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Where to mountain bike in and around Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / April 22, 2011

Mountain Bike Trails TorontoMountain 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

The Don Valley (10 km)

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.

Taylor Creek (5km)

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.

Moore Park Ravine (5km)

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.

Etobicoke Creek Area (15km)

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.

Humber Valley (25km)

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.

MAP

OTHER RESOURCES

Lead photo by fermata.daily on Flickr.

Discussion

16 Comments

Fig / April 22, 2011 at 03:33 pm
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Good summary Derek. I wasn't aware of trails in the Etobicoke Creek area. Will give it a try.
RobertB / April 22, 2011 at 04:14 pm
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Glen Major is awesome...~1800 hectares with 100km of trails from novice to extreme. Much more interesting than Durham Forest imho. There are 6 access points. Getting lost is not a problem 'cause there are always hikers and bikers there who know the trails. Great maps in PDF for free download at Mikes Maps...maps.gotwisted.com/
Greg / April 22, 2011 at 06:08 pm
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Great post. I think one other to note regarding the Don is that there are many man-made skinnys, jumps, teeter totters, and in one section even an entire dirt jumping section.

Cant wait to get out there for the first time this season.
Jason Murray / April 22, 2011 at 07:10 pm
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Good summary, but you've missed other excellent areas like Albion Hills, Twin Ponds, Waterloo Cycling Club Trails (formerly the Hydro Cut), Buckwallow, Copeland Forest, etc.

What also would have been helpful was a link to the clubs in the different areas who can provide a tour of the various destinations. Riding with the locals who know the trails, is the best way to see the good stuff without having to do a lot of exploring.

I can help if you'd like, but won't pollute the comment section. Feel free to email me.
Dave Krentz / April 22, 2011 at 10:27 pm
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If you're going to be out at Kelso you might also try Hilton Falls, just across the 401 from Kelso. Paying admission at either one of these places gets you into both, so make a day of it. While you're at Hilton Falls look for the Bent Rim trail (but make sure you're riding full suspension and no clipless pedals).
Maria / April 22, 2011 at 10:53 pm
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Anyone know of any good HIKING trails in Toronto?
ap / April 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm
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Nice.
I'v some other "secret" spots. Is ther a map wher we can share tracks?
Ian Randall / April 25, 2011 at 07:14 am
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Should probably mention that this early in the season, particularly after a wet spring, it might be too early to ride the trails.. Mountain bikes are hard Om wilderness trails (hence all the upgrades in the Don over recent years) and responsible trail use is key to long term sustainability. If you wreck it today, you as well as no one else will be able to enjoy it in the future.
blarg replying to a comment from Ian Randall / April 25, 2011 at 09:18 am
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Absolutely agree. I mention to people to not ride if its been raining the day or day before and people go "but its mountain biking man!". Maybe if it was a track that was maintained 24/7 but in the case of the Don, no. You're just ruining the trail.
Dave Krentz replying to a comment from Fig / April 26, 2011 at 12:26 am
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@ Fig: If you try out the Etobicoke Creek Trail you can also approach from Burnhamthorpe Road, just inside Mississauga at Garnetwood Park. Head across the parking lot and pass the dog run, then head for the creek: the trail runs along it. There's a new section of the trail (it used to end at Highway 401) that goes up beside the airport towards Brampton. I took some pictures last time I was there: http://twitpic.com/photos/DriversofChange
Darcy McGee / April 27, 2011 at 11:03 pm
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Rouge Valley.

Ganaraska Forest is awesome, but it is sandy. Make sure you've got good tires.

Stay off the trails when they're wet. The damage you can do is irreparable.
the lemur replying to a comment from ap / April 28, 2011 at 09:19 am
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Try looking for Toronto on bikely.com for trails:

http://www.bikely.com/listpaths/srchkey/toronto

Brian / May 2, 2011 at 10:15 am
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There are a couple of good organizations supporting the Don as well as many organized rides happening during the week. We are absolutely blessed with an amazing collection of trails that cater to all levels.

There has been a movement away from built structures (north shore stuff), however that doesn't mean there aren't incredible trails and features for skilled riders.

There are certainly more than 10kms worth of trails in the system which are taken care of by great cooperation between the city and volunteers.

Check out:

http://www.toronto-offroad.org/

http://www.dropmachine.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=22

Brian

Lamnferee / December 22, 2011 at 02:48 pm
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hjjkhk
rob / June 23, 2012 at 11:26 am
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There's some single track along the credit river in Mississauga, on both sides and around the UofT campus. Theres also a bit around the escarpment in and around Hamilton
Claudio / January 13, 2014 at 06:00 am
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When I originally commented I clicked the "Notify me when new comments are added" checkbox and now
each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment.
Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

Thank you!

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