Where to mountain bike in and around Toronto
Mountain bike trail options in Toronto are actually more plentiful than the beginner rider might imagine. Likely a function of our plentiful ravines, it's possible to get surprisingly good hour-long rides in without leaving the city. Offering a mix of single track, ridge trails, and even a few North Shore-style ramps, the Don Valley is the most popular option for those who live downtown, but the trails around Etobicoke Creek and the northern end of the Humber Valley are relatively short rides away for those in decent shape.
Beyond the city, there's no shortage of more extensive trail systems — both public and private — within about a 45 minute drive or so. Many of these are located at skill hills or conservation areas and host Ontario Cycling Association (OCA) races throughout the year. For the most part admission is reasonable, if not free, and the topography is better suited for challenging rides.
IN THE CITY
Accessed from a variety of points, including the railway crossing at Pottery Road and the driveway south of Nesbitt on the Bayview Extension, this is a network of trails. Two longer ones do, however, stick out from the rest. I've always called the more difficult one the "ridge trail" because it tracks across the ravine wall with lots of off-camber stuff and short, steep climbs. I'd peg the difficulty level at intermediate to expert, as there are a number of challenging technical sections but nothing too crazy. One fun challenge is to see if you can make it through the whole section without unclipping from your pedals (harder than you might think).
The lower trail, which hugs the river and joins up with the railway tracks on a couple of occasions is super fast single track meant for hammering. One word of warning: every so often, CN officials crackdown on those using this trail because it's located primarily on railway lands. The Don trails continue through Ernest Seaton Thompson Park to Sunnybrook. Just hook up with the trail right across the road from where the river trail terminates.
I've always though of the Taylor Creek trails as the extension of the Don Valley system. And although not quite as challenging, they're good to use if want to extend your ride. You can hook up with both just after the bridge near where the Don river trail terminates.
Enthusiasts might not include this recreational trail on the list, but there's few places better for beginners to get a handle on riding off-road. There's basically zero technical challenge here, but if you enter off Moore Park Rd., the first few kilometres are all downhill, allowing you to fly past angered joggers and dog walkers.
It's a bit tough to find, but once you do, there's lots of single track in the ravine near Centennial Park and Markland Woods. Not overly technical, it's worth the trip if you always find yourself returning to the Don Valley. Enter off Ponytail Drive on the southern end.
Lots of trails, though only a few technical spots that I've found. The best options are up at Thackery Park, which is actually just north of Steeles Ave. near Kipling.
OUTSIDE THE CITY
Kelso Conservation Area (20km) — Not heavy on technical trails, there is nevertheless some great riding here, which even features a few "real" climbs (at least by Ontario standards). Gets very busy in the summer.
Durham Forest (20km) — Free network of trails with lots to choose from, including some moderately technical stuff. Makes for a great day trip, but be sure to bring lots of water; I've gotten lost here a couple of times. North of Pickering off Sideroad 7.
Ganaraska Forest (100km) — This one's a bit further of a drive, but well worth it if you're into epic days on the bike. With seemingly endless trails for bikers, horseback riders and four-wheelers, the forest is your kingdom. Near highway 115 and Northumblerland Rd. 9.
Glen Major (15km) — Again, it's pretty easy to get lost on these trails due to a lack of marking, but there's some good stuff out here if you're willing to explore. The entrance is also tough to find, but these are decent directions: Head north on Brock Road (not street!) to one of several entrances. To get to the south entrance go east on Concession Road 9 to either Westney Road or Sideline road then go north to the trailhead parking lots.
Hardwood Hills (75km) — Well maintained system of trails that also features a bike shop and rentals. There a variety of difficulty levels, well-marked routes, and you're likely to see lots of fellow riders throughout the summer months. Check the website for location info and a trail map.
Lead photo by fermata.daily on Flickr.