Hiking the Mabou Highlands


There was brief mention of some excellent hiking trails near Mabou, Nova Scotia in our guide book. Given the other benefits of staying there – namely a couple hotel options and some awesome live music options – the hiking was something of an afterthought. But the guidebook said it was there and not really a problem so we took a chance on that.

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When I started searching online for more details and was coming up rather empty I should’ve taken that as a bit of a warning that maybe the hiking wasn’t really all the guide book had led me to believe, but I’m foolish like that and I pressed on. After all, with a recommendation like this, one of the few references I could find, why wouldn’t you try?

The community has constructed an excellent trail system throughout the Mabou Highlands (there is a map of the trail network at the trailhead). Several of the trails follow the coastline and up along the highlands, affording spectacular views.

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Maybe the directions to the trail head should’ve tipped me off. They involve heading 4-5km down a road until you come across a dirt road on the right and then taking that for several more kilometers until you get to the small parking area that represents the trail head. Really it was the part that they weren’t particularly specific that I found disconcerting, but a good hiking trail should be out of the way, I figured, so these instructions weren’t all that bad, right?

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And it turns out that the hiking was mostly all that. The views were phenomenal once the fog lifted, which was pretty much as we were finishing the hike and well after we had made it back down from the look-outs. But what we didn’t realize until we finished our day of hiking is that the trails are all closed.

Whoopsie.

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The trail head closest to town where we parked had the maps and the markers on display but not the notice that the trails were closed. Only when we made it to the other end of the trail was there any indication that we probably shouldn’t have been there.

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Okay, maybe there was one other indication. The "excellent trail system" was barely maintained, showing no signs of any recent management activity. There were points where it came quite close to petering out and even where the trail was rather obviously marked it was also rather overgrown with underbrush. It was most certainly not easy hiking, though it also wasn’t too strenuous. Just a bit hard to stay on track at times.

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Yes, that’s the trail in the middle. A machete might’ve been useful.

The views are, to be certain, spectacular. Even with the limited visibility we got to see some stunning vistas. And, except for the part where I slipped off part of the trail and bruised and scraped myself up pretty good, the paths were passable, though not immaculately groomed. Of course, that makes a bit of sense given that the trails are closed.

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We weren’t the only folks who made the mistake of hiking the closed trails. In log books scattered along the paths we noticed a few other folks who had been out there recently, enjoying the Mabou Highlands trail network. A few of them had comments similar to ours, "We didn’t know the trails were closed."

The views definitely made the hike worthwhile. That the trail system is apparently closed makes it a bit hard to recommend it as a destination. Hopefully it’ll be open (officially) again soon.

Read more of our Maritimes adventures here!

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

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