Fair Alistair’s Trail in Cape Mabou Highlands, Canada

Fair Alistair’s Trail in Cape Mabou Highlands, Canada

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Fair Alistair’s (Beinn Alasdair Bhain) – 2.2 km (1.36 mi) return, 30 min, moderate, elevation 335m (1090ft)

Access: Take highway 19 to Mabou, and turn on Mabou Harbour Rd. Next turn to Mabou Mines Rd and drive up to a small parking lot.

Fair Alistair’s trail is by far one of the most glorious trail in the entire Cape Mabou Trail network which offers 17 of trails, and in terms of the views also one of my favourites in Nova Scotia. On a clear day you can see all the vistas, and even PEI. The view from the summit offers plunging cliffs, beaches, meadows, forests, and of course vast Atlantic Ocean.
Mabou Mines trailhead

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Mabou Mines trailhead 46.142467, -61.447177
There are 3 trailheads to the Cape Mabou Trails:
  • from the Inverness end through Sight Point Road (south of Inverness) – a narrow and rough road
  • the 2nd from Cape Mabou near Glenora close to windmill off Glenora Falls Rd
  • the 3rd which is the most popular on Mabou Mines Road about 12 km from the village of Mabou and this is the route we took
We headed 5km down from Mabou on Harbour Road until we come across a dirt road on our right – Mabou Mines Road (Google maps photo below). We turned on Mabou Mines Road and drove all the way to the trailhead winding through the Mabou Highlands, past Mabou Mines and MacDonalds Glen.
Mabou Harbour Rd and Mabou Mines Road
Mabou Harbour Rd with Mabou Mines Road (Mabou Post Road) on the right. Source: Google maps
Mabou Mines Road with marina at the back
Mabou Mines Road with marina at the back
Fair Alistair's trail mark
Fair Alistair’s trail mark (first mark)
If you just want to see the panoramic view without hiking any further, it is going to be 1,1 km one way, but if you are to do the entire loop you will trek for 6 km (return). The ascent to Fair Alistair to the lookoff is the best part of the entire hike.For some people it can be steep, but if you are fit you should get to the top in 20 min. The map pinned to the tree showing all available the trails in the area is a bit hard too read, especially its hand written markings and names. The piece of paper was not sealed anymore, so you can imagine its condition. My suggestion would be, have your own map.
Fair Alistair's trail mark (second)
Fair Alistair’s trail mark (second mark)
The trail leads first through an evergreen forest, and then the surroundings change. The trail becomes narrow, but since it’s not a busy hike, it is not a big deal. The forest looks dry and unhealthy here, and it’s due to a spruce bark beetle invasion.After a short walk the view opens up entirely. What a scenery!
Lookoff at Fair Alistair's looking south toward Mabou Post Road trailhead and harbour
Lookoff at Fair Alistair’s looking south towards Mabou Post Road trailhead and harbour
Lookoff at Fair Alistair's looking north towards McKinnon's Brook trailhead
Lookoff at Fair Alistair’s looking north towards McKinnon’s Brook trailhead
We tried to continue MacPhee Trails JCT, but it was muddy, and on that day I didn’t bring a machete with me to break the trail’s underbrush, so we decided to continue north on a trail no. 4, which was skirting the mountain. From the top we saw a hut from afar (picture below), and just before we entered a forest road, we walked past a private summer house on our left.
Fair Alistair trail - descent
Fair Alistair trail hut – descent
Before that we had to cross the open gate. Soon after we reached the trailhead of MacKinnon’s Brook Lane/ Cul Na Beinne (“Beyond the Mountain”) – trail number 2. From there we continued on a Beaton route, serving as a shortcut which offered nothing but walking on boring wood’s roads. This was very dull trek, and I don’t recommend it.  I can’t speak objectively of a trail number 2 (MacKinnon’s Brook Lane). It is a longer option for sure, and the photos online show Cape Mabou that it leads along a small brook, which we were actually able to hear at the trailhead. Keep me posted if you decide to come back that route, and if it’s worth it. Overall the whole loop trail took us 2.5 hours.
It was mid July 2015 when we hiked, and on atop we encountered lots of annoying flies, unlike on other trails in Cape Breton.
  • The Cape Mabou Trail Club publishes an excellent map of the trails system. You can purchase the map for about $5 (2015) at local businesses in Mabou or Inverness
  • Bring insect repellent with you, otherwise the flies will ruin it for you just as you get to the top
  • I suggest you don’t do entire 6km loop as on the way back there is nothing interesting to see.  If you come back you can save time and get to other trailheads and still see some more viewpoints in Cape Mabou Highlands
  • Pets must be leashed
  • Camping and fires are forbidden on that trail
  • Locals mentioned that after the rainfall the trail can get very muddy, so pick a dry day for hiking to enjoy to the fullest, or wear proper footwear


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Photographer & Hiker

Once Upon A Photo tells a story about the pictures our life and beautiful planet paints for us daily, captured in time by attentive eyes... and then published here. I all goes back to my childhood when my father introduced me to the old Zenit camera. From that very moment I knew that the camera would be my constant companion in life. I started developing pictures in the darkroom and loved every minute of those long hours spent there. Soon after I switched to digital photography, and never looked back. To this very day, even with more advanced technology, nothing comes close to the feeling I get when I hold my camera. I am still the same curious, watchful, intuitive child ready to be surprised by the depth and meaning of the world around us. My intention is not to disturb it, but capture it in its purest and untouched form, in order to reveal its true beauty. As a landscape, travel, still life, urban, and portrait photographer, my mission is to have you as the visual reader who, chapter-by-chapter, discovers and appreciates the latest stories caught in my frames.

One Response

  1. This blog is sort of a ‘hiking guide’ in North America. Very useful and interesting content for hikers from and outside Canada. Very detailed and full of logistic and hiking tips, with pictures that anticipate the type of experience one is going to have. The landscape and nature pictures are amazing!well done Justina!

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