Walk around the Bras d’Or & Existing Trails

Our vision is to create a walking trail around the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere utilizing and building upon existing trails, connecting our communities and offering opportunities to explore our beautiful island.  This proposed Trail is not just a pathway; it is a vehicle through which communities surrounding the Lake will join together in thoughtful promotion of their environmental and community assets as they pursue ways to achieve responsible economic development. Connecting existing and proposed walking trails within this vision will lead to rich recreational, educational, social and economic outcomes for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.

A significant feature of the proposed Trail’s uniqueness will be interpretive messages incorporating aspects of the area’s diverse cultural heritage and values, including the guiding principle of Two-Eyed Seeing. This is a principle for cross-cultural collaboration involving learning to see “the best in the indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing” from one eye, and “the best in the mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing” from the other eye. Following the guiding principle of Two-Eyed Seeing, whereby co-learning from different worldviews and cultures is essential, a significant understanding from within Traditional Mi’kmaq Knowledge that can be highlighted is the importance of wholism wherein one strives to include and integrate in harmonious ways the four domains of being human, namely the intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Thus, our committee strives to consider language and imagery to encourage the understanding that the Bras d’Or Trail will only come about, as well as enjoy long-term stewardship, through efforts that see us put our hearts into a collective vision and into the work that will be required (as well as our heads, etc). Equally important is the understanding that we must do this together (while recognizing that “together” in this sense is not meant to preclude potentially separate or independent efforts by different communities towards the overall, collective vision). Given these understandings, Mi’kmaq Elders Murdena and Albert Marshall of Eskasoni First Nation offered the Mi’kmaq Anko’tminew which can be translated as “to care with your entire being” (hope, love, and possibility) for a Walking Trail around the Bras d’Or Lake. Elders Murdena and Albert further offered the glyph that is depicted and explained below:

In 2017, the Great Trail (formerly Trans Canada Trail) Bras d’Or Lake Water Route officially opened; this 377.94 km water trail is ideal for paddling. The water route can be accessed from a number of sites around the Bras d’Or!

Click here to access our trail brochure.

Existing Trails

Check out some of the existing trails in the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere below.

There are a number of trail throughout the Biosphere; some are well known and well used while others are less so. The East Bay Hills Trail which is just 3 km. long is a great trail for young families or for those who just want a short outing in the woods.  For a longer hike, reverse your walk and hike the loop in the opposite direction. This is also a great trail to snowshoe especially if you’re just getting started. The trail is maintained by the East Bay Area Community Council. Access to the parking area is usually plowed in winter. Click here to download the trail map.

Goat Island Trail. Sponsored by Eskasoni Cultural Journeys, this trail is well marked and includes abundant interpretative signage on Mi’kmaq culture and traditions.  The trail consists of a 2.0 km groomed loop with a 0.3 km connecting trail.  It’s an easy hike and although considered a seasonal trail, it is suitable all year for either walking or snowshoeing. The Eskasoni Cultural Journeys – Goat Island Trail is a business venture of the Eskasoni Band.  While people are free to walk the 2.3 km groomed trail, it may at times, be unavailable due to special events. Tours are hosted for cruise ships, schools and organizations from May 1 to November 15 annually. Tours are available by pre-booking. Restrooms and a gift shop with locally-made handicrafts are located on site.  The parking area is usually plowed in the winter. The trail is maintained by Eskasoni Cultural Journeys.  Click here to download the Goat Island Trail Map.

Salt Mountain Trail is located in the Whycocomagh Provincial Park. The trail and associated camping sites are maintained by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The popular trail is well-marked and is steep in places. The views up the Skye River valley and over the Bras d’Or Lake are spectacular.  The park is open from mid-June to mid-October.  Although considered a seasonal trail, it is suitable all year for either walking or snowshoeing despite the lack of winter maintenance.  Access to water and restrooms is seasonal. A plaque on the trail commemorates the donation of Salt Mountain by Isabel Stewart Farley in memory of her brother Hugh McLennan who was killed during World War 1. Click here to download the Salt Mountain Whycocomagh Prov. Park Trail.

New Harris Pioneer Road – This trail is more of a “hiking opportunity” than a well-marked and maintained trail. In the past, the abandoned New Harris Road was part of a link between Baddeck and New Campbellton.  Until the Seal Island Bridge was opened in 1961, two ferries connected the western side of Cape Breton Island to the Sydney area; one operated between Big Harbour and Ross Ferry, the other between New Campbellton and Big Bras d’Or. 

This un-maintained, un-signed road winds through a very nice mature mixed wood (tolerant hardwoods with eastern hemlock and white pine) over its eastern section, while parts of the western section have been harvested and replanted, offering an experience of early forest succession.  There are significant washouts and rocky areas in the road bed, and perhaps blow-downs across the path, so please watch your footing.  The view plane at the power transmission line crossing, midway along the route is worth the hike.  You may wish to enjoy this route using 2 vehicles; one parked at each end as the total length is approximately 6 kilometers.

There is no trail maintenance; no signage, no access to water, washrooms or garbage receptacles.  Parking is limited to wider spaces in the road as marked as ‘P’ on the map. Please wear proper footwear, bring water and snacks, respect properties, keep on the trail and carry out whatever you bring on the trail! Please use the trail at your own risk. Click here to download the New Harris Pioneer Road.

Valley Mills to North Mountain (Marble mountain) Pioneer Road – This trail is actually the old pioneer road which crosses North Mountain (locally known as Marble Mountain) from Valley Mills to the community of Marble Mountain.  Personally, this is one of our favourite hikes.  Starting in Valley Mills (park at the side of the road) the first section of early succession growth quickly turns into a wonderful old forest (Eastern hemlock grove).  Although there is no signage on this trail, it is easy to follow.  Emerging from the oldest part of the forest, the vegetation gradually changes into a younger mixed wood forest.  On the plateau the pioneer road gives way to a wide forestry road, again not signed, but following the map and heading south, then southeast, you will come down the mountain to the community of Marble Mountain.  It is easier to follow the trail if you hike from Valley Mills to Marble Mountain rather than the other direction.

The old hemlock / yellow birch forest is magical and home to a variety of lichens, mosses and ferns. Along the route you will see granitic outcrops as well as marbles and other metamorphic rocks. There will be wetlands to observe on the plateau and you will experience early forest succession where the forest has been cut in the past.  Views of the Bras d’Or Lake and a multitude of islands are superb as you hike down the eastern side of the mountain; another reason for doing the hike in this direction.  This hike is best accomplished with a vehicle at both ends of the trail so you can return to where you parked your car. So, make sure you hike this trail with several individuals unless you are equipped to walk back for a total of a 13 km hike! Click on Valley Mills to North Mountain (Marble Mountain) Pioneer Road to download the trail map.