The top 5 running trails in Toronto
The 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.
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.
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.
Writing by Matthew Butters. Photo by jer1961 in the blogTO Flickr pool