My friend Rob and I hiked the Cape Chignecto coastal trail this past December and had a great time.
The Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is located on a peninsula in the Bay of Fundy near Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia. It is approximately a 3 hour drive from Halifax. The park has a number of trails for both overnight and day use. The full loop is listed as being 51 kms.
There’s two ways to do this hike. Going in a clockwise direction, the steepest hills and most scenic coastal views are in the first 2/3rds of the hike. The last 3rd is inland, with less elevation change. There’s no right way to do it, we hiked counter-clockwise to enjoy the coastal views early while the weather forecast was still good.
Day One: Refugee Cove
We got started a little late in the day after the drive from Halifax. So our plan was to hike 12 km from the Red Point parking to Refugee Cove.
Due to the off season, the park offices were closed up and there was a sign at the trail head that said “enter at own risk”. This was a bonus as we got to camp for free and it meant that we didn’t see a single other soul while on the trail. But, I wouldn’t advocate this unless you have established strict guidelines for your emergency contact to ensure they will start the search process if you are not out by your scheduled time.
Early in your hike on Cape Chignecto, you’ll have the option of walking along the beach for a few kilometres (remember to carefully check the tide charts). The other option is the main trail which goes inland, then curves back to the beach. I highly recommend the beach section if your timing makes it possible. Also, the section of trail that the beach by-passes is part of the initial trail-head that takes you to the loop. This means that you have two chances at the beach, both on the way in and on the way out.
The hike to Refugee Cove has some great steep hills with elevations up to 600 ft. The hill climbs are certainly effective at getting your heart pumping and they also offer rewarding views of the entire Bay of Fundy.
The trail is well marked for the entire hike and there are plenty of small streams to gather water.
We set up camp and then brought our food out to the shore and enjoyed the view of the bay until dark. The campsite was positioned inland, had plenty of shelter in the trees, and good tent pads.
Day Two: Seal Cove
The hike from Refugee to Seal Cove is about 19 km. Again, this is a hilly section with lots of ups and downs and we were treated to more fantastic views of the bay. With good visibility you can take in a number of islands in the bay and can even see some of the Fundy National Park across the bay in New Brunswick.
We had to move a little quicker than normal due to the dwindling daylight hours and it was halfway through this second day that I was starting to get a little winded trying to keep up with Rob’s breakneck pace.
That was when he offered to let me try out his pack, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus.
He was literally carrying half the weight that I had on my back and I didn’t have any more luxury items then he did. His big 3: pack, shelter, and pad easily weighed less than half mine.
It was this hike that started me moving from standard lightweight hiking to more of an ultralight philosophy. Maybe not going to extremes, but at least trimming down my main gear weight to keep up with Rob.
Watch for the floating lake along the way, it makes for some pretty cool pictures. Make sure you take a close look at it from both sides. You also get some really great views of the Three Sisters rock formation. Big fluffy flakes of snow started falling late in the afternoon and made everything feel peaceful and surreal.
Day Three: Back to Red Rocks
We had a good amount of snow that night and on our way out of the site we noticed at least one set of coyote tracks not far from where we had camped. I wanted to see if one would venture to take a bite out of Rob while he was cocooned in his hammock.
This stretch of the trail is 21 km of mostly inland hiking through the trees and valleys. There is some interesting old dam work to be seen when crossing one of the rivers.
The walking is easier going on this stretch and we made good time. The tides worked out in our favour and we were able to take the steps down to walk the last stretch on the beach.
Overall, Cape Chignecto is one of the best multi-day hikes I’ve been on in Nova Scotia. We were lucky to get great weather the entire time as I know fog and rain can sometimes be a problem in the Bay of Fundy.
I would love to do this hike again in the summer, sometimes it is great to be alone on an empty trail and sometimes its fun to enjoy the company of other hikers. With more summer daylight this hike wouldn’t be too much of a stretch in three days, but if you like to take your time to explore or relax on the trail then I would recommend taking four days to enjoy it.