Hikes in Toronto
Situated along the western shoreline of Lake Ontario, Toronto is a beautiful and diverse city that offers access to a large number of outdoor recreation spaces that can be enjoyed by visitors and residents alike. Vast swathes of forested city parks, lovely nature reserves, and a lengthy stretch of waterfront trail all provide an easy means for outdoor enthusiasts to get out and enjoy nature.
No matter your age or skill level, you will be sure to find a suitable trail or recreation space within the city to meet all of your needs. Whether you are looking to explore the gardens, forests, and zoo within High Park, take a ferry over to the islands, hike through the woodland expanse of the Don Valley, or take part in the wide range of activities on offer along Toronto’s scenic waterfront, there are a seemingly endless amount of possibilities when it comes to exploring this beautiful city.
The 10 Best Hiking Routes In Toronto
While hiking within the limits of a major urban city centre like Toronto might not seem like an ideal way to enjoy the outdoors and connect with nature, but there are actually a fairly diverse range of hiking trails that offer something for all ages and skill levels. From hiking the length of the Don or Humber rivers to exploring the forested expanse of High Park, to meandering along the waterfront; there are countless ways to get outside and explore the natural beauty that can be found within the boundaries of the city. Here is a list of 10 great hiking routes in and around Toronto:
- Humber River Recreation Trail: While this is only a portion of the Humber River Recreation Trail, it covers a beautiful stretch of woodland terrain along the banks of the winding river. Popular with a variety of outdoor enthusiasts, this fun hike will expose you to the natural beauty of Toronto’s west end.
- Crothers Woods Loop: This hike is a great way to get out and explore a beautiful swathe of forest within the boundaries of the city. The trail will take you along the banks of the Lower Don River through a wonderfully atmospheric bit of woodland terrain that offers the chance to view several different species of fowl.
- Rouge Valley Loop via Vista Trail: One of the more popular routes in the city, the Rouge Valley Loop is an amazing hike that will produce spectacular views overlooking a sea of changing leaves. While out on the trail, you will make your way along winding creeks to several vantage points with views of the charming woodland landscape.
- Scarborough Bluffs Trail: Arguably the most popular hiking destination in Toronto, the Scarborough Bluffs are a rugged formation of rock along the shores of Lake Ontario. While out hiking this trail, you will make your way past beaches and recreation areas along the shores of the lake, before taking in the amazing scenery of the bluffs.
- Lower Don Recreation Trail: This fun hike will take you through the beautiful forest terrain of the Don Valley, providing some lovely views along the banks of the Don River as you make your way between several city parks. This route is also perfect for exploring the area by bike.
- Leslie Street Spit Trail: A fantastic trail through Tommy Thompson Park on the shores of Lake Ontario, the Leslie Street Spit Trail will take you along the water’s edge for stunning views of the city skyline. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as a number of bird species and small mammals like beavers can often be spotted along the trail.
- Toronto Waterfront Trail: A lengthy trail along the shores of Lake Ontario, this route is suitable for a variety of outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels. While out on the trail, you will travel from the Humber Bay in the west end to Harbour Square Park near the downtown core. This hike is also a great way to access the diverse range of amenities and recreation spaces along the waterfront.
- High Park Trail: The network of trails within High Park are great for a fun family adventure through a beautiful stretch of woodland terrain set in the west end of the city. Well-manicured gardens, charming ponds, and the late-spring bloom of cherry blossoms all make this a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty of Toronto.
- Glen Stewart Park Trail: This quick and easy hike in the east end of the city will take you through a scenic ravine with a charming stream passing through it. The terrain here is characterized by a lovely forest, creating a pleasant atmosphere along the short, family-friendly trail.
- East Don Parkland Trail: Hiking the East Don Parkland Trail is a wonderful experience in North York that will take you along the winding banks of the Don River. Charming bridges along the route allow you to easily cross over the water, while the paved pathways offer easy access for families with strollers. This is a lovely hike that can be enjoyed by all.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Toronto?
While the vast majority of hiking trails within the city limits are accessible year-round, some areas with steeper terrain might be covered in snow or ice, making travel a challenge. Additionally, areas along the waterfront or the Toronto Islands may have restricted access due to inclement weather. In order to experience the best weather and trail conditions, hiking in and around Toronto is best done in the May to November window.
Other Outdoor Activities in Toronto
In addition to a bevy of hiking trails strewn throughout the city, Toronto also offers access to countless other outdoor activities. Easy access to the shores of Lake Ontario means that water sports like kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, windsurfing, boating, and fishing are always on the table, and a great network of multi-use trails allows you to explore the city by bike, rollerblade, or scooter. Golf is another popular summer activity, with several courses located nearby; while skating is by far the most popular winter sport in the city. No matter the season, you are guaranteed to have a great time exploring the city of Toronto and its beautiful recreation spaces.
Frequently Asked Questions About Toronto
Where can I go hiking in Toronto?
Although it is a fairly dense urban centre, Toronto offers countless options for exploring preserved stretches of natural terrain that can be found within its city limits. Popular hiking options include the Waterfront Trail, Scarborough Bluffs, Humber River, and Don Valley.
Is Toronto a safe city to visit?
Yes! When compared to other big cities around the world, crime rates in Toronto are significantly lower. In fact, Toronto was recently named the 4th safest city in North America.
What are the six boroughs of Toronto?
In 1998, the municipalities surrounding Toronto were amalgamated, bringing Old Toronto, East York, North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke, and York together to form the 5th-largest city in North America. It has since surpassed Chicago in population, moving into the number 4 spot.
Best Hikes in Toronto
Humber River Recreation Trail
This stretch of the Humber River Recreation Trail is an 8.2 km out-and-back route that will take you from Etienne Brulé Park near the Old Mill, to the James Gardens and back. While out on the trail, you will walk along the forested edge of the river and take in some lovely views across the water. This beautiful route is popular with cyclists and walkers as a means to temporarily escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Crothers Woods Loop Hike
Walking the Crothers Woods Loop is a great outdoor activity in Toronto that will serve as a nice forest retreat without having to leave the city limits. While trekking through this tranquil forest setting, you enjoy beautiful views of the Lower Don River and have the chance to view several species of wildlife, in particular the birds that call the woods home. You should take note of the fact that this is a multi-use trail, so keep an eye out for passing bikers and trail runners.
Glen Stewart Park Trail
Hiking the Glen Stewart Park Trail is a quick and easy outdoor experience in the east end of Toronto that can be enjoyed by hikers of all ages and skill levels. Along the trail, you will experience a tranquil woodland atmosphere, as you make your way past mature trees that line a scenic ravine that is dissected by a quaint stream. While this route is accessible year round, portions of the trail can become icy in the winter and muddy in the spring, making it less than ideal to hike during these periods.
East Don Parkland Trail
Hiking the East Don Parkland Trail is a great way to spend an afternoon exploring a small slice of nature in the heart of North York. While out on the trail, you will follow along a well-maintained path along the banks of the East Don River, crossing over it at several points by means of a series of charming bridges. With almost no elevation gains present throughout the trail, this route is perfectly suited for hikers of almost every skill level. While the paths are largely paved, there may be a few sections of gravel that could slow travel for those with wheelchairs or strollers.
High Park Trail
Hiking the High Park Trail is a wonderful experience in the west end of Toronto that will expose you to a vast area of woodland terrain that serves as a retreat for many people to escape the hectic environment of the city. While out walking the trail, you will make your way through mature forests, experience views across serene bodies of water, and pass by a number of well-maintained gardens and recreation spaces. Although this trail is certainly accessible year-round, the best time to visit High Park is during the April to May window, when the Japanese cherry trees in the park reveal their picturesque pink blossoms.
Toronto Waterfront Trail
Also known as the Martin Goodman Waterfront Trail, the Toronto Waterfront Trail is a long multi-use route that provides a great recreation space for people in the city to get out and enjoy the outdoors. This trail will take you along the shoreline of Lake Ontario from the Humber Bay to Harbour Square Park, providing access to countless public spaces, businesses, and recreation areas along the water’s edge. With little in the way of elevation gain, well-maintained paths, and beautiful scenery, this route is perfectly suited for a fun family outing in the city.
Leslie Street Spit Trail
The Leslie Street Spit Trail is an amazing hiking route in Toronto that will take you through Tommy Thompson Park along the shores of Lake Ontario. While out on this hike, you spot a wide range of wildlife species like beavers and various types of fowl, in addition to experiencing beautiful views across Lake Ontario and the ever-changing Toronto skyline. Made up of easy-to-navigate paved and gravel pathways, this trail is perfectly suited for hikers of all ages and skill levels, including those with wheelchairs and families with strollers.
Lower Don Recreation Trail
The Lower Don Recreation Trail is a great adventure in the heart of Toronto’s east end that will allow you to reconnect with nature as you hike through stretches of natural and urban terrain. While out on the trail, you will make your way through the Don Valley along the banks of the Don River while taking in all of the sights between Riverdale Park East in the south and E.T. Seton Park in the north. This trail is also very popular with cyclists, so be sure to exercise caution while out on your hike and allow others to safely pass.
Scarborough Bluffs Trail
The Scarborough Bluffs Trail is a scenic hiking route just east of Toronto that will allow you to experience the natural beauty of Lake Ontario’s shoreline. While out on the trail, you will hike along the water’s edge and make your way past yacht clubs and beaches before taking in the sights of the rocky and rugged Scarborough Bluffs. This trail features very little in the way of elevation gain or difficult terrain, making it perfectly suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
Rouge Valley Loop via Vista Trail
Hiking the Rouge Valley Loop via Vista Trail is a fantastic outdoor experience in the Greater Toronto Area that will take you through a peaceful stretch of woodland terrain to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. While out on the trail, you will make your way past winding creeks and up to an observation platform with views overlooking the forest. This is a great hike no matter the time of year; however, most people would agree that it is best done in the autumn, when the vast sea of green leaves changes to a myriad of yellow, orange, and red hues.
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