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best hike Nova Scotia – Cape Chignecto FAIL

Posted Jul 18 2009 12:14am

Trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles.

Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail is the best hike in Nova Scotia:

… approximately 51 kilometres (40 miles) long beginning and ending at the Red Rocks Trail Head. When you venture along the coastal trail at Cape Chignecto be prepared for one of Atlantic Canada’s most spectacular adventures. The views are breathtaking. It can be done from either direction (clockwise or counter-clockwise). A three to four day trip will allow time to stop and explore the beaches and viewpoints along the way. …


David Beattie of the Gillespie House Inn had recommended Chignecto. That was the first time I had heard of it.

At Mountain Equipment Co-op in Halifax (the major airport closest to this adventure), staff advised me to get Wilderness Trails and Day Hikes of Cape Chignecto by David Hamilton, the only dedicated guide.

While wolfing down a $5 steak dinner special, I skimmed the guidebook. That was the night before driving to the trailhead. Cape Chignecto sounded quite straight forward. No special concerns.

I wish I’d checked the website, as well:

Picking up my rent-a-car at Noon I enjoyed a leisurely drive through rustic Nova Scotia. On the map the trailhead did not look far. I expected to check in at the Visitor’s Centre in the afternoon and get a good start before dark. … Unfortunately the drive on narrow scenic highways took far longer than I expected. I did not arrive at the trailhead until 5:02 PM.

It closed at 5PM.

I was still psyched, though. Happy to have made it. Raring to go.


Disappointingly there was no information posted outside the building on what after hours arrivers should do. Where to camp?

I could not deposit money for my Park Entry Fee and camping fees ($23/night) into a drop slot. There was none.

I drove back to the only open store in town. They had no additional information for me.

Still “early”, I decided to drive out to Elliot Field campground, hoping to find someone to notify that I was hiking. Or someone to accept my fees.


There were no people. No vehicles at Elliot Field. The only signs posted by the Provincial Park warned that my unregistered vehicle would be towed. That concern nagged.

The section from this campground to Seal Cove my guidebook called “The Crown Jewel” of the hike. I decided to leave my vehicle at Elliot Field campground and enjoy the 6km walk to Seal Cove.

It is gorgeous.

I chose a tent site overlooking the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy below.


How’s this for creative food bag hanging?


I left a Summit Stone on behalf of artist DSD atop the highest point on Seal Beach.


In the morning I finally decided to hike back to the car. And drive away. Happily, my rental was still there at 8AM.

Irked at having FAILED on this hike, I didn’t bother to go complain at the Visitor Centre. Nor pay my Park fee.

There’s a reason that Cape Chignecto Trail is deserted in July, while the West Coast Trail is overbooked.

Cape Chignecto simply has not been promoted enough. Nor is it managed properly.

Fact is Cape Chignecto is the best hike in Nova Scotia. Perhaps all the Maritimes. Yet almost nobody knows about it.

You can have it to yourself if you go.

But don’t show up at the trailhead except during office hours.

See my photos from this too short hike on flickr.

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