You can't visit Cape Breton without hiking the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It's crowded, but the views make it totally worthwhile. The loop is 8.7 kilometers and is best hiked counterclockwise. The trailhead begins near a very large parking lot just north of Cheticamp on the Cabot Trail. The size of the parking lot will give you an idea of how popular this trail is, but don't be discouraged—there is lots of room to spread out once you get hiking.
The whole trail is fairly flat, gaining just 115 meters in elevation. As you begin hiking, you will pass through a boreal spruce forest. After about a kilometer, the trail forks. If you stay to the right, the trail becomes a bit more difficult, and you will have to pick your way among rocks in the path. It remains fairly level, taking you through lush meadows ripe with wildflowers and spruce forests. If you hike early in the morning or late in the evening, you have a very good chance of spotting moose, bear, or coyotes.
The closer you get to the water, the more stunted and windswept the trees become until they disappear altogether and open up incredible views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The highlight of the trail is a boardwalk down to the headlands with views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Cabot Trail, and Cheticamp in the distance. This is a fantastic place to watch the sunset, and guided hikes are offered daily for this purpose. After drinking your fill of the views, retrace your steps back to the beginning of the boardwalk and stay right at the fork. There is a restroom at the trail junction if you need it.
The trail is wide, smooth, and well marked from here back to the parking lot. You will pass through a gated and fenced area that was created to protect tender saplings from moose damage. You will find a low lookout tower within the fenced area, but the view won't compare to the one you witnessed on the headland.
If you are short on time or you want an easier walk, you should stay left at the first fork and hike 3.5 kilometers out to the headland boardwalk on the flat gravel trail. Then you can retrace your steps back to the parking area for a 7-kilometer hike instead of 8.7 kilometers.