Group hopes European style hiking in Cape Breton will draw in tourists
'The ruggedness and the difficulty is part of the appeal, and it's what will make the trail so stunning'
A group hoping to build a wilderness hiking trail in northern Cape Breton has now laid out its route.
The Seawall Trail Society has just completed a proposed trail development plan, which would see the trail run for about 50 km from Red River, near Pleasant Bay, to Meat Cove, hugging the coastline most of the way.
"It's pretty epic," said member Dave Williams.
"One thing you want to aim for in an amazing hike is a large variance in terrain and scenery. And this trail has it all."
The proposed route includes beaches, old growth forest, semi-arctic tundra, mountain scree and grassy fields. But what really sets it apart is the combination of elevation and coastline, he said.
"You're walking along very high cliffs, right at the ocean's edge. And for 180 degrees, all you see it water."
In exchange for those vistas, hikers will pay the price of some steeps ascents and descents — with elevations ranging from sea level to 450 meters.
"It's going to be really hard," Williams concedes. "That being said, the ruggedness and the difficulty is part of the appeal, and it's what will make the trail so stunning."
The plan is to make it a multi-day trek, with four wilderness huts along the way where hikers can rest their weary limbs, at the cost of $50 per night. It's a style of destination hiking that's popular with Europeans, who the Society hopes to draw to the Seawall Trail along with North American hikers, said Williams.
The proposed development plan calls for a one-way hike, with an orientation centre and parking in Meat Cove, and a daily shuttle service to take hikers to the south trailhead in Red River.
It's estimated the trail will employ 8-10 seasonal workers, including a general manager, field supervisor and trail staff. The proposed route also includes an additional 20 km of connecting day-use trails and spur that will run over the highland plateau connecting the community of Cape North with the Pollett's Cove river valley.
Because about 120 hectares of the Pollett's Cove wilderness estuary is privately owned, the Seawall Trail will skirt around that popular hiking destination, said Williams.
The next steps will include further consultations with local communities, First Nations and other levels of government, which the society hopes to carry out in November. It will also get down to the task of raising the $2.4 million needed to see the project through to completion.