One of Nova Scotia’s great day hikes has got to be the Cape Split hike in Cape Split Provincial Park, just a 40-minute drive from Wolfville. The trail was upgraded in 2021 so you don’t have to wait for the stunning views until you get to the end of the hike, where they literally take your breath away. Now, with six additional lookouts along the route, you can enjoy some Bay of Fundy views along the length of the Cape Split hike.
Find a comfortable spot in the grass once you’ve hiked to the headland at Cape Split. Sit back and admire the Spires and the offshore rock stacks along with the crazy currents and standing waves where the waters of Minas Basin meet those in the Bay of Fundy.
Cape Split hike summary
As of 2021 the Cape Split hike can be done as a loop hike instead of an out and back hike.
It’s a 13.2 km (8.2 miles) loop if you do the whole hike.
There is an elevation gain of 430 m or 1,411 feet.
I’d rate the Cape Split hike as moderate.
Allow 4 – 5 hours depending on your hiking pace and how much time you spend at the far end of Cape Split.
Leashed dogs are permitted on the trail.
The best time to do the Cape Split hike is from April through October, though it can be done year round from dawn till dusk.
Parking lot gates are open year-round but be choosy about the day you pick and plan to be finished during daylight hours.
The hike is popular, well-signed, and maintained.
There are now seven lookoffs from the trail; Minas Basin Lookoff and Fundy Shores Lookoff to the east, Cape Split Lookoff at the tip, and Big Cove Lookoff #1 and #2, Lobster Hole Lookoff, and Scot’s Bay Lookoff on the westerly side of the cape.
The park is serviced from May 20th – October 10th. Outside of those dates, there is no garbage collection or snow removal – and the bathrooms are closed.
Be sure to leave no trace, packing out everything you pack in – including orange peels and apple cores.
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Cape Split hike description
In 2021, there were some big changes to the Cape Split hiking trail. It is now possible to hike it as a 13.2 kilometre loop trail though both old growth and coastal conifer forests while enjoying views of both the Minas Basin and Scot’s Bay.
So instead of an up and back hike you can walk up the Minas Basin side to the tip and then back along the Scot’s Bay side. With the addition of lookoffs, it’s a far more interesting hike along its full length now.
The main Cape Split hike (as opposed to the more treacherous but not recommended hike along the coast because of speedy tides) takes you inland for just over 6 km all the way to the Cape Split Lookoff. For the first 30 minutes or so it’s really not very interesting in the forest – though there are pretty stands of trees.
Then you start to climb gradually and the woods thin presenting a forest with a much more open feel. And you start to get peek a boo views of the water. I can well imagine in fall once the leaves are gone that it would have quite a different feeling. For two weeks in May, the wildflowers through the woods are supposed to be excellent. Keep an eye out for the Cape Split purple trillium in the spring.
Before the upgrade you had to wait till the end of the hike to to get a view – and that panorama will always be a big reason for doing the hike. But now with numerous lookoffs that are safe to access, the desirability of the Cape Split hike has gone way up. And so has the scenic factor. On a Sunday afternoon, there were probably two dozen people up enjoying the scenery along with a picnic lunch.
When and if you do the Cape Split hike, try to time your arrival at the tip of the cape with the mid-point of the incoming tide. The turbulent tidal currents can be heard for miles – and have been called The Voice of the Moon.
Bird watching at Cape Split
The gulls were in abundance – but the little ones still hadn’t learned to fly. I saw a few of them make a couple of feeble attempts but not much happened – and rather a tough start to flying when you’re at the top of a 200 foot cliff.
Look for agates
And as a side note, it’s possible to find agates around the shores of Cape Split – but because of the huge fluctuation in tides its worth going with someone who knows the area and the hazards. On the beach where Little Split Rock is the dominant feature, you can find agates as the tide drops because they glisten when they’re wet.
The old trail map
Directions to the Cape Split trailhead
You’ll find the trailhead at the end of Cape Split Road in Scot’s Bay. From Halifax it’s a straight shot on Highway 101 to the Greenwich – Wolfville exit. Go north on the Greenwich Connector to Highway 358N and stay on it until you reach Scot’s Bay. Then turn left (west) on Cape Split Road and follow to to the trailhead. It’s about a two hour drive from Halifax and a 35-minute drive from Wolfville.
Along the way, enjoy a fabulous view of the Annapolis Valley from The Lookoff. In fall, it’s particularly stunning.
Safety on the hike
On a sunny day, you might not think twice about the dangers of the Cape Split hike. But it does pay to go prepared. Take lots of water and enough high energy snacks that you can comfortably get back to the trailhead. Always pack the hiking essentials and let someone know when you expect to be finished.
Stay well back from the cliff edges – as they are slippery and constantly eroding.