Hiking trails in and around Toronto
Hiking trails in Toronto exemplify the city's quaint, and somewhat hyperbolic, slogan, "A City within a Park." With the federal government allotting funds in the 2012 budget to turn the Rouge Valley into a National Park, Toronto's wonderful hiking trails are finally getting their due. Whether you're a seasoned hiker, or interested in taking a stroll through Toronto's green spaces, the city's three major rivers and park system offer scenic and invigorating adventures within our municipal borders.
Here are some of my favourite hiking trails in and around Toronto.
Finch Meander Trail (Morningview Trail and Old Finch Avenue)
The east end of Toronto is particularly gifted with a variety of natural features that lend themselves to parks. Starting at the northeast corner of Toronto is the Finch Meander Trail. This out-of-the-way spot offers a short trail, only about 250 metres, through gently sloping terrain leading to the bank of the Rouge River. Beyond the trail is grassland and forest and a bluff-like formation to the southeast. It's a great trail for a weekend stroll.
Cedar Trail (Meadowvale Road and Old Finch Avenue)
Cedar Trail is a longer trail in the Rouge River Valley, and set apart from the Rouge River itself. This 2.2 kilometre trail runs parallel to the Little Rouge Creek and crosses through various ecosystems, including wetlands and meadows. This is a more difficult trail than the Finch Meander Trail, with varying gradations, some of which are steep and awkward.
Mast Trail (7450 Kingston Road)
Mast Trail, formerly a logging route where lumber was sent to Europe for ship building, is a 200 year-old trail through mature forest and a lush fern floor. It is also 2.2 kilometres, covering challenging terrain between the Rouge River and the Little Rouge Creek.
Highland Creek Trail (Old Kingston Road)
Colonel Danforth Park's Highland Creek Trail follows its namesake through a valley as it flows towards Lake Ontario. This 11 kilometre trail has paved, soil-compacted grass and gravel sections, making it versatile for any number of outdoor activities. It's a beautiful park for a relaxing stroll or a bike ride, but has the distance and features necessary to make for a challenging hike. The trail ends at East Point Park, a park similar to Bluffer's Park but more remote, giving it the sense of being somewhat untouched.
Morningside Park Trail (Morningside and Ellesmere Road)
Morningside Park Trail provides 3 kilometres of most asphalt trail, not ideal for rough mountain biking, but great for a good walk, beautiful sights, and picnics. Much of the park is depressed into the ground, with slopes all around it. This trail is family-friendly located in the centre of Scarborough, easily accessible and not far from restaurants and amenities.
Bluffer's Park (Brimley Road and Kingston)
Bluffer's Park is another wilderness feature located in an easily accessible part of Scarborough with several parking lots. Although much of the park is sand and not ideal for cycling, there is a gravel trail at one end of the park. Like East Point Park, Bluffer's Park gives visitors an opportunity to explore the 14-kilometre geological feature that is the Scarborough Bluffs. Unlike the crowded, volleyball and boardwalk beaches further west, this park provides stunning views of bluffs formed by the Wisconsin Glacier, 12,000 years ago. Once you stray to the east, away from the washrooms and parking lots, you won't encounter anything but shoreline and cliff-face until Pickering.
Taylor Creek Park (Woodbine and O'Connor Drive)
Taylor Creek Park is a thin slice of wilderness cutting through East York suburbs. Its 3.5 kilometre trail is great for hiking and cycling. Several different ecosystems dot this Don River tributary and offer glimpses of a variety of wildlife and regionally rare plants species.
Don Valley Trails (Pottery Road)
The Don Valley offers 11 kilometres of trails through steep-sided green spaces deep in the city. The asphalt trails are great for walking, hiking, cycling, and jogging and there is plenty to explore when you step off the beaten path. There are narrow ravines and wide-open spaces, offering a variety of environments to hike across and through. The recently revitalized Crothers' Woods is an inner city hiker's dream.
Cedarvale Ravine and the Beltline Trail (Rosedale Walley Road and Bayview Avenue)
The Cedarvale Ravine and the Beltline Trail is a 7 kilometre trail running in a lasso shape in the very heart of the city. You cannot walk perpendicular to the trail very far before encountering urbanity, but aside from a respite from the city, this trail offers a glimpse into Toronto's industrial history, as it travels the route of the old Beltline Railway, a commuter rail service built to serve the north of the city in the 1800s.
High Park (1873 Bloor Street West)
Moving toward the city's west end, High Park is the elephant in the room in any discussion of hiking in Toronto. This imposing, 161 hectare park, smack in the middle of Canada's largest city is a sight to behold. Unlike the steep terrain of the many river valleys in the city, which make development next to impossible, High Park stands defiantly in the face of urbanization. Its seven kilometres of asphalt trails are an ideal place for a relaxing walk to escape the feeling of downtown. Since one-third of the park is left in its natural state, with rare plant species and the original oak savannah that once covered much of the Toronto, there is plenty to explore away from the trail.
The West Humber Trail (Finch Avenue and Humber College Boulevard)
Toronto's last major river valley, the Humber, like the Don and Rouge river systems, does not disappoint the avid hiker. The West Humber Trail offers up 6 kilometres of both paved and hard-packed trails leading to some significant features in the city's west end, including the Humber Arboretum and the Humberwod Centre.
The Humber River, Old Mill and Marshes (Bloor Street and Old Mill Road)
The Humber River, Old Mill and Marshes area of the city boasts 7.3 kilometres of asphalt trails and several important wildlife and heritage sites. There are remnants of the Old Mill, the third mill constructed there, and the arched stone bridge, built in 1916. The Toronto Carrying Place Trail, known also as the Humber Portage, an important route for Natives and traders, east of the river, is a trail rich with history and wilderness. The Humber River and surrounding marshes make up the largest watershed in Toronto. This region is an important migratory corridor for both birds and butterflies and its waters are home to over 60 species of fish, making it a rare treat nestle in the middle of such a vast metropolis.
Writing by Jeff Dupuis. Photos by Derek Flack and Seeing Is in the blogTO Flickr pool
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