Project Overview

Cape Breton Island is a wonderful place to explore on foot: steep valleys, hidden waterfalls, majestic old growth forests and a rugged coastline are just a few of the natural features waiting for the curious and intrepid hiker. While it has plenty of wonderful day hikes, Cape Breton lacks a true long-distance hiking trail.

We are proposing the Seawall Trail: an epic trek along the coast and cliffs of Northern Cape Breton. We believe that, when completed, the Seawall Trail will attract hiking enthusiasts from around the globe and will help establish Nova Scotia as a world-class hiking destination.

Project Overview

Cape Breton Island is a wonderful place to explore on foot: steep valleys, hidden waterfalls, majestic old growth forests and a rugged coastline are just a few of the natural features waiting for the curious and intrepid hiker. While it has plenty of wonderful day hikes, Cape Breton lacks a true long-distance hiking trail. We are proposing the Seawall Trail: an epic trek along the coast and cliffs of Northern Cape Breton. We believe that, when completed, the Seawall Trail will attract hiking enthusiasts from around the globe and will help establish Nova Scotia as a world-class hiking destination.

Imagine.

True Adventure

Make tracks in rugged land where few have walked before.

Chance encounters

Moose roam the woods. Whales frolick offshore. Eagles own the sky.

Darkness

Your tent. The black of night. The only lights? One hundred billion stars.

Stunning Scenery

Un untamed coast. Old growth forests. Blazing sunsets. A "Wow!" around every bend.

options

Hike independently, or hire a guide for your epic adventure.

Amazing People

Hard working. Fiercely independent. The nicest folks you'll ever meet.

Trail Description

The Seawall Trail will be a five day, forty eight kilometer wilderness hike. The main coastal route will travel from south to north and will expand upon existing, historical trails (with plenty of new trail added). An east-west inland spur trail will begin near Cape North. Trailheads on the main and spur routes will connect the trail to communities in both Victoria and Inverness counties.

There will be a series of day loops integrated with the northern portion of the trail (out of Meat Cove) that will also take advantage of existing trail systems (Lowland Cove and Cape St. Lawrence day hikes)

Accommodations will be hut based and users will be charged a fee to stay. Revenues from accommodations and trail access will be used to maintain and service the path, to hire staff and to fund trail promotion and administration. After lengthy evaluation this model was established as the most sustainable.

Hikers will be supplied and sites will be maintained by established, local guides and outfitters. The trail will be located in a protected area with limited vehicle access.

We see the trail being used by many groups: foreign backpackers and visiting tourists who want to experience an authentic coastal wilderness adventure; hikers and explorers from Cape Breton and across Canada; educators and scientists for teaching and research; community groups for programming and skills development; First Nations as a way to get back to the land and to pass on traditional activities; and local residents as a way to further explore their “back yard.”

Impact

A 2014 report examining the socio-economic impact of the Overland Track (Tasmania, Australia) demonstrates the economic potential of a world-class trail. Hiked by almost 8000 people a year, the Overland generates over $16 million annually in direct and indirect expenditure, sustains over 80 full time equivalent jobs, supports dozens of businesses and is self-sustaining: annual revenues from trail fees, site fees and merchandising are used to maintain the trail and employ staff. 

The Seawall Trail also has tremendous potential to generate millions of dollars in economic activity, create new jobs and support small businesses. Local communities will provide the following services: access and fee administration; parking and car shuttles; equipment rentals; provisioning and supplies; boat transfers; pre- and post-hike dining and food services; visitor information and souvenirs; accommodations in motels and campgrounds; and general support for visitors before and after their hikes. The economic impact will be felt province-wide however much of the benefit will accrue to Northern Cape Breton, an area in need of economic growth. 

Like the Skyline Trail, The Seawall Trail will become part of Nova Scotia’s brand and will provide a differentiating identity when compared to other locations. Local residents will develop a sense of pride and ownership: they will associate their success with the success of the trail. 

Other benefits include: opportunities for increased health and wellness through active living; research and educational programming by universities, community groups, governments and First Nations; improved access for participation in traditional activities; opportunities in capacity building in the tourism, recreation, justice and community sectors; and potential winter tourism.

Development Plan

The trail development is following the 10-step guidelines provided by Nova Scotia's Department of Environment, a couple of which can be found in our Documents section. However, for general purposes the project can be broken down into three basic stages.

Planning and Development

Planning and development includes all activities before any actual construction begins: public consultations; trail management agreements; fundraising; trail development plans; flagging and alignment; initial marketing; and other planning activities.  It is estimated that Stage One will cost between $75,000 and $125,000, dependant on the division of labour ( consultants versus the use of volunteers ) and is currently ongoing. The Society has raised the necessary funds through private fundraising campaigns, corporate donations and grants from various levels of government.

Construction

Construction involves the actual building of the trail and any associated infrastructure: parking facilities, signage, huts and tent sites, bathroom facilities. Costs associated with this stage will be captured in the Trail Construction Plan.

Maintenance

Trail maintenance is a critical activity and incurred costs depend largely on the initial quality of construction and volume of foot traffic. Other jurisdictions successfully maintain their trails by reinvesting income from fees and merchandising and we also plan to employ this model.

Building Wilderness Trails

The Nova Scotia Department of Environemnt has prosuced a guide to building trails in wilderness areas entitled 10 Steps to Developing a Hiking Trail in a Wilderness Area. The tens steps are:

Step 1 — Express your interest to Nova Scotia Environment

Step 2 — Submit a trail concept letter

Step 3 — Submit a trail development proposal

Step 4 – Seek feedback, adjust, resubmit

Step 5 – Sign a trail planning agreement

Step 6 – Submit a trail construction plan

Step 7 – Seek feedback, adjust, resubmit

Step 8 – Enter into a trail management agreement

Step 9 – Construct the trail

Step 10 – Open the trail