You only need an hour to hike the Nicholson Trail near Baddeck, but the peaceful quiet of the forest and the sparkling Baddeck River will entice you to linger!
Good to Know
Distance: 3.5 kilometer loop
Duration: 1 hour with no stops for photos, breaks, etc.
Difficulty (Scale of 1-5): 2
There is a section that is steep but there are ropes to assist.
Family friendly: Yes (use caution on steep areas and near river)
Best Time To Go: Year-round access, but may need showshoes for winter visits. Open from sunrise-sunset.
Cost: Free! 😊
Getting To the Nicholson Trail
- From the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) in Baddeck: Head uphill on Shore Road for less than a minute (17 meters) to Old Margaree Road and turn left (there are signs for the Cabot Trail). Drive for 1 kilometer, then turn right onto Big Baddeck Road. Drive for 5 minutes / 6 kilometers (keeping right when a gravel road on the left creates a fork in the road).
When you cross the one lane bridge you're almost there! The destination is on your left. Total driving time: Around 8 minutes.
- If following the Trans-Canada Highway /NS-105 from Whycocomagh: Travel toward Baddeck on the TCH/NS-105 for about 35 minutes. Take Exit 9 toward Baddeck/Alexander Graham Bell. Travel about 1 minute to Old Margaree Road and turn left onto it (signs point left for Baddeck Forks and Baddeck Bridge). In about 300 meters (less than a minute drive), turn right onto Big Baddeck Road. Drive for 5 minutes / 6 kilometers (keeping right when a gravel road on the left creates a fork in the road).
When you cross the one lane bridge you're almost there! The destination is on your left. Total driving time from Whycocomagh: Around 43 minutes.
- If following the Trans-Canada Highway/NS-105 from near St Ann's: Travel toward Baddeck on the TCH/NS-105 for about 10 minutes. Take Exit 9 toward Baddeck/Alexander Graham Bell. Drive 400 meters (about a minute) then turn right onto Old Margaree Road. Travel about 100 meters (less than 1 minute) down Old Margaree Road, then turn right onto Big Baddeck Road. Drive for 5 minutes / 6 kilometers (keeping right when a gravel road on the left creates a fork in the road).
When you cross the one lane bridge you're almost there! The destination is on your left. Total driving time from the Trans Canada Highway near St Ann's: Around 15-20 minutes.
What to Bring
Footwear: While this is a fairly easy trail, there are some steep areas. Sneakers or hiking shoes/boots are definitely recommended.
Bug Spray: Any time you're walking in the woods, you'll probably want to have some bug spray handy. This hike is no exception.
Swim suit: Recommended if you want to take a dip in the fresh river water (be careful!).
Water/Sunscreen/Hat: The usual, for when you're hiking.
Important: This is a pack in/pack out hike. Make sure you don't leave garbage, food wrappers (or food) or anything else on this trail - please take it home to dispose of properly.
Nicholson Trail Hike
The hike starts at the parking lot, where this beautiful sign gives an intro to the hike.
There is another sign explaining trail etiquette with respect to Covid and social distancing.
This is a newer trail and is very well-marked. Because it's so new, you sometimes have it all to yourself, which is lovely!
There are some benches along the trail and at the riverside - both rustic, natural benches hewn out of logs, and regular benches.
Some sections have long logs you can walk carefully across. Balancing is a great core workout!
This is one of the times that sturdy footwear comes in handy.
There are gorgeous wild ferns growing everywhere. On some sections of the trail they overlap with the walking path and you'll have to step around and push past them. You should definitely do a tick check after (all) hiking.
The Nova Scotia government has created a helpful guide for how to do a tick check, and what to do if you find one. Read their guide to Tick Safety here.
This neat old tree has been turned into a fairy home and people have left behind little trinkets and toys. It's so sweet and would be a big hit with kids!
There are some steep sections of trail but there are ropes in place to help you pass safely.
You might even luck out and get to see some local wildlife, like this sweet little toad we stumbled upon!
When you arrive at the river, have a seat on the bench, relax, close your eyes and enjoy the peace and quiet, the gentle sounds of the river water flowing past and the wildlife of the forest.
You might only be a short drive from the bustling village of Baddeck, but it feels like a world away!
Nicholson Trail FAQ
There is cell service on most of the trail, but in some areas reception is poor. This can make this hike a great way to disconnect for a little while!
No, it's not really stroller-friendly. There are some sections where you walk across logs, and others where you hold a rope for stability. A backpack would be a better idea.
Yes, as long as you take appropriate safety measures when using the ropes provided for assistance, and along the river. Kids will love the old knotty tree turned little fairy house on the way!
Other Spectacular Cape Breton Hikes
Originally from Arichat but living in Baddeck for more than 6 years, 29-year old Carly is married and has 2 handsome golden retrievers, Snoopy and Kovie. She works as a medical office administrator and in her free time enjoys kayaking, hiking, taking care of her house plants, and trying to capture the beauty that surrounds her! You can follow her adventures on Instagram.