15 incredible hiking trails in and around Toronto
Hiking trails in Toronto exemplify the city's quaint and somewhat hyperbolic slogan: "a city within a park." Thanks to our robust ravine system, we're blessed with a smattering of hiking options without having to leave the city, but there are also amazing destinations less than an hour's drive away.
Here's a round-up of some incredible hiking trails in and around Toronto.
Cedar Trail and the Beare Wetlands Loop is one of the longer trails in the Rouge River Valley. It has a 4.5 kilometre round-trip or a 1.5 kilometre loop. The trail runs parallel to the Little Rouge Creek and crosses through various ecosystems, including wetlands and meadows. This is a challenging trail with varying gradations, some of which are steep and awkward.
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's just over two kilometres, covering challenging terrain between the Rouge River and the Little Rouge Creek.
Colonel Danforth Park's Highland Creek Trail follows its namesake through a valley as it flows toward Lake Ontario. This 11.7 kilometre trail has paved, soil-compacted grass and gravel sections. 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.
Unlike the crowded, volleyball and boardwalk beaches further west, this park provides stunning views of bluffs formed by the Wisconsin Glacier some 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.
The Don Valley offers 11 kilometres of trails through steep-sided green spaces deep in the city. There are narrow ravines and wide-open spaces, offering a variety of environments to hike across and through. The area around Crothers Woods in particular is an inner-city hiker's dream.
The numerous trails that line this natural sanctuary 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's plenty to explore away from the trail.
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 six 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 Humberwood Centre.
The elevated boardwalk path through this deep ravine feels like something straight out of a storybook that it’s hard to believe it’s right here in Toronto. The lush ravine has a stream running through it and is also home to rare forest types such as Red Maple trees and Witch Hazel shrubs.
Located in Tommy Thompson Park, this 11-kilometre loop trail winds through the largest existing natural habitat on the city’s waterfront. Here you’ll enjoy stunning views of Lake Ontario and also get to soak in a bit of wildlife. There’s been over 300 recorded species of birds here and close to 400 plant species.
While Rattlesnake point is a more popular destination, the nearby Mount Nemo might just have more to offer. The hiking trails here overlap with the Bruce Trail and lead to an amazing lookout that offers a view of the Toronto skyline way off in the distance. It's incredible. Reservations are now required before visiting Mount Nemo Conservation Area.
Located in the Thornton Bales Conservation Area in Newmarket, this trail is famous for its rugged hiking trails and steep natural staircase. Considering all those steps it’s best suited to those in search of a challenging hike, though there are three different trail loops ranging in length that you can choose.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Canada’s oldest and longest footpath. The absolutely massive trail system stretches along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory with its closest access point to Toronto located just outside of Milton. You’ll be spoiled with views as the scenery ranges from dense forest to rocky gorges.
This trail brings you through Mono Cliffs, one of Ontario’s most beautiful provincial parks. Along the forested pathways, you’ll pass by towering rock formations, quiet lakes with crystal clear water, and a number of wooden staircases that bring you along the cliff side.
The Elora Gorge Conservation Area is home to 10 kilometres of scenic trails. Surrounded by towering Cedar trees, hikers will gain access to overlooks that generously offer up sweeping views of the gorge. The main highlight though has to be the 20-metre waterfall.
This nature preserve offers prime wildlife viewing and picturesque hiking trails. There are a number of looping trails ranging from one to five kilometres in length with viewpoints of the lush marsh and lots of opportunities to get up close to the vast wildlife in the area. Visitors can even feed chickadees right from their hand along the Chickadee Trail.
Tanya Mok at Bluffer's Park. With files from Derek Flack and Jeff Dupuis.
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