Backpacking in Nova Scotia: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Nova Scotia: Skyline Trail, Pleasant Bay, Canada

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Backpacking in Nova Scotia offers a truly unique and exhilarating experience for outdoor enthusiasts. This maritime province boasts a rugged coastline, dense forests, and highland trails that will leave you in awe of nature’s majesty.

Popular destinations like Cape Breton Highlands National Park, with its world-famous Cabot Trail, and Kejimkujik National Park, renowned for its dark sky preserves, are must-visits for any backpacker.

In this guide, we’ll cut right to the chase and provide you with the essential tips and TOP 5 multi-day trails to conquer in Nova Scotia. Whether you’re a seasoned thru-hiker or a newcomer to backpacking, this province promises an adventure like no other.

Intrigued? Let’s get started.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Nova Scotia

  • What to expect: The well-marked trails, a mix of easy paths and climbs, may require occasional navigational skills. Camping rewards hikers with peaceful sites near the ocean and in the forest under starry skies. Dress in layers for variable weather and moderate temperatures.
  • Essential gear: Pack adaptable layers for unpredictable weather, such as a waterproof jacket and pants. Essential gear includes a map and compass (or GPS), a first aid kit, a headlamp, and a water filter. In more remote areas, consider carrying bear spray and a bear-resistant food canister.
  • Wildlife: Black bears wandering forest paths looking for food or protecting cubs can become aggressive if disturbed. Hikers should also be aware of smaller mammals like coyotes that may attack pets but rarely humans. Venomous spiders and ticks prevalent in woods during warm seasons risk infection without prompt treatment. Along the scenic shoreline, hikers risk encountering seals that may feel threatened near pups.
  • Wild camping is permitted on Crown land in Nova Scotia, but there are some restrictions. You need to be at least 100 feet (30m) from roads and waterways, avoid environmentally sensitive areas, and move sites every 21 days. Some provincial parks allow backcountry camping with a permit. In general, wild camping is accepted in Nova Scotia if done responsibly, but you should check regulations for the specific area.
  • Best times to go are late spring to early fall offers the warmest and most stable weather, with May through June providing green foliage and fewer bugs. July to September brings sunny days for scenic trails. Fall, from September to early October, offers cooler temperatures and vibrant foliage. Year-round enjoyment is possible, but November to April can be cold and wet, requiring extra gear.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Nova Scotia

Discover Nova Scotia’s most breathtaking trails for unforgettable adventures:

1. Cape Chignecto Coastal Loop

Towering cliffs line the rugged coastal region of Cape Chignecto

Maamarcos, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Length: 29.2 mi / 47 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 6181 ft / 1884 m
Location: Cape Chignecto Provincial Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 12 500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Tackle this challenging yet scenic 29.2-mile loop trail near West Advocate, Nova Scotia, over 3 days, typically camping at Little Bald Rock and Eatonville. Navigate well-marked paths through forests, over hills, and along coastal cliffs, with root-strewn sections and muddy areas. While secluded beaches like Peggy’s Cove offer stunning views, be prepared for bugs and hard tenting surfaces. This trail is highly recommended as a starter for multi-day backpacking.

2. Refugee Cove to Keyhole Brook

Jutting into the powerful tides of Chignecto Bay, the jagged sea cliffs and exposed reef of Cape Enrage on Barn Marsh Island create a dramatic coastal scene at the entrance to Fundy National Park

Michel Rathwell from Cornwall, Canada, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Length: 27.4 mi / 44 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 5797 ft / 1767 m
Location: Cape Chignecto Provincial Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 12 400 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Conquer this demanding 17-mile out-and-back trail near West Advocate, Nova Scotia, with uneven terrain and significant elevation changes, especially in the first 9-12 miles. While some attempt it in a single grueling day, most recommend 3 days to fully experience the scenic solitude and recover between strenuous sections. A humbling yet rewarding wilderness adventure in Nova Scotia’s rugged backcountry.

3. Liberty Lake Full Loop Trail

Lush green trees line the banks of a serene river, their reflections mirrored in the grey waters flowing through the wilderness of Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada

Length: 45.2 mi / 72.7 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 3946 ft / 1203 m
Location: Kejimkujik National Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 14 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Tackle this challenging 45.2-mile loop through Kejimkujik National Park’s rugged wilderness, combining awe-inspiring scenery with strenuous terrain. Traverse roads, thick vegetation, deep bogs, river crossings, and potential wildlife encounters. While 70% is road, the 30% backcountry sections require navigation skills amid overgrowth beyond site 43. A demanding yet rewarding immersion in Nova Scotia’s pristine natural beauty.

4. Pollett’s Cove

Lush green trees cloak a brown mountain on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, beside a serene body of water with scattered stones, epitomizing the island's pristine beauty

Length: 8.3 mi / 13.4 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2644 ft / 806 m
Location: Pollett’s Cove-Apsey Fault Wilderness Area
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 5000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Tackle this demanding 8.3-mile out-and-back coastal trail near Red River to reach remote Pollett’s Cove. Navigate steep climbs, narrow cliff-side paths, thick vegetation, and stream crossings. At the end, find a valley with wild horses and stunning ocean views. Challenging but scenic, ideal for adventurous hikers ready to camp in the wilderness with proper gear. The lottery winner owner allows public access to this beautiful yet rugged area.

5. Liberty Lake Trail

The Kejimkujik National Park Visitors Center in Annapolis, Nova Scotia provides a welcoming gateway to explore the park's wilderness along the Kejimkujik Main Parkway

Kelly Mercer, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 34.8 mi / 56 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2814 ft / 858 m
Location: Kejimkujik National Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 13 700 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The Liberty Lake Trail is a challenging 34.8-mile point-to-point backpacking route through the wilderness of Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia. Taking 3-4 days to complete, you can wind along the park’s western boundary, immerse yourself in scenic beauty and navigate sometimes faint trails, and contend with bugs. Those prepared for the solitary journey are rewarded with an extremely beautiful and remote backpacking experience.

Annual Weather Averages

Nova Scotia experiences a maritime climate influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean:

Spring (March to May):

  • Spring is a transitional season with gradually warming temperatures.
  • Expect cool and crisp mornings, with daytime temperatures ranging from 41 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 15 degrees Celsius).
  • Spring can bring rain, so be prepared for wet conditions and muddy trails.

Summer (June to August):

  • Summer is the most popular time for outdoor activities.
  • Daytime temperatures range from 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 25 degrees Celsius).
  • The weather is generally mild, but occasional heatwaves may occur.
  • Summer is the driest season, but rain is still possible, so it’s wise to carry rain gear.

Fall (September to November):

  • Fall brings cooler temperatures and colorful foliage.
  • Daytime temperatures range from 50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 degrees Celsius).
  • Nights can be chilly, especially in late fall.
  • Be prepared for variable weather conditions and the possibility of rain.

Winter (December to February):

  • Winters in Nova Scotia are cold and can bring snow and freezing temperatures.
  • Daytime temperatures can range from 23 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 to 5 degrees Celsius).
  • Snowfall is common, especially in January and February.
  • Winter hiking requires appropriate clothing and equipment for cold and snowy conditions.

Before you grab your backpack and head outdoors, take a look at the weather statistics for Nova Scotia (Sydney):

High °F303035455565737366554536
Low °F171622314048575751423424
Rain/Snow (D*)1089999999101110
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Nova Scotia is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Maine and New Hampshire.


Can I have a campfire while camping in Nova Scotia? 

In Nova Scotia, campfires are usually allowed for campers, but there are some rules because of the risk of fires. Most parks and Crown lands in the province let people have fires, but they should be made in the designated fire pits using only cut firewood. During times when there’s a high risk of fire in the spring and fall, campfires are not allowed. In some parks, campfires are never allowed, and only portable stoves can be used. It’s important to check the specific rules for the campsite you plan to visit. Before leaving a campsite, always make sure to completely put out the fire, and the ashes should be cold to the touch.

What are some safety tips for backpackers in Nova Scotia?

If you plan to go backpacking and explore the beautiful wilderness and nature found in Nova Scotia’s great outdoors, be sure to follow some important safety tips. Make sure to inform others of your travel plans like where you’ll be hiking and when you expect to return. Pack essentials for your exploration experiences like extra food and water in case your travels take you longer than expected. Also bring a map, compass or GPS to navigate the remote areas you may experience off the beaten path. Be aware of potentially dangerous local animals and store your food securely to avoid animal encounters. With gear like a first aid kit and headlamp, you can ensure your solo adventures hiking Nova Scotia’s trails are both exciting and safe.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while hiking in Nova Scotia?

When you go hiking in the woods and along the coasts in Nova Scotia, it’s important to remember that you may run into wild animals that live there. If you see a bear, don’t run away or make loud noises. Instead, back away slowly and let the bear know you’re leaving its space. Give moose a wide berth too, since they can be aggressive, especially if they have babies. Do not feed or get too close to seals either. And remember that ticks may crawl onto you from tall grass, so do frequent tick checks. Being aware of the wildlife and responding calmly can help keep you and the animals safe during your outdoor adventures.

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Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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