The Cape Smokey Picnic Park, situated just along the Cabot Trail is a 40km drive from Cabot Shores. Regardless of the weather, the trip offers views that will leave you with your face pressed up against the car window for the duration of the drive. If you happen to be the designated driver, the Cape Smokey Lookout is a space to pull over and take in the scenery at your leisure.
Cape Smokey: Trail Conditions
We decided to hike Cape Smokey on a slow day in May, Nova Scotia still in pandemic lockdown. We found the picnic area, parking lot, and restrooms open and clean, just footsteps away from breathtaking views.
This 10.6 kilometres out-and-back-style route is easy to follow and well-marked. As we passed through the wooden frame marking the entrance to the trail, our adventure became more challenging. The trail is what we jokingly call an “ankle breaker,” with scraggly branches poking out, loose rocks, and uneven terrain. The trail is also fairly thin, requiring hikers to travel single-file for much of the trip. The first two kilometres are on a downhill slope and require a steady foot.
The trail was saturated in parts, even in late May, forcing us to take brief detours. As well, the trail was often split by streams and used wooden foot bridges. A warning to those who pursue this trail — walking over these makeshift bridges one at a time is in your best interest!
While this hike is by no means boring, you’ll spend the majority of the trip in the trees. This shelter is nice on hot or windy days, but otherwise does little to deter the black flies.
A highlight is the breathtaking lookout three kilometres into the hike. Both of us were stunned by just how high up we were from the ocean. We soaked in the scenery from a wooden bench.
Recommendations for Future Hikers
We would advise those exploring Cape Smokey to wear long pants, high socks, and hiking boots. A brisk pace keeps the bugs at bay, but stopping to catch your breath makes you an easy target. A walking stick may help with stability on rugged terrain. Although we didn’t see anything much bigger than a raven, we did see moose scat along the trail. Hikers should be cautious when in backcountry areas and should be knowledgeable about encounters with unpredictable wildlife.
The Cabot Trail is a hiker’s paradise, but there are better-maintained hiking paths than Cape Smokey. Cape Smokey is, in a word, okay. If you have limited time in Cape Breton, we would recommend exploring other trails. Middle Head, for example, is an accessible hike with breathtaking views. Alternately, the guided hike at Kalapa Valley is a similar distance from Cabot Shores, perfect for the casual hiker and spiritual junkie alike.