It's an easy, 20-minute walk to this gorgeous turquoise lake - the site of an old gypsum mine near Cheticamp. Climb to a nearby peak for a spectacular view of the lake and then cool off with a swim in the calm water!
Good to Know:
Distance: 2.3 kilometers each way (2.6 km return)
Duration: Minimum 1 hour
Difficulty (Scale of 1-5): 1*
*The walk to the lake is a 1. If you choose to climb the hill to the peak for the aerial view it's a 2-3 - see photos below.
Family friendly: Yes
Best Time To Go: Year-round access, but may need showshoes, skis or a snowmobile if there is snow on trail in winter. In the fall once the leaves turn colour, it's ringed with gorgeous red, yellow and orange trees.
Cost: Free! 🙂
Getting To the Gypsum Mine
- If you're travelling up on the Cabot Trail Road (NS 30) headed toward Cheticamp: once you pass Grand Etang you'll reach a fork in the road and Flora's Gift Shop will be in the centre of the fork. The Cabot Trail Road continues to the left and Cheticamp Back Road is on the right of Flora's. Take Cheticamp Back Road, drive for about 8 minutes and you'll see signage and the parking lot for the Gypsum Mine on your right.
- From Cheticamp: Find Barren Road (adjacent to the Post Office) and drive along it for several minutes until it reaches a cross road, which is Cheticamp Back Road. Turn left and continue for a couple of minutes down the road until you reach the parking lot for the Gypsum Mine. (Should only take 5-10 minutes from Cheticamp).
- If coming down from the Cape Breton Highlands National Park: you'll drive for 2-3 minutes once you exit the park, before you see Old Cheticamp Road on your left. Turn onto the road and drive for about 2 more minutes before you see the parking lot for the Gypsum Mine on your left.
What to Bring
Footwear: If you plan to hike up the hillside to the viewpoint I would strongly recommend wearing (or bringing) sneakers or maybe hiking sandals. I did the walk to the lake in Birkenstock style sandals and that was totally fine for the walk, however they weren't good enough to safely hike up the side of the hill with the rope, and I ended up taking them off and going barefoot.
Swim Gear: Whether that's a simple swimsuit and towel, or more involved life lifejackets and pool noodles, you will probably want to take a dip in this gorgeous turquoise water. There is a small shelf around the edge of the lake but then it immediately plunges into an extremely deep lake. If I brought my kids here they would definitely be wearing life jackets. Even pool noodles are handy if you want to swim across the lake to the jumping off point on the other side (which is farther away than it appears).
Bug spray: On the day we were here (early September) there were no bugs to speak of, but I've heard other people mention that the bugs were bad when they visited, particularly in the first 5 minutes of the walk in (and last 5 minutes of the walk out).
Water, sunscreen, hat: All good ideas even on an easy hike, particularly in the summertime.
Stroller & Bike Lock: You can absolutely do the main part of this hike (the walk to the lake) with a good quality jogging stroller. I don't think I would attempt it with a little umbrella stroller. However there's no way to take your stroller up to the lookoff, so if you plan to do that and don't feel comfortable leaving the stroller behind, you could use a bike lock to attach it to a tree.
Gypsum Mine Hike
The hike starts at a large parking lot, where there are signs that remind hikers not to leave litter on the trail/at the lake, and not to skate or walk on the lake in the winter (the lake is fed by several springs and the ice is typically not safe).
It's an easy hike that we did in about 20 minutes - and I wore slip on, Birkenstock-style sandals. It should be no problem for kids, seniors (as long as they don't have mobility issues), or parents with a good quality stroller.
The walk (and lake) are peppered with chunks of white gypsum which I thought was pretty cool to see.
There is a hill at the end of the trail, so you may want to allow more time to take it easy at this part. There is a bench on the hill to allow people to rest if they need to sit for a few minutes.
Once you arrive at the lake, you'll probably want to take a few minutes to admire it's beautiful green/aqua colour. There isn't a ton of shoreline, so depending on how busy it is when you visit, you may or may not have a scenic spot to spread a blanket and have a snack.
The trail up to the lookoff point above the lake is off to the left. There are two parts - part 1 is fairly easy and leads you to a looking off point part way up (see photos below):
To continue upward you'll want to use the rope that is provided to help with the climb/descent, which takes you up to the main lookoff point:
There are also some rocks above that some people were scrambling over to take pictures from even greater heights, but I'm pretty scared of heights and opted not to go up any higher.
Swimming at the Gypsum Mine Quarry
Obviously swimming here is done at your own risk and you should exercise extreme caution.
That said, it's a lovely spot to take a dip. The water was pleasant when we visited, although I only dipped my feet in. I think if you were here in June or October it would probably be pretty cold, but July, August and September are doable.
Some people opt to swim across the lake to the jumping off points on the other side. This is a pretty popular option, but just make sure to be super careful to jump far into the lake and not straight down. There are injuries every year from people hitting into the rocks.
As I mentioned above, the distance across the lake is farther than it looks, so it's nice to bring some kind of floating aid if you plan to do this.
All in all, the Gypsum Mine lake is gorgeous and WELL worth the easy hike. I highly recommend checking it out if you're in the area, or looking for a fun day trip from another part of Cape Breton!
Gypsum Mine FAQ
The Gypsum Mine is located just a 5-minute drive outside Cheticamp, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
You can hike the entire trail and back in as little as 45 minutes, but you'll want to allow extra time for photos and relaxing at the lake.
Yes, you can swim at the Gypsum Mine! In the summer and early September, the water is quite nice! However, it drops off steeply from the shore so it's important to use caution and/or bring a flotation device.
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Hi Twicsy! Glad you like it! 🙂