Top Toronto Bike Paths
The top bike paths in Toronto aren't made up of too many hidden gems. As it should, the Toronto Cycling Map charts the routes of the various paved and low-difficulty dirt trails across the city. But, due to our plentiful ravines -- where a number of these paths and trails are located -- in the absence of the map and/or a little local knowledge, it's possible to miss some excellent opportunities to ride without fear of (heavy) vehicular traffic.
For the most part, the paths described below are paved and in excess of five kilometres. I have, however, included a few shorter trails and those with hard-packed dirt based on my evaluation of their quality level.
Lower Don Recreation Trail
Extending from the waterfront to Taylor Creek and E. T. Seton parks, the Don trail system is one the best ways to enjoy nature without leaving the city. Winding along the river, the paved pathway is mostly flat and remains in pretty good condition (though road cyclists will want to be careful on the section south of Pottery Rd. due to an influx of sand on the path). There are numerous entry points to this pathway, with mains ones at Cherry St. and Lakeshore Blvd., Riverdale Park (look for the bridge), Pottery Road and the previously mentioned connecting trails.
Martin Goodman Trail
Without a doubt, the trail that I find myself on most often. Part of the more extensive Waterfront Trail, the MGT extends from around Park Lawn Avenue almost all the way to the R.C. Harris Filtration plant near Queen St. and Victoria Park. Although there have been renovations to the trail near Ontario Place, there are some significant gaps that'll put you in contact with traffic -- notably on Queen's Quay and Cherry St. But these streets don't pose a great danger to cyclists. The best time to ride on the MGT? When it's hot! Temperatures by the Lake can be as much as three to five degrees cooler depending on the weather.
Humber Valley Trail System
Exceeding the Don system in length, with only a few detours onto surface routes, you can take the paths along the Humber all the way from the lake to the top of the city. The paving is a little rough in places and exiting the trail usually necessitates a bit of a climb, but all things considered, one could spend hours exploring this tranquil parkland. There are loads of access points, including the foot of the river, Old Dundas Rd. and Eglinton Ave.
Taylor Creek Park
Some would consider the Taylor Creek trail part of the Lower Don because many cyclists hit both trails in a given ride, but technically speaking, they're separate entities. Starting from the meeting place of the Lower Don and E. T. Seton trails (Don Mills just north of O'Conner Dr.) this pathway heads southeast to Victoria Park criss-crossing Taylor Creek along the way. In my experience, this is one of the least trafficked pathways in the city, giving riders the ability to maintain a decent clip (just watch the hard turns before and after the mini-bridges).
Leslie Street Spit (Tommy Thompson Park)
Although only open on weekends, I often see people riding on the Leslie St. Spit during the week. An often windy corridor of land that juts out into the Lake, Tommy Thompson Park offers some great views of the skyline and the process by which land is slowly reclaimed by nature. Best time to ride? During the annual CNE Air Show in August, when you'll be treated to some excellent views of the planes over the harbour. The one and only access point is Unwin Avenue and Leslie St.
Kay Gardner Beltline Park
Originally a commuter railway built to service what were then suburbs like Moore Park, the Beltline was officially converted into a recreational path in 1999 (though sections of it were in use before then). Neither long nor paved, when combined with the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery and the Moore Park Ravine, the Beltline is an integral part of trail system that lets one ride off major surface routes from Caledonia and Eglinton to the Don Valley Brickworks. Main Access points at Merton and Yonge, Oriole Park and Bathurst just south of Roselawn.
Mt. Pleasant Cemetery
Not really a trail system so much as series of low traffic roads, the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery may be private property but remains an inviting place for respectful cyclists. Full of winding roads that undulate gently, I spent much of my youth exploring the gorgeous grounds here. Access points on Moore in between Mt. Pleasant and Bayview and Yonge St. just north of Heath (on the east side).
Moore Park Ravine
A short all-downhill trail (if you start at the north end), the Moore Park Ravine is a pretty little dirt path that takes riders to the Brickworks or allows them to loop around and climb out of the ravine at David A. Balfour park. Beware! Travelling north on this trail system is always uphill: slow and steady towards Moore Rd. and steep as hell up the ravine wall near St. Clair and Pleasant Ave.
E. T. Seton Park / Sunnybrook Park
Technically two separate trail systems, I've never differentiated between them. Alternating between low-traffic park roads and dedicated bike pathways, both of these trails can get very busy on weekends. Although not necessarily a bad thing, those looking for a tranquil ride will want to visit during the week or look elsewhere on Saturdays and Sundays. Both of these paths feature many break-off trails for leisure riders (towards Edwards Gardens) and mountain bikers (on the west side of the river). Key access points: Off Don Mills Rd. (down the hill to the southwest of the Science Centre and off Leslie just north of Eglinton (westside).
Morningside Park / Colonel Danforth Park
For those in Scarborough, there's a great set of paved paths that bisect U of T's campus while heading from Kingston Road to the Bluffs (and vice versa). On the east end, you can even hook up with a trail that'll take you to Pickering.
West Toronto Railpath
An honourable mention goes to the West Toronto Railpath, which when complete, will be a great way to get from the west end to the heart of downtown (and back again). With phase one of the project complete, there is currently about 2.1 kilometres of trail in use. Main access point: Cariboo Avenue, just north of Dupont Street (in the Junction) and Dundas and Sterling.