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Celtic Shores Coastal Trail

Length:   90.0 km (56.25 mi) – one way
Type of Trail:   Crushed stone, natural surface
Uses (no snow):   walking, biking, horseback riding, ATVs
Uses (snow):   snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling
Dog Use:   on-leash required

Trailhead GPS:   N45º 38.880’ W61º 24.735’ (Start – Canso Causeway), N45º 41.430’ W61º 26.510’ (Cycling Start – Troy Station), N46º 13.780’ W61º 18.600’ (Finish – Inverness)

Three Reasons to hike/bike this trail:
•    Superb ocean views
•    Ghost Beach causeway walk
•    Excellent wildlife spotting and birding potential

One of the longest off-road sections of the Trans Canada/Great Trail in Nova Scotia is the 90 km/56.25 mi from the Canso Causeway to Inverness along the west coast of Cape Breton Island. Five community organizations combined to develop and manage the former rail-line, which has been surfaced with crushed stone and is open to a wide variety of uses.

This is one of the best maintained and signed routes in Atlantic Canada, and deserves its growing reputation for quality. Motorized and non-motorized uses seem to co-exist quite well on this route, with the majority of ATV users adhering to the posted 30 kph/18.75 mph speed limit.

Each section provides a different experience. The nearly 40 km/25 mi to Port Hood follows the Canso Strait, so coastal views are common. After there, the trail turns inland and the remainder of the trip to Inverness followed rivers and passed near lakes. The exposed strip of land of Ghost Beach, which cannot be biked, makes the first 4.1/2.6 mi a separate and unique adventure.

The Celtic Shore Coastal Trail can be most easily used by bicycles and motorized vehicles. Although cyclists can probably complete the full route in one day, I recommend that hikers commit five days to undertake it. As camping is not permitted along the trail route, hikers must stay is B&Bs or campgrounds, which limits their overnight options:
1.    Day 1: Canso Causeway to Creignish, 11.1 km/6.9 mi
2.    Day 2: Creignish to Judique, 17.1 km/10.1 mi
3.    Day 3: Judique to Port Hood, 16 km/10 mi
4.    Day 4: Port Hood to Mabou, 20.1 km/12.6 mi
5.    Day 5: Mabou to Port Hood, 25.7 km/16.1 mi

Cautionary Notes: Coastal weather. Road crossings. Wildlife.

Ratings are designated from 1 to 5 indicating suitability for all fitness and experience levels, with 5 being suitable only for experienced and very fit outdoor people. Novices should only choose level 1 and 2 hikes, and work their way up. Level 4 and 5 hikes have indicators associated with their ratings.

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