seal cove in Cape Chignecto

3-Day Itinerary on the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail

In search of a new hiking adventure, the Cape Chignecto Provincial Park in Nova Scotia catches my interest. This three to four-day backpacking trail is a good alternative to the famous Fundy Footpath opposite the bay in New Brunswick. Immediately, I start planning a three-day backpacking trip to hike Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail. If you plan on backpacking or hiking part of Cape Chignecto Coastal trail, here is some information that will make it easy for you to plan an epic adventure.

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Sealy Cove from the Cape Chignecto Trail
épingle du sentier de cap Chignecto

About Cape Chignecto Provincial Park

The Bay of Fundy is known for its tallest tides in the world. From the top of the cliffs in Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, one can admire the coast’s changing landscape with the rhythm of the tide. Cape Chignecto Provincial Park in Nova Scotia is home to an endless wilderness where coves, valleys, lookouts and old-growth forests charm visitors from season to season. 

Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is open from May to October.

Where is Cape Chignecto Provincial Park?

Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is near Advocate Harbour in Nova Scotia, in Atlantic Canada. The peninsula sits in the Bay of Fundy between Chignecto Bay and Minas Basin.

How to get to Cape Chignecto Provincial Park?

From Halifax – Take the NS-102 North for 180 kilometres, then the NS-209 West to Advocate Road. Follow the park’s signs to the visitor centre. It is approximately 230 kilometres from Halifax to Cape Chignecto Provincial Park, close to a 3-hour drive.

From Moncton, NB – Follow the Trans-Canada Hwy (Hwy 2) south to NS-209 West. This trip is 150 kilometres or about a 2-hour drive. 

About Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail

The backpacking Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail forms a loop of 50 kilometres. It is considered difficult. You will need three to four days to hike Cape Chignecto’s loop in its entirety. The elevation gains and losses are significant for two-thirds of the route. This well-marked backcountry trail is rugged and strewn with rocks and roots with steep ups and downs.

Note that campfires are not permitted in the park’s backcountry.

Planning

It is essential to know your hiking skills to plan your journey properly to take full advantage of your backcountry adventure. Ensure you have the necessary equipment to stay safe on the trails.

Backpacking Gear

Since the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail is a multi-day trail, I chose my 65 L backpack, which gives me enough space to carry everything I need on my back. Once filled, including the dry food, the weight of my bag is close to 13 kilograms.

Planning the route

While planning my itinerary, my online research brought me to different sites that I share with you here.

The trail map was handy in deciding which campsites to book depending on the distances I wanted to cover each day. You can download it from the Cape Chignecto Park’s website. Remember that this is a challenging trail, and you may want to be conservative when planning the distance you will cover each day.

I planned my route clockwise. However, many hikers opt to complete the loop counterclockwise. I did not regret my choice. One way or the other, I am convinced that hikers take full advantage of the breathtaking panoramas.

Distances Between Campsites along the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail:

  • Red Rocks Visitor Center – kilometre 0
  • Mill Brook  – kilometre 7
  • Refugee Cove – kilometre 13
  • Little Bald Rock – kilometre 20
  • Big Bald Rock – kilometre 22
  • Keyhole Brook – kilometre 26
  • Seal Cove – kilometre 31
  • Eatonville – kilometre 36
  • Back to the Visitor Center – kilometre 51

Once you have planned your itinerary, it is essential to book the chosen sites. Reservations are possible online here or by contacting the park directly. When completing the online booking, select the “Backcountry” tab. The Nova Scotia Parks website also includes helpful information.

Planning the Meals

Plan your three meals a day plus snacks to help keep up the energy needed to complete the distances with the many ups and downs on the trail each day. This 5-day backpacking menu will help you plan your meals. The recipes for dehydrated meals are simple, and the snack ideas will give you the energy to finish your days strong.

Backpacking Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail

So, with my full backpack, hiking boots, and trekking poles, I set out to hike the loop in three days. Next is my itinerary and a short description of each section.

Day 1 – from the Visitor Center to Refugee Cove – 13 kilometres


The trail starts at the Visitor Center. The first minutes are spent walking on a pebble beach. The sea extends to infinity. Before long (a little over a kilometre from the start), the path plunges to the right into the forest. Be on the lookout for the trail marker.

And here, the real work begins! The path follows the cliffs that overlook the Bay of Fundy and offers beautiful landscapes! The climbs are long and steep, and the descents, too! But the landscapes when I sneak a peek at the sea reward all the efforts of the ups and downs of the trail. The air is humid, making the journey a little more difficult. Be sure to have enough water, especially on hot days.

Along the way, I come across the Mill Brook campsite, which is about 7 kilometres from the start. It is possible to stop here for the night. As for me, I continue my journey toward Refugee Cove.

The ups and downs are relentless, and I understand why this trail is challenging even to seasoned hikers. The glimpses I get of the water from above the cliffs are wonderful. The trail hugs the coastline, sometimes from almost 200 meters above, sometimes closer to the water.

Before setting up camp, I take a short break on the beach to admire the scenery. High and low tides change the view in a matter of hours, and on my return to the beach, the scenery has shockingly changed after pitching my tent and hanging up my soaked clothes. The water level rises and falls by an average of eight meters on the park’s shores. 

cape chignecto coastal trail at low tide
low tide
cape chignecto coastal trail at high tide
high tide

Day 2 – from Refugee Cove to Seal Cove – 18 kilometres


The steep ascents and descents continue throughout the day. This part of the trail, considered the backcountry, has no infrastructure. Yesterday, I sometimes found railings, stairs, and wooden boardwalks. This is no longer the case. Good hiking shoes are a must here on the rugged path.

And just like the day before, the views are spectacular. The shores, the cliffs, and the immensity of the sea escort me throughout the day. Seal Cove is particularly adorable.

Along the way, I hiked by the Little Bald Rock and Big Bald Rock campsites, 7 and 9 kilometres from Refugee Cove, respectively. Both campsites are perfect options for hikers who prefer a shorter day or those who want a shorter distance and have more time to admire the landscapes.

cape chignecto coastal trail
seal cove in Cape Chignecto

The Seal Cove campground is located near a stream. My site is at the very top of a small hill. Site 1 and 2 are best if you have a choice. Site 3 is also excellent. Luckily, my site has a picnic table. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case for backcountry campsites.

I have a visitor for dinner; a little creature tries to steal my food. Before long, he returns to the tree from which he came out and continues to watch from his hiding place. This is his domain. I am the intruder here.

squirrel trying to get into my lunch
cape chignecto coastal trail cliffs at high tide
tent in a backcountry campsite surrounded by trees

Day 3 – from Seal Cove to the Visitor Center – 21 kilometres


The last day of backpacking on the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail will be the biggest in terms of distance but with easier terrain for the final leg. 

Following Eatonville Harbor, the trail heads away from the shore and comes across a clearing to dive into a dense forest. There is minimal elevation, so the distance is covered quite quickly. Make sure to take a break or have a snack in the meadow. Once you get into the forest, you will have mosquitoes for company, and breaks won’t be as enjoyable. 

After only a few hours of walking, I find myself on the same beach where my adventure began. I walk slower than when I arrived; my feet seem heavier. Before long, I am back at the Visitor Center.

Here I am, at the end of an adventure filled with spectacular views, after a small wild encounter and full of pride for having pushed my physical limits. 

-Adventuresome Jo

More backpacking adventures like Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail

If you want more backpacking trip ideas, you might enjoy my week backpacking in the Chic Chocs. This multi-day trail offers many options when planning the trip. The hike through the mountains in Eastern Quebec is an epic adventure!

Another destination to add to your bucket list in beautiful Nova Scotia is Cape Breton Island. With the stunning scenes of the Cabot trail and the hiking adventures in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, it is a bucket list adventure!

Visit more of Nova Scotia with this guide to the perfect road trip.

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