You’ll find one of the nicest views on the east side of the Cabot Trail after you’ve climbed up Smokey Mountain. Just off the highway, Cape Smokey Picnic Park offers a place to eat, and a great view of the Atlantic, and the coastline to the south. You can also hike from here, if you don’t mind losing (and then regaining) a lot of elevation.
Smokey Mountain is located along the Cabot Trail, just south and east of the community of Ingonish. The turnoff to Cape Smokey Provincial Park is well-marked, just as you reach the top of the hill.
The Cabot Trail is a great scenic drive, as you head north from its junction with Trans Canada Highway 105. The road stays close to the coast for most of the way, although you can’t always see the water, which is why I didn’t make any stops for a while (except for snacks at a general store in Wreck Cove). You can take a look at this entire portion of the road, in the Drivelapse video below.
Eventually, the road begins a dramatic climb uphill — and that’s how you know you’ve reached Smokey Mountain. Just before the top, you can take a look back at the coastline, and the highway, to the south. Once the road tops out…
… you’ll see the exit to Cape Smokey Park. Drive out to the parking lot, then walk just a short distance…
… and you’ll discover a really nice view looking south. Here, you can not only see the road you just drove up, but also Boularderie Island, and maybe even Sydney Harbour. Just hike down to the fence, and then follow the fence downhill a bit, for the best view.
I’ve read that there’s a hiking trail that begins at the Cape Smokey parking lot. If you take that trail, you’ll drop down the side of Cape Smokey to several good lookout points. But then, you’ll have to hike back up again — a prospect that might make this trail a little less fun.
I wasn’t thinking about hiking Cape Smokey — I had other plans. Specifically…
… another hike that’s just up the road. There’s a narrow peninsula that splits the bay at Ingonish in two. You can drive about halfway out it (to the fancy Keltic Lodge at the Highlands) and then walk the rest of the way to the end. Once I got there, I found a rock, put my feet up, and admired the view of Cape Smokey, which you can see in the distance. I’ll tell you more about that hike on the next page.
Here’s a look at the drive from Trans Canada 105 to Cape Smokey…
… and Cape Smokey north, to Neils Harbour:
The Bottom Line
Cape Smokey is just a brief stop on the drive up the Cabot Trail, but it’s worth taking a moment to see the view of the coastline to the south. If you’ve attempted the longer hike, please tell everyone about it in the comments!