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The top 5 running trails in Toronto

Posted by Guest Contributor / May 11, 2012

Running Trails TorontoThe top running trails in Toronto take runners beyond the big city sights and sounds; mostly out of sight of the towering structures and congested streets. For those tired of dodging pedestrians, SUVs and newspaper boxes while running the same boring routes, here are my picks for the top 5 running trails in Toronto.

Martin Goodman Trail
Extending from Exhibition Place to the Humber River, the Martin Goodman Trail follows the shore of Lake Ontario. Coated in smooth asphalt, the trail offers fantastic footing while also providing lovely scenery. In addition to the beautiful lake views, the path meanders through several city parks. An added bonus of this trail is the painted lanes on the pathway. By separating the path into a right and left lane, the trail becomes bi-directional, and reduces the risk of collisions between large groups of runners, and cyclists going in opposite directions.

The Beltline Trail
This trail is based on the path of an old railway that used to circle the city. While the railway has been defunct for some time, the Beltline Trail remains a go-to destination for runners and cyclists looking to escape the city. Due to its length, the trail has numerous entrance points across the northeast of the city. Specifically, the trail spans from Bayview and Danforth all the way up to Allen Rd. and Eglinton. Along the way, the Beltline Trail passes through Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which could easily have a spot on this list itself. The trail is marked, but can be confusing at times for runners that are new to the area. At some points on the trail, the tall trees that line the pathway form a full canopy overheard - a pleasant treat for those of us used to the city streets. An added bonus with the Beltline trail is that it is easily accessible by the TTC, and there are bathrooms available at various points on the trail in the summer months.

High Park
While not a 'trail' itself, High Park's 400 acres contain unpaved pathways, landscaped gardens and beautiful greenery that make it a prime spot for running. Located to the west of downtown, north of Humber Bay, High Park stretches south from Bloor St. W. down to the Queensway. Accessible by car, and the TTC, High Park is a very popular destination for runners, and for good reason. With the wide variety of running surfaces, and no shortage of space, you can work on anything from speed, to hills, to a long run, all without leaving the park. Perhaps more importantly, you can always choose to finish your run at Bloor St. W. and step into one of the many pubs for a well-deserved pint.

Don River Trail
At roughly 20 km in length, the Don River Trail lies in the shadow of the expressway for which it is named. The name however, is where the similarities stop. The trail begins near the Beaches at Lakeshore and Cherry St. and continues north all the way to Edwards Gardens (Lawrence Ave. E. and Leslie St.). The main stretch of the Don River Trail includes easy terrain consisting of alternating stretches of packed cinder and asphalt. The northbound direction of the trail is mostly uphill, but you will barely notice as you pass through several picturesque parks including Sunnybrook Park, E.T. Seton Park, and Taylor Creek Park. The Don River Trail is a popular spot for cyclists, but that shouldn't be a deterrent for runners. The varying landscapes and convenient entrances along the course of the trail make it a 'must-visit' for runners of all abilities.

Humber River Trail
The southern entrance to the Humber River Trail can be accessed from The Queensway, just west of the Humber River. Mostly paved asphalt, the trail winds north with the river for 32 km, all the way up to Summerlea Park (Sheppard Ave. W. and Weston Rd.). On the southern portion of the trail, the path runs along the west side of the river, sometimes connecting with surface streets until you cross to the east side of the river at Old Mill Rd. With plenty of maps and signs, the trail is incredibly easy to follow. Unlike several other trails on this list, the Humber River Trail is rarely congested with other runners, and as a result, the trail often seems like a private running haven. When coupled with the stunning trees and plentiful wildlife that decorate the trail, this route can easily make you forget that you're in Canada's most populous city.

BONUS TRAIL!

Queens Park
Although significantly shorter than the other trails on this list, I would be remiss if I left out this gem nestled in the downtown core. The Queens Park Running trail is located at Wellesley St. W. and Queens Park Crescent E. At only 0.9 km long, the outside of this trail travels around the perimeter of the northern portion of Queens Park. While this may seem too short to be called a 'trail', the packed cinder pathway provides a viable option for squeezing in some trail running on your lunch break, downtown. The loop can be added to the middle of your run, or you can take advantage of the unique terrain and rolling grade with several laps of speed work. Most importantly, the towering trees and green grass around the trail provide an escape from the monotonous grey pavement that lies outside of the park.

See also:

The top Toronto bike paths

Writing by Matthew Butters. Photo by jer1961 in the blogTO Flickr pool

Discussion

22 Comments

Alex Greene / May 11, 2012 at 09:44 am
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"Perhaps more importantly, you can always choose to finish your run at Bloor St. W. and step into one of the many pubs for a well-deserved pint."

Yea, great idea! And undo any benefits of your run... although, I realize this was probably meant as a joke.
Paul replying to a comment from Alex Greene / May 11, 2012 at 09:55 am
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Nothing undone for me; running and a rehydrating pint is a tradition with runners.
oreteki / May 11, 2012 at 09:56 am
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Are there any running trails in the Markham zoo?
Spadina / May 11, 2012 at 10:16 am
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The Belt Line actually continues west a little bit further than that. There's a break at the Allen, but if you go west on Roselawn it'll re-start after Marlee and take you west of Caledonia, then curve south and end at Bowie. It's less scenic, but if you need to add a bit more distance on your route the option is there.
Jeremy / May 11, 2012 at 10:23 am
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One thing I particularly like about High Park is that the loop at the top is pretty much exactly 2k (if you go right to the top and don't take the Spring Road shortcut). Makes it nice for planning your run, tracking your distance and possibly adding extra bits at the end of a longer run, particularly if you don't have a garmin on.

Also, the Humber trail doesn't really end at Summerlea park, it splits there (maybe the splits have different names, I dunno, but they're easy to follow). The east branch goes up to Steeles and the west branch over to Finch and the 427.
gr1 / May 11, 2012 at 11:52 am
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humber bay waterfront trail is my personal fave for running. ontario place to humber bridge is roughly 10k. scenic and serene.
Rahim / May 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm
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I commute into the city via cycle from the northwest part of the city to Old Mill using the Humber River Trail. Aside from a moment around Weston Rd near St. Phillips & and a moment around Lambton House at Old Dundas Rd where you have to leave the trail to access it further, you pretty well can run from Bloor to the Northern part of the city and back with little interruption (even during the height of summer you won't find a lot of individuals using the main trail via running or cycle) That and it'll be going up and downhill constantly, so it's a good test for the legs, and the view in some parts is quite lovely. Definitely would recommend it.
mike in parkdale replying to a comment from gr1 / May 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm
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Ontario place to the Humber bridge AND BACK is 10k.
gr1 replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / May 11, 2012 at 01:47 pm
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yea, i left out that detail, haha.
Jake replying to a comment from Rahim / May 11, 2012 at 01:54 pm
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I used to run along the trail northbound from Etienne Brule Park on the Humber river and really miss it. Weekdays were nice and quiet however it could get busy on weekends.
Philip / May 11, 2012 at 04:47 pm
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Living close to the Humber, i use it everyday, for running, walking my dog, etc. One of my favourite things to do is take my bike and go from about Eglinton all the way down to the lake and back (got it to under an hour including a rest at the lake). I love this trail and highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. There is only one MAJOR problem. There are certain spots that absolutely STINK, especially after a rainfall and (obviously) down by the lake as you pass the filtration plant. As long as you can get through these areas nice and quick, this trail is something of a god-send for those that like to run and cycle.
K. / May 11, 2012 at 06:21 pm
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If you take the Beltline extension mentioned by Spadina above (past the Allen, to Caledonia), you end up more or less at the top of Prospect Park Cemetary, which is a great running path that takes you to St. Clair. From there you can head through Earlscourt Park and a nice green hydro coridoor to around Geary and Dovercourt.

An alterantive way out of the Beltline is to go south when you reach the Allen, and you'll end up in the Cedarvale Ravine park system that will take you from just south of Eglinton to St. Clair, and continues in small bits through nice neighbourhoods as far as Yonge and Rosedale Valley.
Lorrzy / May 11, 2012 at 09:17 pm
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Extend the West End Railpath!!
Trail Runner / May 13, 2012 at 09:39 am
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These aren't real trails though, they're more like paths, and erm mostly concrete! A better angle for this article would be tailored towards people who are looking for a genuine off-road experience, but don't want to drive out of the GTA to get there. Places like Crothers Woods I'd expect to be covered in an article on "trails"...
Andrea / May 16, 2012 at 06:54 pm
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I'm a fan of the Cedarvale Ravine, which you can take almost to the Beltline. Aside from being full of nature's beauty, there's some great inspirational graffiti for runners.
Rosanna / March 27, 2013 at 10:58 pm
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Good point, @Trail Runner! I will definitely have to check out Crothers Woods.

Here are my favorite city-runs: http://happinessisalongrun.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/top-five-running-routes-toronto-edition/
NY movers / April 30, 2013 at 04:54 am
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I seldom leave a response, however I read a few of the comments on this page The top 5
running trails in Toronto. I do have a few questions for you if you don't mind. Could it be simply me or does it seem like a few of the comments appear as if they are written by brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting at other social sites, I'd like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post.

Would you post a list of all of your public pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?
Betty / April 30, 2013 at 06:37 am
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I know this if off topic but I'm looking into starting my own weblog and was wondering what all is needed to get setup? I'm assuming
having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I'm not very internet smart so I'm not 100% certain.

Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you
Knower of Things / December 16, 2013 at 11:40 am
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You can get all the way from the Waterfront to Steeles if you are clever.

Take the Don River Trail north from the water. When you hit the fork (Taylor Creek Park or ET Seton Park) turn towards Sunnybrook. Run through Edwards Gardens and turn onto Lawrence (you need to run ~500m on Lawrence). Cross Leslie and take the path through to Scarsdale. Scarsdale to York Mills, to Lesmill. Then take the Betty Sutherland Trail north to Leslie and Steeles.
JNH / March 30, 2014 at 05:35 pm
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I have yet to do it myself, but I hear Leslie Spit is a great run. Can anyone confirm?
Kirby / June 11, 2014 at 01:45 pm
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Confirmed - especially if you take the waterfront trail from Cherry Beach to get there. Though, you can only go so far if you want to get back out... I think it will run you a good 10-15K round trip if you want to make it all the way to the lighthouse. Add in the distance from wherever you live and it could be a lot.
Brian replying to a comment from JNH / August 19, 2014 at 03:13 pm
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Confirmed

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