Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.
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And now on to the regular post …..
I live in mid-town Toronto, so I frequently go for walks about the neighbourhood to get my daily exercise. I was out one day recently and it occurred to me that while I take it for granted sometimes, there is a lot of appeal in the nearby streets, parks, and ravines that would make a great walk for both residents of the city as well as visitors to Toronto. I’ve laid out this route to take in the best features of the Lytton Park and Lawrence Park neighbourhoods including several of the local sights and providing a glimpse of the charms of mid-town. I mean really, downtown hipsters, every once in awhile it won’t kill you to venture north of Bloor.
Length: About 8 km, so around 1.5 hrs.
Surface: Mostly paved, with some gravel paths in the ravines
Public Transit: Start and end at Eglinton Station on the Line 1 subway
Starting at Eglinton Station, use the exit at the south end of the platform so that you come out on west side of Yonge Street and south of Eglinton. As you exit the station, turn right (south) and walk about 100m to Berwick Avenue, and turn right (west). Follow Berwick about 200m to Duplex Ave and turn right (north). After about 100m, turn left (west), crossing Duplex and following Anderson Street. Continue 3 blocks to Lascelles Boulevard, then turn right (north). Take Lascelles north to Eglinton, where you can cross at the traffic lights and enter Eglinton Park.
Follow the path to the right of the Community Centre and past the arena and parking lot to enter the park itself. The path continues along the east side of the park and exits at Roselawn Avenue. Cross Roselawn at the crosswalk, and continue north up Rosewell Avenue. This continues for about 6 blocks north to Lytton Avenue. At Lytton, turn left (west) and follow it as it descends and curves north. At the corner of Lytton and Alexandria, you will pass the delightful Lytton Sunken Gardens.
Continuing up Alexandria, the road ascends and curves right (east). Follow Alexandria to Rosewell Avenue, then turn left (north). Follow Rosewell north for about 4 blocks past the John Ross Robertson and Glenview public schools. Just north of Glenview school, there is a foot path along the top edge of the bowl-shaped ravine in which the school’s playing fields are laid out. Follow this and then turn right (east) on the foot path along the north edge of the school yards, with Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute on your left.
At the end of this foot path where it joins Cheritan Avenue, there is a roadway on your right descending down into the Glenview playing field. Follow this down and at the bottom, turn left and walk back east past the baseball diamond to find the entrance gate to the Chatsworth Ravine. Enter the gate and follow the path beside Burkes Brook, crossing the bridge and then continuing till you reach Duplex Avenue. There is a steep flat path on the right or a set of stairs on the left – either takes you up out of the ravine and onto Duplex.
Cross Duplex and on the east side of the street you will see the steps descending into the Duplex Parkette (which are not on Google Maps, so it thinks you can’t get down into the park – that’s not true, though in winter if it’s icy, you can take Chatsworth Drive down to Yonge instead). Follow the stairs down and then continue east along the path towards Yonge Street. Near Yonge, the path forks, so go left to get to the crossing lights at Yonge and Chatsworth. Cross Yonge here and then turn right (north) and walk up the street less than 100m to the entrance to Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens.
Enter the park and meander through the gardens until you come to tennis courts. Turn right leave the gardens to get onto the roadway that runs east parallel to the tennis courts. Follow that and you enter Blythwood Ravine along the foot path beside Burkes Brook which is channelled underground between Duplex and Yonge. Follow the foot path beside the stream east, crossing under Mount Pleasant Road.
On the east side of Mount Pleasant, the path ends, with a new path on your right and a roadway directly ahead (Strathgowan Avenue). Continue straight along Strathgowan for about 50m and then turn left (north) to climb the public foot path up onto Dundurn Road. Follow Dundurn north for about 4 blocks to Dinnick Crescent and then bear right to follow Dinnick another block north to Cheltenham Avenue. Turn right (east) and follow Cheltenham for about 3/4 of a km to Mildenhall Road. Cross Mildenhall to enter Cheltenham Park, and follow the path east through the park to emerge on the other side at Bayview Wood. Keep going straight and the road bends right (south) turning into St. Albans Crescent. Keep following this round as it continues bending right and starts heading back west.
After completely turning back west, as you continue straight ahead Rochester Avenue begins, so follow this east past Mildenhall Road to St. Ives Avenue. Turn left (south) on St. Ives and follow it south to St. Leonards Avenue. Turn left and then immediately right after less than 100m to St. Leonards Crescent, turning right here and following it south as it bends east a bit. At the junction with Dawlish Avenue, St. Leonards Crescent turns into Fidella Avenue which continues south and bending west. Follow that south until you reach Strathgowan Crescent. Turn right (west) and follow the crescent for about 100 m as it curves south and climbs the hill. At Strathgowan Avenue, turn right (west) with the Blythwood School yard on your left. Follow Strathgowan down the hill till you come to the path back into Blythwood Ravine, on your left just before get to the Mount Pleasant Road underpass.
Turn left onto the path into Blythwood Ravine and follow it north and east. After several hundred meters, the path ascends and connects to Blythwood Road. As you come out of the ravine, cross Blythwood using the crosswalk and turn right (west). Climb up the hill and cross Mount Pleasant Road at the traffic lights. Continue on Blythwood for about 500m to Blythwood Crescent. Turn left and follow that to Sheldrake Blvd. Turn right (west) and follow Sheldrake to Yonge Street. Turn left (south) on Yonge and walk back to Eglinton Avenue to the finish.
Of the many delights of this route, my favourite is probably just wandering along wide, tree-lined, quiet streets as I walk through the Lytton Park and Lawrence Park neighbourhoods. Often, especially on weekends, there’s no one about and it’s peaceful and calm. The only people you do meet are locals out walking dogs or doing a bit of yard work. Some of my most relaxing walks have been through these streets on a misty, rainy early spring day, and you can kick up little piles of leaves in the autumn or enjoy the shade in the summer too.
These streets were laid out in the early part of the 20th century and many of the homes date back to the 1920s and 1930s. Nowadays (sadly to my tastes), a number of these older homes have been demolished and replaced with large modern structures, but there are enough of the older ones left that you can see see hints both of the original agricultural past in early Toronto (look for the original farmhouses on Blythwood in between Mount Pleasant and Yonge) as well as the early city planning in the lay out of the roads. Those early planners were keen to provide lots of winding streets, in an era when the car was starting to dominate planning – hence the width of the streets and in many cases the lack of sidewalks.
There is history here too. Alexander Muir Gardens is named after the man who wrote what for many years was the unofficial Canadian national anthem (at least to English Canadians) – The Maple Leaf Forever. The gardens were laid out in the 1930s to honour him, and the wind may oblige you to provide a nice shot of the flag that bears that symbol.
The parks and ravines are also lovely. Burkes Brook is one of the many small tributaries of the Don River and the City of Toronto has both exposed it in some parts and buried it in others. Following its course is a bit of an adventure as you go from wooded ravines to parks to urban street crossings – check out the Lost Rivers Project to learn more about these hidden creeks and streams.
Many people don’t realize it, but Elginton Park is also set in a filled-in creek ravine. Mud Creek is flowing under it and under Eglinton Avenue itself, and then crosses under Yonge south of Eglinton near Manor Road, to follow the line of Tullis Drive on the east side of Yonge and eventually flow under Mount Pleasant Cemetery into the ravine under St. Clair Avenue and onwards to the Don. These hidden creeks are all over Toronto and help to explain why some of the streets curve and bend the way they do.
This walk is also linked by the spine provided by Yonge Street. Between Eglinton and Lawrence Ave, Yonge is a solid line of shops and retail, providing those who leave nearby with their everyday needs and ensuring that this is actually a fantastic, walkable area both east and west of Yonge.
There are also at least 10 schools in the area, along with the parks, so this is a family-friendly place as well. That explains the bajillion dogs and their owners, as it seems to be a neighbourhood requirement to have 2.5 kids, 3.5 bikes, and 4.5 dogs per household. And also, it should be said, 1.5 luxury cars per driveway, reflecting the upper middle-class demographic. This area used to be very, shall we say monochrome, and is now becoming more diverse culturally, echoing Toronto as whole though also echoing its social/cultural stratifications as well. Property prices here have not gone done, to say the least.
Finally, I like this area simply because I’ve lived here on and off for close to 40 years, since I arrived in Toronto to attend university at Glendon College, which is just east of Lawrence Park. I’ve watched the neighbourhood change and grow and evolve over the years. I’ve coached my son’s baseball teams playing in Eglinton Park, and I’ve pushed him on his toboggan down the hill at Glenview School, where he also did his swimming lessons. It’s been a wonderful place to live, and when we’ve returned to the hood after living elsewhere, we’ve always settled right back in like the proverbial dirty sock. It’s home.
Food & Refreshment:
Yonge and Eglinton is amply supplied with many food shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to stock up for a picnic, fuel up ahead of the walk, or rest up afterwards. There is a great breakfast place called Boom on Eg at Lascelles, just as you enter Eglinton Park, and there is one of my favourite greasy spoon diners on Yonge near Castlefield (Good Bite is just that, and no disrespect intended calling it a greasy spoon). All of that choice means it’s easy to combine a nice walk with some shopping, with the subway right there so that you can leave the car at home.
As well, Eglinton Park has both water fountains and public washrooms, and there are also both of these in the Community Center itself so that you can stop off year round. There are water fountains in Alexander Muir Gardens, Duplex Parkette, and Cheltenham Park, though all of these are turned off between October and May. Otherwise, take advantage of the coffee shops along Yonge or in the Yonge-Eglinton shopping centre.
- The route describes exits Burkes Brook ravine at Blythswood Road. If you want to stretch yourself further, instead of heading to Yonge along Blythswood Road, cross it and descend on the south side of the road, so you can keep going on the path as you enter Sherwood Park. After about 500m, past the picnic area, you can either turn right to climb up out of the park at Sherwood Avenue and so return to Yonge, or else turn left (east) and follow the path along Burkes Brook through the east end of the ravine to Bayview Avenue. If you do that, then a great way to get back to Yonge is to go south on Bayview to Mount Hope Cemetery and cut through that peaceful spot to exit onto Erskine Avenue which will take you east back to Yonge. If Mount Hope Cemetery is closed, then continue south on Bayview to Broadway Avenue, where you can turn right (west) and follow it all the way to Yonge.
- As you go up Rosewell Avenue and come to Glenview School, you will notice that there is a treed ravine on the west side of the street. These are part of the grounds of Havergal College, a private school and thus private property. This ravine, however, is part of Burkes Brook, so to keep following it north, walk around Havergal by going north up Rosewell to Lawrence Ave, turning left to get cross to the west side of Avenue Road, then turning right (north) across Lawrence to go north up Avenue Road to Woburn Avenue. Here, on the northwest corner, there is the entrance to Brookdale Park. The path here keeps going north, and if you follow that onto Grey Road, you can keep going up to about Brooke Avenue and so follow more or less follow the course of upper Burkes Brook.