Backpacking Nova Scotia, Canada

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Vegan.Hiker

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I had 8 days off this Fourth of July so I took a road trip from my home in New Jersey to Nova Scotia, Canada. This report is about the 4 day backpacking trip on Cape Chignecto. This was a long 14 hour drive so I also wrote a short trip report of some of the stuff I checked out on the drive up which you can check out here.

Cape Chignecto juts out into the middle of the Bay of Fundy in between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Canada. In the map below, the red pin marks it's location.

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When I arrived I went to the Ranger Station to pick up my permits and then set up my tent in a nearby field. The field was about a 10 minute walk from the Ranger Station up on cliff overlooking the coast. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and the fog obstructed most of the view. There was heavy rain in the forecast for later that night but the weather was supposed to clear up the next morning and stay nice for the remainder of my trip.

I attached my Gaia tracks below in case anyone is interested. The route I took was a tad over 38 miles with a little over 5,000' cumulative elevation gain. All of the hike, except for the 10 mile connector trail back to the ranger station on my last day, followed the coast line. The hike was a little more rugged than I expected with some tricky fords, and stream crossings, but compared to the Pemi Loop trip that I did a few weeks prior (report HERE), this wasn't nearly as challenging. It was definitely more of a quiet, peaceful, and serene vibe. There was more variation than I expected as well. There were alpine forests, areas of mixed hardwoods, grassy fields, river banks filled with ferns and moss, and of course a coast that varied from sea level beaches to rugged cliffs towering 900' over the sea below. One thing that there was definitely no shortage of, was water sources. It felt as though you crossed a freshwater river or stream that was flowing towards the ocean every half hour or so. There was never a reason to carry more than a liter at a time.

Gaia tracks (you can click on image to enlarge)
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Starting out on day 1, the clouds and fog were still lingering. To start and end the loop, there is a section of beach that runs about 1.5 miles that is passable at all times except for betwen 1 hour before high tide to one hour after high tide. The rangers warn you to double-check the tide tables before you head out there or you'll get stuck clinging to the cliffs in a precarious spot.

Where the mountains meet the sea.
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At the end of the beach walk there are some wooden stairs marking the beginning of the trail. The trail heads up steeply to about 900' before you start looking way down at the ocean.
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At first, I thought "hey there's the tip of the cape", but I quickly learned that the cape is actually made of dozens of smaller capes with coves in between them. Some big, some small. I liken them to false summits. This was just one of dozens of capes I encountered.
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Once up on the cliff, the trail went back and forth between meandering through the woods and the edge of the cliff line. I learned after a while that when the trail headed away from the coast and into the woods, it was usually to descend down to a river or stream crossing.

Clouds slowly started to lift
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Some of the tributaries descended down to the ocean gradually and some fell off of cliffs in waterfalls.
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After about 10 or 11 miles the trail descended down to a nice cove with a beach and a river flowing out from the woods into the ocean. This is where my first campsite was. The name of this cove was Refugee Cove.

Right side of Refugee Cove. On the right side of this pic is where the water flows into the ocean.
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Left side of Refugee Cove. I later heard that there are cool caves to explore right around this corner that you can access at low tide. Unfortunately, I spent the whole evening on this beach but had no idea.
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The campsites were behind the cove tucked in the woods along the stream. This is looking out towards the beach from near the campsites. The water pools into a pond and flows out towards the right side down the beach and into the ocean.
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After setting up camp, I spent the next few hours sitting on the beach using a large log as a back rest. Lucy napped on her half a z-lite while I ate dinner and watched the sun go down with my earbuds in. It was the times of peace and serenity like this that made the drive sooo worthwhile.
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The trail the next morning ascending out of Refugee Cove
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We decided to break for lunch here on day 2
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Most coves were innaccessible and had a beach. Unless you were to kayak in I suppose.
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This beach was looking really nice in the heat of the day. I looked for a route down but there was none.
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Once I passed the tip of the cape, the trail was much more open and grassy. There were open fields along the tops of the cliffs on this side and a little less of the dense forest.
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Looking out over the ocean from about 800' above
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Another cove with a beach and waterfall
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I’ve always noticed that unlike my other dog Joey, Lucy actually looks at views. I'm curious to know why that is. I wonder if it's a difference in their vision or in their cognition.
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A glimpse of what the trail looked like when it tucked into the forest a little.
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I learned that this is called a "raised beach". I'm not exactly sure how this happens but I'm guessing it has to do with erosion and the passing of millions of years. What I don't understand is whether the water level was ever up that high. I'll have to look into this more.
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There were occasionally some fissures like this one that looks almost like slot canyons that leading to a tiny beach. My guess is that these were formed from tectonics though, not water erosion.
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Some wildflowers and alpine forest on the north end of the cape. The cliffs weren't as high on the northern end.
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Another cove with water flowing out to the ocean
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Low tide
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Almost walked right into this guy hanging out right on the trail. I'm glad that Lucy was hiking behind me when we came across it.
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On day 3, I only had about a 5 mile hike to my campsite, so I set up camp and slackpacked another 7 miles on a loop that went further up the coast. Here are a few pics from day 3.
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On day 4, I got up early and was on the trail by 5:30 am. Almost all of day 4 was inland through forest and following various rivers and streams. I eventually reached the beach where I started the loop. When I got there I almost didn't recognize it. Not so much because the fog was gone, but because of how much of the sea floor becomes exposed at low tide.
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By the time I descended down onto the beach the tide had come up a little and looked more like when I had started my trip here. I walked the mile and half back to the ranger station to check out and begin my trip back to New Jersey.
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A few final thoughts.. This trip was much nicer than I expected but the campsites were pretty awful. There were so many views and vistas along the way, yet most of the campsites were tucked hundreds of feet into the woods in a 4' spot between a tree and a boulder. I don't get it. In retrospect, I wish I had made kayak beach camping reservations (which they will give to backpackers) where you can just camp wherever on the beach.

I had a pretty funny incident in the ranger station where I thought my gaia route was wrong and that my campsites were all marked in the wrong spot when I was talking to the Ranger before the trip. If I thought something was 7 miles away he'd say no that's about 11.5 and this went on and on for over 5 minutes until I realized I was talking in miles and he was talking in kilometers. It was straight up Abbot and Costello. I felt like a real American idiot. I also got really good at multiplying by .6 as all of the signs on the trail were in km.

All in all, I really enjoyed this trip and it inspired me to want to want to take 3 other trips... 1) I'm bumping the Pacific Northwest up my list as I just really love coastal hiking. I really think it should be considered up there with the Mountains and the Desert. 2) I'd like to backpack the Fundy Footpath in New Brunswick. I heard from a few other hikers on the trail that the Fundy Footpath is much more difficult than the Chignecto Loop but just as scenic and with much nicer campsites. It's also a few hours closer to where I live. And finally, 3) I'd like to backpack the 40 mile length of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. Perhaps my buddy @Chuck the Mauler will show me the ropes up there one day.

Thanks for checking this out.
 
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Fantastic TR and photos! Reminds me of the first time I went into Canada and saw a speed limit sign of 100. Took me a minute to realize it was in km and was 60 mph.

It's refreshing to see a landscape I'll probably never get to visit (too far). Beautiful.
 

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Great trip report and photos @Vegan.Hiker !! Looks like a very inviting place indeed. How did you learn about this? Perhaps I've missed this in earlier posts but have you been up that way before? We love this part of Canada ... although we've never backpacked up there, we have done a bit of exploring on the back roads of NB and PEI. We found a deserted beach on Cape Breton during our visit there ... we were expecting cold water like in Maine but the ocean was surprisingly warm (it was early September).
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Fantastic TR and photos! Reminds me of the first time I went into Canada and saw a speed limit sign of 100. Took me a minute to realize it was in km and was 60 mph.

It's refreshing to see a landscape I'll probably never get to visit (too far). Beautiful.
Thanks. Haha yup, I had my hike planning down but sort of forgot about the international aspect. I grabbed my passport and vet papers for Lucy and that's it. I didn't realize there would be a time zone change (never even heard of Atlantic Time Zone before), forgot to exchange US money for Canadian, and thought gas was REALLY cheap until I realized the price was per liter, not gallon. Then I realized it was actually really expensive. All part of the adventure I guess.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Great trip report and photos @Vegan.Hiker !! Looks like a very inviting place indeed. How did you learn about this? Perhaps I've missed this in earlier posts but have you been up that way before? We love this part of Canada ... although we've never backpacked up there, we have done a bit of exploring on the back roads of NB and PEI. We found a deserted beach on Cape Breton during our visit there ... we were expecting cold water like in Maine but the ocean was surprisingly warm (it was early September).
Thanks Kevin. Originally, I had wanted to backpack Saguenay Fjord National Park in Quebec for a couple of years but when I looked into it again this year, I realized that the National Parks in Canada don't allow dogs, so I started looking into some of the various Provincial Parks instead (our version of State Parks I guess) and came across a few that looked like good options. Cape Chignecto wasn't the closest but I chose it because I wanted to do something coastal and majority of the trail in this loop follows the coastline. Most importantly, it allowed dogs. Which is also why I wanted to drive, not fly.
 
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I've hiked with my dogs in Banff, as well as Kootenay, so I had to double check about dogs in Canada's NPs, as I always thought it was legal, though you have to keep them leashed. I did a search on Parks Canada and found that a lot of the parks allow dogs, but some won't let you take them into the backcountry while some will. I also found this link, which describes a few parks:

https://getleashedmag.com/2017/01/17/canadas-top-5-pet-friendly-national-parks-to-visit-this-year/

"Dogs are allowed in Canada’s National Parks if they are accompanied by a person on a three-meter or ten-foot leash. Sporting dogs can be of huge help on your hikes. By tuning into their reactions – both ears and nose – your hound may warn you of wildlife you may want to steer clear of. The policies regarding pets in the Canadian National Parks are significantly more welcoming than those typically found south of the border. Best of all, dogs are allowed nearly everywhere in many Canadian national parks."
 

Ben

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Thanks for sharing John. Feel free to let me know when you're thinking about heading to the coast out here:D
 

Vegan.Hiker

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That is a sweet trip. What were the temperature like?
Highs in the high 60's and lows only dropping about 10 degrees at night. I was expecting it to be a little cooler but this was during the "heat wave" that hit the northeast a few weeks ago. My wife told me that it was over 100 and humid in NJ while I was gone.

I've hiked with my dogs in Banff, as well as Kootenay, so I had to double check about dogs in Canada's NPs, as I always thought it was legal, though you have to keep them leashed. I did a search on Parks Canada and found that a lot of the parks allow dogs, but some won't let you take them into the backcountry while some will. I also found this link, which describes a few parks:

https://getleashedmag.com/2017/01/17/canadas-top-5-pet-friendly-national-parks-to-visit-this-year/

"Dogs are allowed in Canada’s National Parks if they are accompanied by a person on a three-meter or ten-foot leash. Sporting dogs can be of huge help on your hikes. By tuning into their reactions – both ears and nose – your hound may warn you of wildlife you may want to steer clear of. The policies regarding pets in the Canadian National Parks are significantly more welcoming than those typically found south of the border. Best of all, dogs are allowed nearly everywhere in many Canadian national parks."
Interesting, thanks. The National Park I was looking into at the time was Saguenay Fjord National Park and it says the following right on their webpage "Dogs and other domestic animals are not allowed in national parks, with the exception of guide dogs and service dogs." By the way that the statement reads, I assumed they were talking about all Canadian National Parks, but now I'm guessing it's just Quebec's.

(click to enlarge)
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Thanks for sharing John. Feel free to let me know when you're thinking about heading to the coast out here:D
Will do. I know you've done a lot in the PNW, what would be at the top of your list when going back?
 
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Ugly

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Thanks Kevin. Originally, I had wanted to backpack Saguenay Fjord National Park in Quebec for a couple of years but when I looked into it again this year, I realized that the National Parks in Canada don't allow dogs, so I started looking into some of the various Provincial Parks instead (our version of State Parks I guess) and came across a few that looked like good options. Cape Chignecto wasn't the closest but I chose it because I wanted to do something coastal and majority of the trail in this loop follows the coastline. Most importantly, it allowed dogs. Which is also why I wanted to drive, not fly.
I know the dogs not being allowed is a big downer, but the Saguenay and several of those areas up there are really beautiful. I never backpacked, but was up there in the early spring... I want to go back. Last time I was in Quebec I took my parents through all the historical sites, but couldn't convince them to make yet another drive farther north just for a few hikes after the drive up from Montreal.

Sweet Report. It looks exceptional, and your photos showed it off.
 

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Miya

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Great share! Love the photos!
Lucy probably has more past lives and has deep thoughts when she stares at the views haha
Hey, about you and Lucy come to CA and do a coastal hike?! Not very many people hiking in my state on this site. :)
 
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I used to go to NS quite a bit in the early 2000s . There are a lot of neat coastlines there. I have never been or heard of this one though. Pretty nice looking hike. Speaking of time zone changes. Newfoundland is even stranger, NFTime is 1/2 hour different. So Atlantic Time will be 6PM and NF will be 630PM.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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That looks like a great couple of days. Did you see many other hikers? Kayaking to some of those beaches would be a great trip as well.

I really want to hike the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island some day https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/pacificrim/activ/activ6a
I didn’t see too many other hikers but did run into a few along the way. The rangers said it was Canada Day (July 1st) weekend, so it was one of their busiest weekends, but I only ran into other hikers on the trail maybe 3 times the whole trip. I saw some people near the designated campsites since each site had about 6 sites, but they were pretty well spread out.

That trail in Vancouver looks pretty awesome.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Great share! Love the photos!
Lucy probably has more past lives and has deep thoughts when she stares at the views haha
Hey, about you and Lucy come to CA and do a coastal hike?! Not very many people hiking in my state on this site. :)
Don’t kid, I may take you up on that! I looked into the Lost Coast Trail a few years back and it’s still on my list. I’ve only hiked a tiny bit in CA and definitely want to see more. Much more.
 

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Miya

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Don’t kid, I may take you up on that! I looked into the Lost Coast Trail a few years back and it’s still on my list. I’ve only hiked a tiny bit in CA and definitely want to see more. Much more.
Yeah that is my trip that got canceled this year. Still determined to do it though.
I have been wanting a coastal trip because of the heat around here. But backpacking is very limited near the coast or reserves up.
Yeah CA seems like a cool place to visit and not so much live...haha
 

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