Cape Chignecto Provincial Park Loop
ElevationAscent: 5,250' 1,600 m
Descent: -5,250' -1,600 m
High: 859' 262 m
Low: 20' 6 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 50% (27°)
“A stunning loop with 20 miles of coastal wilderness. Very remote and incredibly beautiful.”— Bryan Gagner
The number to call during the season is (902) 392-2085. In the off season, you can call (902) 667-3638. The gas station, store, and diner (all one) are open all year. During the season, there are reasonable fees that help with the park upkeep and extensive trail maintenance.
This loop has a lot of hills and after the first 8-10 miles through the middle of the peninsula, you run 19-21 miles along the coast. Although not always visible, there are many, short lookout trails marked along this route as well as creeks that empty out into the bay with views at the beach. Most of this trail has very high cliffs below it so please stay on the trail. The erosion is constant here.
There are many stream crossings to refill your water, but be sure to treat it with Aqua Tabs, Steripen, or the like. After heavy rains, the creeks can be very full and dangerous to cross. There are a few clifftop creeks that will dump you off the cliff if you get caught in them.
This trail is very remote and help will be a long time coming so be safe and bring emergency gear. The vertical gain for this trail is a bit unclear as GPS watches have claimed as much as ~7000' to as little as 4400' (like my Suunto Ambit 3) or 6400' as noted here. Either way, you are in for a lot of ups and downs. Trail crews generally get to the trails by June.
The trail is pretty runnable; I would say 90%. There are two big and very steep hills at Refugee Cove and Mill Brook that are hard to run after 24 miles.
Typically done counterclockwise, it can take anywhere from 5 to 10 hours to run. You can run it clockwise as well. The FKT for counterclockwise is 5:33:43 gate-to-gate at the visitor centre. Jodi Isenor just posted this time on Oct 17, 2015!
For post-run refueling, the Wild Caraway is a very nice restaurant in town, or the gas station/diner has down home cookin'.
Many hikers use this trail as well so step to the side and let them pass; they are carrying much heavie
You start at the gate and follow the dirt access road down to a bridge and then up to the Christie Viewpoint Trail to the Christy Fields group camping area. There is a small loop at the camping area so either way you'll come to the trail where it enters the woods at 0.4 miles (.6k). This first wooded path is wider like a four-wheeler trail, and you follow this up for about 0.4 miles (.6k) and around .85 miles you take a left off the four-wheeler path onto a singletrack trail that continues up to the Fundy Ridge Trail.
At about 1 mile (1.6k), you'll reach the first high point and begin going down to McGahey Brook at 1.9 miles (3k). There is beach access here and some other trails to get mixed up with. Continue up the hill to 2.4 miles (3.8k) to an intersection where you can do the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. For this description, I will go into detail for the counterclockwise route. So, go right on the Eatonville Trail and follow the trail to Eatonville.
This part of the trail crosses an ATV trail at around 4.9 miles (7.8k) and a dirt road around 6.8 miles (10.9k). It goes through high hardwood forest of beech and maple. Once you get to around 5 miles in (8k), you'll follow a creek down towards the old abandoned town of Eatonville. This part can be hard to find the actual trail so look for the red markers or use the Trail Run Project mobile app.
At around 8.9 miles (14.2k), you'll come to an outhouse for campers in this area. Feel free to lighten the load! Stay left still following the creek generally west towards the coast where the Eatonville Trail will connect to the Coastal Trail.
Your first view of the coast will be around 10.5-11 miles (16.8-17.6k) with the first great view and an open grassy section at 11.2 miles (17.9k). All these distances are approximate given GPS variability and flakiness.
For the next 10 miles, (16k), the Coastal Trail hugs the coastline and dips down to many creeks and back up the other side. Also, there are many side trails to the right to lookouts. Definitely take some of these as they are not very long and well worth the views. The trail passes by some backcountry camping areas with woodsy outhouses. Some of these cliff top creeks can be very hazardous during heavy runoff and to cross safely you need to follow them inland for a bit so you don't get washed over the edge.
Keyhole Brook is about halfway at 14.5 miles (23.2k). At 19.5 miles, you'll come to a sign and intersection that says Cape Chignecto is to the right. This is a lookout. Stay left to continue on your way to Refugee Cove.
At mile 21.7 (34.7k), you begin to descend to Refugee Cove. This cove is quite nice so stay a minute and soak it all up. In 1755, it is said that 300 Acadian refugees came to this cove to hide from the British. The climb out of Refugee is steep and long. When nearing the top, at 22.6 miles (36.1k) stay right as there is a four-wheeler path that heads straight.
At 26 miles, you come to Mill Brook Canyon Trail and start the long climb out. Stay right again at the top of this climb as there is an old dirt road that continues straightish through a gate.
At 27.5 miles, you'll come to the Eatonville Trail intersection that you passed through at the beginning. Go right and back to the visitor center the way you first came. Almost done! Once you get to the fields you are almost there. Doing this run during the parks open season allows you to use the facilities at the visitor centre like the washroom.
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Land Manager: Nova Scotia Provincial Parks