Cabot Trail | Ingonish - Cheticamp
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Town/CityDistanceElevationCategorized Climbs
ViewIngonish105 km1805 m2-Cat.2 | 1-Cat.3 | 2-Cat.4 | 1-Cat.5
ViewCheticamp90 km764 m1 - Cat. 4
ViewBaddeck103 km1096 m1 - Cat. 3


Map of The Cabot Trail


Categorised Climbs: Counter Clockwise (my direction)

Start Length Start | End Elevation Avg. Mountain Name
4.7km 7.4km 9m | 83m 74m 1.0% N/A
14.6km 8.0km 5m | 234m 229m 2.9% N/A
30.2km 6.0km 8m | 128m 120m 2.0% N/A
43.3km 5.6km 48m | 445m 397m 6.9% North Mtn. East Side
60.5km 16.6km 30m | 455m 425m 2.2% MacKenzie Mtn.
86.4km 2.5km 33m | 94m 61m 2.2% N/A

Categorised Climbs: Clockwise (alternate direction)

Start Length Start | End Elevation Avg. Mountain Name
13.1km 2.4km 15m | 93m 78m 3.3% N/A
18.1km 8.5km 39m | 455m 416m 4.8% French Mtn.
48.5km 7.2km 42m | 434m 392m 5.4% North Mtn. West Side
64.9km 3.4km 48m | 129m 81m 2.4% N/A
77.2km 5.1km 16m | 234m 118m 4.3% N/A
90.3km 2.5km 6m | 82m 76m 3.0% N/A

NOTE: All climbing data is provided by Map My Ride (MMR). There is one climb that shows a fairly low average gradient which does not reflect the real difficulty. That climb is Mackenzie Mountain. I think an explanation is needed here. The main part of MacKenzie Mountain, the switcback part, is 6.0 km in length with an average gradient of 5.4% and is still rated as a category 2. Map My Ride includes a little rise before the climb and the extra 8km of climbing across the top of the massive to the top of French in its calculations. MMR is technically correct in its data, but the traverse from one side to the other is not that difficult and dilutes the climbing data.


General Route Information:

Quick Links:

Emergency Services:

  • Buchanan Memorial Community Health Centre
  •     Neil's Harbour (902-336-2200)
  • Sacred Heart Community Health Centre
  •     Cheticamp (902-224-1500)

  • Ingo Cab - Ingonish (902-285-4523)
  • Mark's Taxi - Cheticamp (902-224-5454)

  • Parks Canada Emergency Dispatch
  •     1-877-852-3100


When people think about the Cabot Trail, the one section that most likely comes to mind is the section that traverses Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This section has the biggest mountains and this section has the iconic coastline visualized in many of the images you'll find on the web. This section is internationally known and this is the one section most people come to see.

For a cyclist, traversing the park provides a solid test of one's climbing capabilities. There are six categorised climbs between Ingonish and Cheticamp, two of which are category 2. The counter clockwise direction means you will climb the east side of North Mountain followed by the switchbacks of MacKenzie Mountain, both rated as category 2. If you cycle the trail clockwise, you will climb French Mountain followed by the west side of North Mountain, both, also category 2. I have done both east and west sides of North Mountain and I find them to be of equal difficulty with a slightly harder edge being given to the east side. So why don't you climb either side of French or MacKenzie Mountain like you do on North Mountain? I will explain.

Both French Mountain and MacKenzie Mountain climb the same massive. If you cycle clockwise, you will climb French Mountain and descend MacKenzie Mountain, if you cycle counter clockwise, you will climb MacKenzie Mountain and descend French Mountain. Between the summits of these two climbs is a geographical feature know as "The Boar's Back". The elevation of French Mountain is 455 m, and the elevation of Mackenzie Mountain is 355 m, so if you climb MacKenzie, there is still 100 m of climbing to be done in about 8 km as you cross this rising plateau. Personally, I found climbing Mackenzie Mtn. slightly harder than climbing French Mtn.

The most difficult test is North Mountain (445 m) no matter which side you climb. Both sides have sustained gradients of 13%. You'll actually see signs to that affect on each side of the mountain as you start to ascend. The west side is 7.2 km with an average gradient of 9.8% and a max gradient of 14% whereas the east side is 5.6 km with an average gradient of 7.3% with a very brief period of max gradient at 17% near the top. I climbed the east side first and found it pretty tough. My wife, always the one to see me torture myself, suggested I climb the opposing way the next day. Stupidly, I agreed. I found French Mountain easier than MacKenzie and I found the west side to be slightly easier than the east of North Mountain. It could have been the wind helping me up the west side, but either way, both sides are pretty tough.

If you are looking to test yourself, then this section of the Cabot Trail is for you. I've done most of the major climbs in Western Canada and I've found the Cabot Trail's North Mountain more difficult than anything the Canadian Rockies or Coastal Mountains have to offer. The ones out west are definitely longer, but North Mountain is by far, much steeper. Enjoy the terrain of this very unique and beautiful part of Eastern Canada.

Rating of categorised climbs was provided by "Map My Ride".

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