A 950-square-km (366-square-mile) wilderness of wooded valleys, barren plateaus, and steep cliffs, Cape Breton Highlands National Park stretches across northern Cape Breton from the gulf shore to the Atlantic. The highway that runs through it, the renowned Cabot Trail, is magnificent, rising to the tops of the coastal mountains and descending through scenic switchbacks to the sea. The road has been compared to a 106-km (66-mile) roller-coaster ride, stretching from Chéticamp to Ingonish, so good brakes are imperative. It's also been hailed as one of the world's most scenic routes. Pull-offs provide photo opportunities, and exhibits explain the land and its history.
High-altitude bogs here are home to wild orchids and other unique flora. For animal lovers there's much to see as well, including moose, eagles, deer, bears, foxes, bobcats, and coyotes. Your chances of spotting wildlife naturally improve if you venture off the main road and hike one of the 25 trails at dusk or dawn.
Be advised, though, that it's illegal to feed or approach any animal in the park and all should be observed from a safe distance.
For your safety, never hike isolated trails alone. Even motorists must remain alert, particularly when driving in moose zones, which are marked by highway signs. Moose sometimes claim the road as their own, and things won't end well if you hit an animal weighing 1,200 pounds.
A permit or pass is required for entering sections of the Cabot Trail within the national park and for use of the facilities such as exhibits, hiking trails, and picnic areas; there are additional fees for camping, fishing, and golf. Full details are available at the gateway information centers.