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Running Cape Chignecto Trail

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Let’s just say that this place is epic.  If there is truly one trail outside of Cape Breton that all runners and hikers coming to Nova Scotia should check out it is Cape Chignecto.  Towering cliffs overlook the largest tides in the world produced by the Bay of Fundy.  Sheltered coves and old growth forests, are all located along this true wilderness trail.

Located just under three hours NE of Halifax, Nova Scotia or just under two hours from Moncton, New Brunswick the trail is located on the northern coast of the Bay of Fundy.  It is a beautiful drive along the Nova Scotia coastline.  Be sure to check out other tourist sites in the area.  This includes Joggins with over 300 million year old dinosaur finds and the village of Parrsboro.  There is also few excellent campgrounds in the area.

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When you first enter there is a little hut where you can buy either your camping or parking passes.  There is both front country camping, only a few hundred feet away, and backcountry camping within the park.  Also for those who want a covered shelter there are three sets of cabins and one bunkhouse.

Although only once I had an opportunity to run this great trek, I can honestly say I will never forget it.  There is just something about looking around the corner and seeing the powerful ocean before your eyes.  If you never have had the opportunity to travel east you can’t quite grasp the uniqueness of the land.

I’m sure many that live out west will assume that the trails in the east can’t meet the challenging elevation gain of the west; guess again.  A loop of the main trail used by runners is 46.3km.  Perfect for either a two day go or one big push.  As for relentless ups and downs this trail has it.  The loop has an elevation gain of 6 384ft with a loss of 6 289ft.  Yes some vert.

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Jodi Isenor on his third lap for his stag party.

My personal experience was joining Nova Scotia trail runner Jodi Isenor on a FKT triple of the trail.  Not only was this a FKT but it so happened to be his Stag Party.  Talk about an original idea, this was.  And yes there were a few drinks involved.

After travelling from the opposite side of the Bay of Fundy, I joined the group for the third and final loop.  After Jodi had a little rest we set off at 1am local time.  Not knowing the area I had no expectations of what I would see as the sun would rise.  I did hear from the group that just finished that the trail kicked a few of their asses.  Great!  I had pretty much shut down my training going into this and had begun my annual bulk up phase.

We set out in a counter clock wise direction.  This was fortunate for those of us who had never hiked or ran the trail as it was mostly through the woods cutting towards the ocean.  With Jodi already approaching 100k we set off at a slow pace.  Right off it turns out we hit the biggest climb on the route.  Don’t let that fool you; it is the many little climbs later that destroy the legs.

It takes about 15k to reach the shore line going counter clockwise.  Seeing how the first part of our run was in the moonlight I’m glad we got this stretch over first.  As the sun rose we saw some incredible views.  The sun’s rays breaking through the oceans mist rising above the cliffs.  We had to stop and take a break.  Sometimes it is best to slow down.  Words don’t describe how spectacular it is, just check the pics and you’ll get what I mean.

With the coast line being battered by the tides, the cliffs are steep and there are many undercuts.  The trail is well designed and for the most part only comes close to the edge in relatively safe locations.  If running at night along the edges there may have been a couple spots where I would have been sketched out.  Pretty sure no coming back from a 600ft fall into the bay.

cliffs, cape chignecto, trail running, trails, nova scotia, runners blog, running blogFor hydration purposes there are a couple spots to top up your water, but be sure to bring plenty.  I’d recommend bringing a filter or purification tablets so you can top up your reservoir.  This isn’t going to be a four hour run, I can guarantee that.

If you do happen to spend some extra time and aren’t in a rush there are several interesting spots to checkout along the trail.  Eatonville where they used to build ships and produce lumber in the late 1800’s is now a ghost town.  Also be sure to take the side trail to check the red rocks.  It shows the sheer power of tidal erosion.

Even as I write this blog post I know I can’t give it full justice as a trail running adventure.  If you are looking for more details be sure to check the parks website.  In regards to running the trails Jodi Isenor, of Trail Run Nova Scotia, the current FKT holder would be a great person to contact and I am sure would be willing to give some insight.  When travelling to Nova Scotia this is a must for all adventure seekers.