Franey MountainTrail – 7.4km (4.6mi) loop, difficult, 2.5h – 3h, elevation 95m – 430m (310 ft – 1410 ft)
Access: From the Ingonish Visitor Centre take a left turn on to the Franey Fire Tower Road 2 km. Continue for 1 km to the parking lot.
Franey is a loop trail. The right side – when going in the anticlockwise direction – is a fire road that leads through the forest path. It is less steep, easy to trek on, but longer. Additionally the fire road path is very monotonous, and with no viewpoints whatsoever. We couldn’t see any wildlife when coming back that route. The left side on the contrary is shorter, steeper and narrower, more diverse, and leading mostly through mixed woods of oak, maple and pine.
If you want to avoid a steep hike, and just take an easier route to and back by a fire road, you will miss one lookout. This particular lookout is not that far from the main look off, so in order for you to see it, you can always go down a bit, and it will be on your left hand side.
We followed the trail in clockwise direction. The trail began in hardwood forests with fairly even surface making the walk easy. As we proceeded we found wooden steps/ terraces taking us from Acadian to boreal forest, mountain and ocean vistas, and also some rugged and rocky areas. That made this section of the trail much more challenging, but I need to admit that in general the trail was well maintained, and very easy to follow.
Make sure you don’t miss a little spur trail to your right with nice views of South Ingonish Harbour and Cape Smokey (viewed to the south), and Middle Head Peninsula (viewed to the East). I almost missed it myself, and there is no marking there. You need to take a couple of steps on the rocks and continue to your right. The route is well traveled though so just pay attention. I enclosed the photo of this lookout below.
Atop we were pleasantly surprise to first see a big red chair mounted to the rock. We noticed that on other Cape Breton trails as well. It’s a nice touch, and you can’t resist to sit down on it for a bit, and admire the views. The cliffs at the top are steep, and the overall viewpoint section can be dangerous especially for those of you climbing with your kids. There are no railings anywhere, and nothing to hold on to.
The views were spectacular covering the open ocean from Cape Smokey (to the east) to Money Point (to the north), with the Middle Head Peninsula in between. To our right we could see a spacious valleys with Clyburn Valley and Clyburn Brook in between.
An added bonus was a nice refreshing breeze coming from the ocean. This cooled us down from hard and almost airless climb on a hot day in July. What we noticed on this hike, but also on other in Cape Breton that there was no black flies and bugs in the air, which surprised us, as Parks Canada website mentions that they are usually around at this time of the year.
Although this hike is described by locals as the best in Cape Breton, we haven’t seen anybody on a trail, and the parking lot was completely empty at 5pm.
If you are not into steep hiking choose the path going anticlockwise by fire road
Keep an eye on kids at the rugged area at the top