This trail starts at the Cape Smokey Provincial Park. Smokey is one of the most famous mountains in Cape Breton. As you ascend the steep southern face you will notice the new growth forest on either side of you. This is due to a forest fire that devastated the area in 1968.
Many are happy taking in the view from the nearest picnic table, but if you would like an interesting hike and a view unseen by many, make your way toward the trail head, which starts on the north side of the parking lot.
The first half-hour or so of the trail is all down hill (but you know what that means, it is all up hill on the way back). Climbing up the other side of this valley you will reach open terrain and the sight of the first look off. There are several similar stations along this ridge top, all with spectacular views. On a clear day you may see industrial Cape Breton -Glace Bay, New Waterford, and Sydney Mines- even though they are more than 50 km away.
Continuing across the headlands is a constant reminder of what fire can do to the land that I’ve learned to admire so much. Though the forest has grown back nicely in recent years and appears quite lush, it is still an delicate ecosystem which fights to regain what it once had.
Keep your eyes open for moose. My friend Dave and I were fortunate enough to see one the day we hiked Smokey. You will see plenty of their tracks, along with evidence of bobcat and coyote.
The final fifteen minutes descends about 300 feet to a look off over South Bay Ingonish. Although difficult to see the first time I was there (due to fog) the look off faces toward the Keltic Lodge (Cape Breton’s most famous resort). The lodge is also the starting point of Middle Head trail. If you look beyond the low lands you may even see the rocky face which marks the top of Franey Mountain.
Take some photos, have a snack, and rest; the trek back is mostly up hill. Backtrack the way you came, until you come to the parking area, and the welcome sight of our provincial flag perched on the flagpole.