There are a handful of hikes in Nova Scotia that attract special attention and Cape Split tops the list. I always get a little thrill when I’m driving out-of-province and spot an “I Hiked Cape Split” bumper sticker ahead of me in traffic.
Cape Split brings together hikers of all shapes, sizes, and skill levels. The distance and elevation change is enough to make reaching the end a satisfying accomplishment, while remaining doable for a wide range of fitness capabilities (I know people well into their 70’s that have made the trek). The views from the summit are iconic and make it worth braving mosquitos and a few muddy puddles along the way.
A lesser-known fact: Cape Split provided the backdrop for a battle in the American Revolution. What now?! Though many tides have come and gone since privateers faced off in the Minas Basin, it has an undeniable air of intrigue.
About 13 km roundtrip, the hike requires sturdy footwear (every time I hike this trail I see people heading out in bright white sneakers – they won’t be white on the return trip – or, worse yet, flip-flops) and a good attitude. Originally an out-and-back trail, 2021 has seen the addition of a new loop that allows hikers to follow the coastline for a portion of the walk.
These cliffs and famous “split” have played host to weddings, overnight camping adventures, and many, many picnics. We’ve hiked this with kids in a backpack*, and played hooky on the final day of school with our then 8-year old so she could hike it for the first time. People snowshoe and ski the trail in winter conditions, so it’s accessible year-round, adjusting gear according to temperature and precipitation.
Don’t forget to bring lots of water, some sunscreen, and bug spray (depending on the season) – and always look before you set out on your return trip. We’ve heard horror stories of people leaving their car keys at their picnic site, remembering their oversight after arriving back at the parking lot. I love hiking Cape Split…but not twice in a day.
Expect to sleep well. Bonus points if you swing by Pirate’s Cove on your way home. Double bonus points if you seek out some local ice cream as a refreshing exclamation point to cap off the day.