Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park

The end of the Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island has spectacular views of the sea and allows you to walk amongst unique growth on the windswept bluffs.
The end of the Skyline Trail in Highlands National Park on Cape Breton Island has spectacular views of the sea and allows you to walk amongst unique growth on the windswept bluffs.

We’ve been going to Highlands National Park for several years and have hiked many of the trails and stopped at all the lookouts to admire the views but this time we decided to finally do the Skyline Trail which was one of the few treks we hadn’t made in the park.

We decided to do the entire trail loop and went counter-clockwise taking the right fork in the trail where the loop begins. It seems most people do the Skyline clockwise or just take the left fork and go straight there and back to the boardwalks at the end of the trail, we wanted to do it different and we’re glad we did!

The trail crosses open fields with short stubby trees and grasses and some swampy marshy plants. There are great views of the ocean as you descend the trail which is pretty much downhill all the way until you get to the start of the boardwalk which is probably the most iconic section of the trail and perhaps the entire park.

The winds blowing off the sea in Highlands National Park leave the trees bent and twisted in to lovely sculptures.
The winds blowing off the sea in Highlands National Park leave the trees bent and twisted in to lovely sculptures.

The highlight was coming around a corner in a tall bushy section of the trail and I saw the hindquarters of a large moose! We finally saw a moose, these famous Highland Moose that we have often heard of and hadn’t yet seen.

He was munching leaves and was making his rutting sounds. It was amazing to crouch quietly in the bushes in the sunshine and watch him. He was huge but very peaceful looking and it was nice to stop and watch him rubbing his large antlers on the trees.

The highlight of our walk on the Skyline Trail was being able to stand quietly and watch this beautiful Moose eat some leaves just off the trail!
The highlight of our walk on the Skyline Trail was being able to stand quietly and watch this beautiful Moose eat some leaves just off the trail!

After we left we saw a few other hikers and they asked if we had seen the moose as I guess when a moose is spotted the word gets around pretty quick. I’m not surprised some people never see any moose on the trail; we passed a lot of people who were talking incessantly as they hiked and this would make any moose want to hide especially when they are talking about the economy and foreign affairs!

We walked along the boardwalk and stairs along the ridge of the highland hills and had an amazing view overlooking the Northumberland Straight as it shimmered in the sun. The trail from the end of the boardwalk to the start of the boardwalk is the most dramatic for views of steep sloping canyon walls but also for the interesting plants and flowers that grow along the wind beaten and wide open fairly bare slopes of the hill. There is an entire miniature world of plants we don’t see back in New Brunswick and it was fascinating to stop and see the tiny flowers and berries that snuggled against the rocks.

Stark and bare yet still life thrives in this desolate place.
Stark and bare yet still life thrives in this desolate place.

All in all the Skyline trail was nice, I don’t think it would rank as the best trail we’ve done in Highlands Park but then again there isn’t really any lack luster trails either; every season makes every trail different and there are bogs and elder forests and rocky trails with amazing views so wherever we go we are always happy to see something new.

The boardwalk has benches to sit and take photos and enjoy the view of the Nova Scotia Coastline.
The boardwalk has benches to sit and take photos and enjoy the view of the Nova Scotia Coastline.