conservation areas toronto

The top 5 conservation areas around Toronto

Toronto is surrounded by conservation areas, provincially regulated green spaces designed to protect watersheds and the natural environment in general. There are 36 conservation authorities that manage more more than 290 of these parks in Ontario, which provide a convenient escape from urban living for day-trippers. The range of activities on offer at conservation areas is broad, from your basic picnicking to advanced mountain biking, maple syrup tours, and camping. They're generally cheap to access (under $10 per person), and even those close to Toronto boast serene landscapes and bucolic surroundings.

Here are my picks for the top 5 conservation areas around Toronto.

Rattlesnake Point
Located southwest of Milton on the Niagara Peninsula, Rattlesnake Point offers sweeping views of the bucolic landscape below the gorge heading down to Lake Ontario. Trails line the top of the escarpment, which regularly open to sweeping vistas of farmland and the azure lake. Cyclists will want to test their mettle of the climb up Appleby Road leading into the park. It's one of the toughest in Ontario.

Kelso is a mountain bikers dream, with 22km of at times highly technical trails that meander along the Niagara Escarpment. But it's also so much more, with skiing and snowboarding in the winter (there are 15 slopes), a campground, a supervised beach in the summer, and a sprawling 396 hectares of total space.

Elora Gorge
The jewel in the crown of the Grand River Valley, Elora Gorge promises hiking trails with stunning views, decent fishing opportunities, and some of the best tubing in the province. The latter is a favourite past time in the area and easier than you might think: simply plop your tube in up river and float away your cares.

This is maple syrup country in the winter, with guided tours and heaping pancake-heavy breakfasts. It's also a place that's devoted to renewable energy education, featuring two LEED Platinum certified buildings and what they call the Power Trip Trail, which highlights a variety of technologies related to sustainable energy production.

Located beside the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, Belfountain might be the prettiest conservation area near Toronto. The river and its many small waterfalls is much nicer than the streams we tend to find at the bottom of our ravines, and the woods are absolutely spectacular with saturated colour come mid-October. Hit the swing bridge over the river for a great view and a bit of adventure. There's also numerous trails and picnic facilities.

Photo of Kelso Lake by Amarpreet K in the blogTO Flickr pool.

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