Squirrel Mountain, Cape Breton
As you begin the mountain climb the terrain becomes less smooth and very rocky - so you must watch your step.
It was icy and snow-covered when we went; for every 3-4 steps I kept sliding back 1 step. It was annoying but I had to be patient and be careful. It takes nothing to lose your balance and twist and ankle - something you don’t want to do!
AND going down required hiking poles and extra caution.
"For many locals, this is an unexpected view so close to home"
Squirrel mountain is the tallest peak that you can see in Grand Etang. It might actually be one of the hightest one close to Cheticamp. Just when you think you’ve reached the top, there’s always another 15 minutes more to hike!
We hiked this trail the other day with friends and they were euphoric with what their eyes could see; the panoramic view that awaits you at the top of Squirrel mountain is sensational.
When we arrived at the top we were greeted by a full shining sun - with rays dipping into the ocean. The view expands from the Margaree Harbour all the way past Cheticamp. It was so great to show this place to our friends, who have lived here for a long time, but have never been up there. They couldn’t believe a place like this exists here - so close to home. On a clear day, you can see far out to the sea.
Climbing mountains is so much fun, because they give you that vigorous workout while going up and there’s usually an amazing view waiting for you at the summit. What hides at the top of this trail is well beyond unexpected.
On this particular day it was cold and the wind whipped off the ice covered water - this made us hike with extra momentum to get to the top and then back down the mountain to the warm comfort of the car!
The trail starts out with an immediate steepness and gradually tapers to a moderate hike until you begin the major ascend toward the summit.
Our descent was much faster probably because we were chilled and wanted to be inside the warmth of the vehicles. I definitely had to watch my speed on our way down - because it was slippery and easily could’ve landed on my bottom. On the way down, the guys got the pleasure of witnessing a bull moose cross their path. They said it was such a majestic moment to be that close to nature!
This trail isn’t super long, but it has steepness to it and the terrain does change so you need to pay attention. It’s a moderate hike with bit of a steep hike towards the top. The trail takes less than an hour to reach the summit, about 1.5-2hrs round trip.
Directions: From Cheticamp, head towards Grand Etang along the Cabot Trail (about 9km). Turn left onto Carding Mill Road, follow the road along the lake to the end. There are red arrows you can follow. You will drive through the gravel pit area and you can find parking on your left after the gravel pit. The trail head is straight up ahead (an atv trail leading straight up the mountain) The trail is pretty well marked to lead you to the viewpoint.