Toronto Green Spots
By Maureen Littlejohn
Toronto’s percolating pace is exciting, but it can also jangle the nerves. That’s when it’s time to head to the lush green spots of the city and decompress. From parks to ravines to leafy hiking, biking trails, there are many verdant respites where you can reconnect with nature.
High Park, the city’s biggest green space at 161 hectares, features manicured gardens, Grenadier Pond, forested paths, doggie play area, children’s playground, zoo, pond, pool, tennis courts, historic home, restaurant, concessions stands, and even a little trackless train. Every season is a joy in this grassy gem on the west side of the city. Spectacular cherry trees blossom in spring, summer is for picnicking, multi-coloured foliage marks fall, and visitors enjoy skating and walking the snowy paths in winter.
Rail-to-trail buffs enjoy the 4.5 km Belt Line Linear Park, a trail that follows the 1890s Belt Line commuter steam railway that once circled the city. Wander under the leafy canopy, exploring small neighbourhood parks along the way. Starting from Eglinton West Subway station, the Belt Line connects to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where many prominent Canadians are buried (including pianist Glenn Gould). Continue west and you’ll end up in Toronto’s Don River Valley.
The Don Valley Brick Works opened in 1889 and was a source of bricks for some of the city’s grand historic structures including Old City Hall. Scenic hiking and biking trails lace the area and every week there is a farmers’ market overflowing with delicious fresh produce.
Further east, Ashbridges Bay Park, on Lake Ontario, is lined with marinas and hopping with boating activity. Continue eastward and you’ll come to an area known as “The Beach.” A boardwalk hugs the shore and meanders through waterfront parkland including Kew Gardens that swings with sound every summer during the Beaches International Jazz Festival.
Green spots also abound downtown. On Philosopher’s Walk, between the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum, join scholars on break between classes and take five on one of the park benches. At the foot of Yonge Street there are two options. Hop on a ferry and explore the bike paths, restaurants and rides of Toronto Island, or stay on the mainland and take the Martin Goodman trail westward. Join roller-bladers, cyclists and strolling couples and traverse the city’s Harbourfront area, cross through waterfront parks, past the Roman-style Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion (built in 1922), and end up at Humber Bay Park.
The Humber River watershed is the largest in Toronto. Start from Old Mill subway station and pick up the riverside path that was once used by First Nations peoples as a trade route. Song birds and monarch butterflies use the river as a migratory passageway and anglers cast for more than 60 species of fish that live in these waters, including salmon that can be seen making their way upstream to spawn every spring.
For more information and maps, check out the City of Toronto’s self-guided Discovery Walks program.
Maureen Littlejohn has circled the globe as a travel writer, but she always manages to make it back to her home base in Toronto. She has a Master of Journalism degree, and has written for hundreds of publications throughout her 25-year career as a journalist. If she is not glued to the computer writing her blog, or traversing the international dateline, she can be found exploring Toronto’s green spots with her French Bulldog Lola.