the ravine. Don’t stand too close to them or you may find yourself engaged in some extreme skiing down the precipice into Jumping Brook.” [p. 96]
I have not located any information about Jumping Brook nor how it came by its name. My suspicion is that there must be a waterfall where it tumbles over the cliff into the Gulf of St Lawrence below, like the Jumping Brook of Meat Cove does, but I have not been able to confirm that hypothesis. If anyone could share that information with me, please e-mail me at the address in the footer below.