North River Falls, Cape Breton

North River Falls, Cape Breton near Baddeck, NS

This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars
18 kms
Spring, Fall, Summer
Baddeck, NS
User smburt

(Trail description from Mathew Hogg, published with his permission.)

An 18 kilometre return trail which takes you up the North River to the highest waterfall in the province. Expecting it it to take up most of the day, Kris, Dave, Matt, Sheena and I headed out early from the trailhead.

The trail starts out easy enough, although it was a little wet. Nice, wide path. Fairly level for the most part. We crossed a few bridges over some feeder streams of the North River below. The water everywhere was rushing, making for a constant background noise for the entire trip. Soon the trail heads downhill and levels off as we wander through the forest. About three kilometres in is an offshoot trail next to an old foundation of some kind, embedded in the ground. There was also evidence of stone walls and outhouses. We also couldn't help but notice some ginat piles of stones covered in moss.

The trail continues from there alongside the river when we reach the halfway point. Here we find another sign with a helpful map and some warnings. There were many river crossings that lay ahead on the Upper Wilderness Trail-- which was closed until further notice. Not a group to turn around easily, we continued forward.

Soon enough we were crossing many tributaries with the help of old log-bridges that weren't too sturdy. We also started to come across snow still covering much of the trail. These patches of snow got up to 3 feet deep in places and made the going awkward. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to wear shorts after all.

After trudging for some time, the trail rounds a bend in the river (always rushing by at a great speed). Matt and I came to a halt at the sight before us. Here we are standing on a wooden platform, looking across a rushing whitewater river at another wooden platform-- with nothing in between. The bridge was out. Very out. The platform we stood on had a few splintered planks. Now what?

We spent nearly an hour pacing up and down that section of the river looking for ways we might get across. Dave even waded in at one point. It was no use. It was simply too deep, too fast, too cold. We knew from the map that even if we did get across we'd have to cross back again before the falls. With that in mind, and knowing we were close, we decided to bushwhack on our side of the river. The riverbank was steep, as the river valley was constantly narrowing, and thick in places. It didn't help being able to see the trail directly across the river. With persistence we reconnected with the trail on our side. This river crossing consisted of a rope. It certainly would have been interesting if crossing this way was required.

At this point the trail quality quickly degraded. Deep snow, steep hills, ice, and thick deadfall made the going tough. No one had been in this far for maintenance in a long time. The roar of the falls was getting louder and louder as we continued. One more crossing over a badly damaged bridge and we were within sight of North River Falls.

The weather had degraded by the time we arrived, making the generous amounts of mist very cold. The spring thaw made the Falls a wonderful sight. The boom of rushing water was impressive. Unfortunately, I had come a little ill-prepared for the cold and too much exposure to the mist was hard to stand. I would go take some photos, then retreat to the cover of the woods to warm up. While I was shivering, Kris and Dave made their way up the steep hillside only to emerge on the rocks at the top of the Falls. Crazy fools! At least they got a nice view.

By the time they came back down the sun had come out again, making for another great photo opportunity. Before heading out, we placed another of our extreme geocaches and started back down the trail. The return trip was pretty uneventful and we made excellent time.

As we were arriving back at the trailhead we bumped into a couple making their way in, complete with camping gear. It was 4:45pm! I didn't think it was too bright heading out for a hike so late. We gave them our advice and warnings and I tried to keep a straight face. Our trip was over, at least. With out gear in the trunk, we headed on down the road.

GPS Waypoints:

North River Falls

0677015E 5137768N



You can hike this trail as part of the Hike the Highlands Festival" Sept 16-25 out of Ingonish, N.S. For further information, please click on the link above.Directions via MapQuest
or the following from the provincial park brochure: "North River Provincial Park is located 3.5 km off the Cabot Trail at North River Bridge. From Hwy 105, take exit 11. Allow 7 hours for the hike to the waterfall and the return."


Please check the bottom of the Description (above left; click) for the author's written directions.

Post a Review

Please  Sign-In  or  Register for free in order to post reviews


(a) Click Wiki Edit This Page to get placed in edit mode

(b) When finished, your update is available to view as draft

     (click wiki update pending in trail to see draft)

* note: editors are notified and must approve the change
Download Gps
By AngelanadinePosted By: Angelanadine  - Thu Oct 11 18:55:46 UTC 2018 Not Rated Question Hi, attempted this hike but ran out of daylight. We are going back. However we noticed that there is a trail that takes you right down to the river but before that there is a trail that goes right. Do we go right or continue down river?

ANSWERS are in this forum:   Direction
By LucassailPosted By: Lucassail  - Sun Jul 07 21:32:01 UTC 2013 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside SEE WARNING BELOW !! DATED 6 JULY 2013 : Fantastic Trail ! Look forward to returning! Come prepared with lots of water and snacks and a camera! The first two thirds are easy going, and the last 3rd is up and down not super-hard, while filled a variety of hiking challenges, such as going across dried up (or filled) river beds, somewhat precarious edges of banks. All worth the swim at the middle and in the water fall !! Downside Keep a sharp eye for trail markers, they aren't always obvious but they are there and helped us find our way. Comment 6 JULY 2013 --- WARNING --- !! :


First time we stepped on it, it felt very mushy as if it was going to give soon....I will call the Provincial parks NS tomorrow ASAP.



By Caper29Posted By: Caper29  - Sun Jul 15 13:14:55 UTC 2012 Not Rated Upside The Falls themselves are spectacular and well worth the trek. Downside The trail could definitely be marked much better. Also, there is not a lot to look at on the hike besides the Falls themselves as you are mostly canopied in and the river was quite low when we went so the parts where you could hear water rushing were few. However the lower falls trail would give you a lot of rushing water but after seeing the big falls, other than to fish i'm not sure why you would go to the small falls! Comment We did this hike in July after reading this trailpeak description and the comments. Getting to the parking area is easy but that is where the ease ended. There is no trail map to be found anywhere and it is obvious that the area has not been maintained in a while. There is a painted sign pointing left for the small falls and right for the big falls. There are a few fallen trees at the entrance to the big falls and it takes a few minutes to find the actual trail. However, once you find it (approximately 10 meters from the entrance up a bit of a climb), you can't miss it. The trail is quite wide and easy going for quite a ways. There is a bridge at the 2km mark that is apparently out but we crossed it without any difficulty. There is a detour on the other side of it, we could not find the detour on the approaching side. <BR>Shortly after this the trail starts to narrow and go further into the forest, you will go past a sign for McLeans Farm that is faintly visible, and what you see in this section is for the most part what you will get for the duration. Mercifully, someone had tied flagging tape around various trees to keep you on the path. The tape was mostly orange but you will find some blue and even pink tape as well. <BR>You will eventually hit a sign for "Camp One" which seemed to be around half way from our estimates. Shortly after this marker you will come across another sign for "Old Forest" after which the trail gets quite rough. There were two places where we hit fields of rock and had to do quite a bit of scanning and pacing about to find the flagging tape on the other side of the rock fields where the trail hooks up again. On the way back at the second rock crossing it took some time to find the trail again. <BR>After these rock field crossings the trail continued along the edge of the river, which was quite subdued, there were a few spots where you hugged the edge quite tightly and after a while of this you just sensed that the Falls were near. The Falls themselves literally just appear! You round a turn and you are faced with your first view of them in the distance and you forget all about the "are we ever going to find this place without getting lost" sentiments of minutes prior. <BR>Once at the Falls there are plenty of places to have that well deserved picnic lunch and photo op. Another party found us at the Falls and one of their party took a dip in the pool which on a warmer day i'm sure would have been time! <BR>We will definitely be doing this hike again and when we do we;ll bring some more flagging tape and hopefully make the trek for somebody else a bit easier. <BR>Note: while I am an explorer at heart I am not comfortable wandering through the forest to find something, so while I found the lack of markings to be unnerving, a more experienced woodsman would probably find more markings less of a challenge.
By The Big XPosted By: The Big X  - Tue Jul 06 00:52:35 UTC 2010 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside The highest falls in Nova Scotia nestled in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the province. Downside Although a beautiful trail by all accounts, much of the journey is mainly through heavy canopy meaning there aren't many distant views along the way. The big "wow" is the falls themselves. The trail definitely needs better signage along the way because several forks in the trail leave one wondering exactly which way to go. Comment I did this during the July 1st weekend 2010 with my brother. After finding the large falls on the East Branch of Moose River, NS (which is the second largest set of falls in the province) I simply had to get this destination under my belt - why settle for the seeing the second biggest falls in the province when the king of all falls is but a few more hours away? I was truly impressed with this awesome monument of nature. This is a must see destination for anyone who is an explorer at heart. Do this trail in the summer (like me) and you'll likely have none of the problems with river crossings as described in this trail description. I could surely see many places along the river that show signs that the river gets much fuller during the spring runoff but I didn't have any trouble at any river crossing whatsoever. No soaked boots makes for a happy hiker! When I visited this place there were many detours formed around obstructive dead-fall, and at least two detours to alternate river crossings to avoid ones where bridges had failed. More moose droppings on this trail than I have ever seen ANYWHERE. My brother and I wondered whether or not the moose all came out at night and had some kind of party on the trail because there wasn't a sign of moose during our hike but plenty of evidence of them having been there recently in the piles and piles and piles of droppings left behind!
By mosfetsPosted By: mosfets  - Sat Feb 21 05:47:01 UTC 2009 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside It is a wonderful trail with a nice reward when you finally reach the falls. Downside Physically it may be demanding to some. Enter the trail early in the day and manage daylight travel time,(I entered the trail late in the afternoon) I made my return from the falls as the sun was setting and ended up wandering off the trail a few times. Comment I don't know if it is legal but the next time I'm in Cape Breton I'll hike this trail again and sleep overnight near the falls :-)
By PushkinPosted By: Pushkin  - Sat Sep 23 18:24:34 UTC 2006 Not Rated Upside The trail is in great condition. No major river crossings required. Downside Could be marked alittle better. Comment The waterfall is spectacular and a must see for any hiker.
By magiverPosted By: magiver  - Sat Jul 22 02:40:36 UTC 2006 This trail was given a rating of 3 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 3 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 3 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 3 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 3 out of 5 stars Upside this trail is in very good condition.there is no bush wacking to be done.Our group took along a 14 month old baby and he really enjoyed the trip. Downside a little better trail markers. Comment I would recomend this trip to all who enjoy out doors.
july 21-2006

Copyright © 2001 - 2018