TO Places – Moore Ravine and the Brickworks

Part of a series on my favourite places to go for a walk in Toronto

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Restrictions placed by either the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto may limit what you can do on this walk. Check the links for the latest info.

And now on to the regular post …..

The Don Valley Brickworks Park is one of the best little walking parks in Toronto, and getting there by walking down the Moore Ravine trail just adds to the fun. Please note that as of this post (July 2020), the City of Toronto is doing extensive work on the Ravine that will continue through the summer of 2020. You can still walk it, though there is a lot of dust and noise at the north end of the ravine trail Mon-Fri. Weekends are quiet but still dusty.

All that said, it would be a shame to skip the Moore Ravine just because of work to make it even better. Once you get past the first several hundred meters, you the path is (literally) clear to walk and enjoy the shady tunnel beside burbling Mud Creek.

Location: Moore Ravine starts at Moore Avenue, just east of Mount Pleasant Road. It follows Mud Creek down into the Don Valley, and the northern entrance to the Brickworks Park is at the south end of the Ravine trail. The Brickworks can also be reached from the south, off of Bayview Avenue. It lies just to the west of the Don River.

Public Transit: If you are starting at the top of the Moore Ravine, then take the 74 bus from St. Clair station on Line 1. You can also walk from St. Clair station in about 20 minutes. If you are starting from the south, take the 28 bus from Davisville Station on Line 1.

Why I like it:

Pure and simple, it’s just a fun place to walk. The Moore Ravine trail is wide and well shaded, and for most of its length runs beside Mud Creek. On a peaceful mid-week day, I’ve been the only person on the trail and able to hear the birds, the water, the swish of a breeze in the trees, and the crackle of leaves underfoot. Then when you get to the Brickworks, you leave a forested, mostly natural setting and enter a man-made setting that’s slowly reverting to nature. The old clay pits are slowly being reclaimed by grasses, shrubs, marsh ponds, and trees, and the paths meander so that you can cover a few km in a small area.

I love these connected parks in any season. In spring I’ve seen turtles basking on logs, and heard frogs grunting amorously. In summer cool shade of the ravine is a blessing, and there’s usually a breeze in the Brickworks to make the tall grasses sway. Autumn is the best, to me at least, with the leaves exploding in colour, and in winter there’s a different kind of peacefulness on a cold blue-sky snow-crunching day.

Sights:

Turtle sunbathing on a May warm day

There are lots of things to see, both man-made and natural. Just south of the Brick Works Park is the Evergreen Brickworks, which occupies the old industrial buildings of the original Don Valley Brickworks company. This complex has become an environmentally friendly showcase for sustainable development and the reclamation of industrial sites.

There are always interesting things going on here, including festivals, weekend farmer’s markets, winter markets and winter activities like skating, and lots of kid and family friendly activities. To be honest, sometimes the kids get a little over the top for me, so I usually try to go during the week when it’s quieter.

The walks around the park and the ravine are the stars of the show for me. If you are a bird watcher, you’ll probably spot dozens of species, and if you are an amateur entomologist you will have a lot of fun spotting beetles, butterflies, and various hopping insects. Those more interested in flora than fauna are also in for a treat, because of the mixture of Carolinian forest, grasslands, and marshy ponds. There are wildflowers, blossoming shrubs and trees, and aquatic plants to explore, so if that’s your thing I guess spring and summer are your seasons.

And if you just want to wander, try climbing the hill on the east side of the Brick Works Park. From the top, you get a great view south over bowl of the park with the Toronto downtown skyline on the horizon.

Food & Refreshment:

Depending on when you go, there might be a festival on, or the weekend farmer’s market, and that means food trucks and food vendors. I’ve been there when there was a Latin American festival going, and besides the music, there were lots of empanadas, burritos, tacos, and more than I could possibly try. In winter there’s often a hot choco vendor, and in summer there might be ice cream.

And everyday that the Evergreen Brickworks is open (which is almost 365 days a year), there is Cafe Belong. It’s a full-service sit down restaurant that also does takeout, and they have a full bar too along with a gorgeous patio space that’s perfect on a summer day. The food is tasty, organic, and ethically sourced for guilt-free indulging.

Diversions:

  1. The Brickworks is one of my standard stops if I am walking the Don Valley Trail from Corktown Common to Wilket Creek Park. You can use the Brickworks as a great jumping off point too, starting there and walking the Trail south to Corktown to end up at the Distillery District.
  2. There are other connector trails too – if you start down the Moore Ravine, you can exit to the west of the Brickworks and take the Chorley Park connector trail up out of the valley and into Rosedale. From there you can walk through one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Toronto to end up back at Yonge Street.
  3. The Brickworks is also about half-way on the Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail. Walking down Moore Ravine, you’re actually on a section of the Beltline. It continues north of the Moore Ravine, cutting through Mount Pleasant Cemetery (worth exploring all by itself) and continuing all the way west to Bathurst Street. Or from the south end of the Brickworks, the Beltline curves back north and west through David Balfour Park and then Mount Pleasant Cemetery where it completes its loop.
  4. One other route I’ve done is to start at Ramsden Park on Yonge Street (opposite Rosedale Station on Line 1), and walk south-east down Rosedale Valley Drive to Bayview where I turn north and follow the Don Valley Trail back up to the Brickworks. From there I usually keep going up Moore Ravine, through Mount Pleasant Cemetery and onto the Beltline which takes me more or less home. Going in this direction I get lots of uphill walking.

Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake – Ideas for a Visit

The other day, I was describing my Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto journey to someone, and lamenting how COVID-19 is cutting into my ability to do something similar this year. It seems like it was a million years ago that I did that walk, yet it was only last autumn.

Since we are (fingers crossed) slowly moving towards easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario, and part of that recent easing includes the re-opening of some Niagara-area wineries for tastings, I thought it would be helpful to jot down where I stayed on my journey and where I had meals. If you are able to get out of Toronto, you might want to check out these places yourself.

Accommodations

If I were younger, I might have considered camping for at least some of my walk, in particular along the Bruce. If I had done that, I’d have had to stealth camp, because there’s no official overnight camping allowed in the various parks and conservation areas that the Bruce and Waterfront Trails cross.

Stealth camping means walking till dusk, setting up your tent and crawling in, and then waking at dawn to strike camp and get going before anyone comes along. Lots of Bruce Trail through hikers do it, and as long as you are discrete and respectful of private property, you can usually get through unmolested. Still, doing so would have meant carrying a tent, sleeping bag, etc. and that would have added 2-3 kg to my pack, plus extra food, and it would also have meant walking for longer days, dawn to dusk. I wanted the trip to be challenging, but I just couldn’t take the thought of it being that challenging.

Instead I opted for comfort. My muscles would be aching after a long day, so the thought of a nice hot shower each evening outweighed the thought of seeing if I could rough it. I picked all of these spots based on proximity to my route, more than anything else, but that said all of them were great.

An excellent micro-brew IPA from Bench Brewery
  • Shaw Club, Niagara-on-the-Lake
    • Great little place, a little bit off the main touristing stretch of Picton Street and yet only a few minutes walk away, and more importantly for me, just a few hundred meters from Fort George where I started my journey
  • Stone Mill Inn, St. Catherines
    • A converted warehouse property only a few hundred meters off the Bruce Trail, with welcoming staff, quiet, well-appointed rooms, and for me, HOT SHOWERS!
  • Jordan House, Jordan
    • One of the oldest taverns in Jordan, now with several rooms as well that are managed by the Inn on the Twenty. Simple yet close to the Bruce Trail and the bonus of a fab breakfast at the Inn
  • Crown Ridge B&B, Grimsby
    • A comfy B&B on the outskirts of Grimsby and literally across the road from the Bruce, where I had a large room with a balcony deck – it was great going to sleep to the sounds of crickets
  • Waterfront Hotel, Burlington
    • A clean, modern, mid-range hotel right on the Waterfront Trail by Spencer Smith Park in downtown Burlington
  • Waterside Inn, Port Credit
    • Another clean, modern, mid-range hotel right on the Waterfront Trail, this time beside the harbour in Port Credit
Breakfast at the Inn on the Twenty in Jordan Station

Meals

My basic plan, since I was staying at hotels, was to eat a hearty, healthy breakfast each day and a good dinner at night. That way, during the day on the Trail I could munch on snacks like dried sausages, dried fruit, an apple or orange, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and energy bars. When I’m working hard I don’t want a big meal anyway, and this meant I could have a snack at each rest break and keep my energy levels up.

The breakfast part worked out as I had planned, though the Inn on the Twenty where I ate after staying at Jordan House only served breakfast at 0800, so I lost a bit of trail time. Other than that, I really appreciated being able to fuel up in comfort each morning – instant coffee and oatmeal on the trail can’t compare to fresh fruit and a good strong cup of morning brew.

Similarly, being able to have a hot meal at the end of the day, and also I confess a good glass of wine, was a reward to myself. If you can’t earn your comforts and enjoy them, well, what’s the point? A good burger versus freeze-dried chili – what choice is that?

A tiny Niagara estate that makes a fantastic Pinot Noir
  • Treadwell, Niagara-on-the-Lake
    • A farm-to-table restaurant, they work with local Niagara-area farmers and producers to make memorable meals. Their sommelier is excellent and their selection of local wines means you can try stuff you’d never find on your own. It was a great way to get ready for my big walk.
  • Zees Grill, Niagara-on-the-Lake
    • We had breakfast there, as it’s attached to the Shaw Club Hotel. We were served outside on the veranda, and it was a lovely soft first-day-of-autumn morning.
  • Jonny Rocco’s Italian Grill, St. Catherines
    • This restaurant is attached to the Stone Mill Inn, which was just as well since my feet were tired and stiff after day 1 on the Trail. It’s a casual place with homemade Italian dishes, and their make-your-own-pasta was really tasty. I had penne, marinara sauce, fresh spinach, and flor di latte cheese. That’s how you carb-load for another day on the trail.
  • Cora’s, St. Catherines
    • This breakfast chain has a franchise on Tremont Road, where the Bruce climbs the escarpment, so you’re just meters from the Trail. I ate there the morning of Day 2, and got a big plate of eggs, toast, and fried potatoes with coffee for under $10. There are many locations around Canada and they’re a great option if you’re tired of Tim Hortons.
  • Jordan House Tavern, Jordan
    • It’s a pub, and it’s got all the pub good things you’d expect. The food is fresh and prepared in-house, so the burger and salad I had were made from high quality local ingredients, and the beer was a local micro-brew called Bench IPA.
  • The Martini House, Burlington
    • I took my parents there since we’d connected for the evening as I was passing through Burlington. This restaurant is a favourite of my in-laws, though I guess it’s quieter when they go there for lunch than it was in the evening. The food’s pretty good – I had a fab vegetarian dish and the wine list is simple with some good value wines.
  • Tim Hortons
    • If you don’t know what a Tim’s is, then where have you been? While they are predictable, they’re everywhere, convenient, clean, and good value. Plus you get the bonus of listening in on the regulars that seem to congregate in every Tims I’ve ever been in.
The courtyard outside Treadwell in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Let’s hope that COVID-19 stays under control. Please do your part by respecting the advice of public health authorities. Together we’ll get through this, and back to normal.

TO Places – St. Lawrence Market

Part of a series on my favourite places to go for a walk in Toronto

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Restrictions placed by either the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto may limit what you can do. Check the links for the latest info.

And now on to the regular post …..

The area around St. Lawrence Market includes nearby Corktown and the Distillery District, and it’s a fantastic intro to Toronto – downtown, close to hotels, shops, and transit, full of history, and even more full of good things to eat. If you have just one day in TO, then come here.

Location: St. Lawrence Market itself is at the corner of Front and Jarvis Streets. My personal definition of the more general Market neighbourhood is the area between Church Street in the west to Cherry Street in the east, and King Street to the north down to the Esplanade in the south.

Public Transit: The nearest subway is King Station, on Line 1. The St. Lawrence Market is about a 5-7 minute walk from there. You can also take the 503 or 504 Streetcar east from King Station and get off at Jarvis Street – the Market is just a block south from there.

Why I like it:

First of all, there are a lot of memories for me here. When I met my soon-to-become wife in 1987, she was living in the area, just off the Esplanade. Since she had a much nicer apartment than my basement bedsit, I moved in with her and we lived there for the 1st year or so of our marriage. We also lived just north of here in the early 2000’s and spent many hours walking the neighbourhood pushing a stroller to get our son to sleep.

When we were young and, let’s call it non-affluent, we would hit the market at the end of the day, when vendors were selling off their unsellables. As our budgets expanded, and as we travelled, we starting looking for things we’d tasted in Europe – the cheese, the olives, the fish, the meats. Then when we became parents, a Saturday at the Market became an easy way to keep young one entertained and fed with interesting snacks. And always, it’s been a place to take visitors to the city, who never fail to be wowed by the scents, the sights, and the sounds.

Over the 30+ years since we lived nearby, we’ve always made a point of visiting the Market whenever we can, regardless of where we’ve lived in the City (or elsewhere – we would always try to squeeze in a visit when we came home while we were living in London). There is so much to see and do any time of the year, and if we’re feeling a bit bored by food-shopping we can always explore the rest of the area, especially east over through Corktown and the Distillery District.

There are actually 2 markets, the red brick South Market which is open 5 days a week, and the now-temporarily-in-a-tent-for-the-next-few-years-and-confusingly-named North Market, which is currently located south of the South Market. The North Market, which used to be on the north side of Front Street across from the South Market, is open on Saturdays as a farmers market and on Sundays as an antique market. The City is building a new structure to house it, and it will eventually return to its rightful North Market location.

Sights:

Since this area is one of the oldest in Toronto (at least, what passes for old in the sense of European settlement), there are many historical sites and features. But for me, the starting and ending point is the Market itself. I always get a tingle of anticipation whenever I visit, thinking of what I’ll find and what I’ll cook and, most importantly, what I’ll be tempted to eat while I’m there.

It’s also one of the great all-season places in Toronto. Spring is about new flowers and days just warm enough to sit out at a picnic table. Summer overflows with vendors on the sidewalks, with fruits and veggies from all around Toronto. Autumn is my favourite, when the harvest season brings those crisp blue-sky days that make wondering so much fun. And winter is great too, especially around the holidays, when the market is bursting with shoppers and carollers and cheer.

Outside the Market, the shops along King and Front Streets are interesting too. It’s become a bit of a furniture/design destination. There’s also George Brown College just east on King, so there’s a student vibe that’s fun. And of course, over at the Distillery District, there are tons of shops and funky laneways to wander and browse.

Holiday Market at the Distillery District

If you need some green space, there’s that too. The park next to St. James Cathedral is always green and welcoming. There are also a series of parks along the Esplanade (including one that’s in the opening shots of Kim’s Convenience), and at the east end of Corktown there’s the fabulous Corktown Common.

Winter at St. James is beautiful too

There are probably other things in Toronto that some might find more fun, but for me, spending the morning shopping at the Market, then picking up a picnic lunch and going for a walk through the neighbourhood to end up at the Common where I can sit on the grass and eat my feast, all followed by a coffee at Balzac’s in the Distillery – that’s a perfect day.

Summer at the market includes flowers

Food & Refreshment:

There are just too many to choose from – if you want to sample the multi-cultural variety of Toronto, you can start here and cover a lot. There’s down-home Canadian (Paddington’s Pump’s famous back bacon sandwiches!), pizza and pasta, souvlaki, sushi, chow mien, crepes, cheeses, smoothies, sausages, pates, pickles, breads, pretzels, sweets, fruits, veggies, spices, salts, herbs, oils, flavourings, and so much more, and that’s just in the Market itself.

Breakfast at Paddington’s Pump

When it comes to food, you have options. You can view it as a giant, full-on grocery store and pick up the ingredients for a feast. You can look at it as a great take-out place, from any of a dozen or so places that range from avocado toast to zaatar-spiced treats. Or you can sit down in a more restaurant-like setting (across the street at Market Lane) and enjoy a meal and a glass of wine at one of the places there. And of course, you can do all 3 the same day, as we often do.

Along King there are many more restaurants and bars, and if you time it well you can try some budding chef’s talents at the Chef’s House restaurant run by the George Brown College catering school.

Finally, the Distillery District has its share of wine and dine options, along with coffee, tea, and chocolate treats.

Come hungry and you’ll be fine.

Diversions:

  1. I’ve used the Market in the past as my jumping off place for long walks. To the east at the Common, you can pick up the Lower Don Valley Trail. To the south, you can join the Martin Goodman Trail. Either way, fuelling up at Paddington’s Pump is a great way to start a long walk.
  2. Just west of the St. Lawrence area, at Yonge and Front Streets, there is the Hockey Hall of Fame – what could be more Canadian, eh?
  3. While this isn’t the official Theatre District, you can find your share of the arts here. There’s the Meridian Hall (formerly the Hummingbird Centre for the Arts), the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Young People’s Theatre, and the Canadian Opera Company’s St. Lawrence space, all within a few blocks of St. Lawrence Market.
  4. Throughout the year, there’s live music and festivals galore, everything from buskers and Buskerfest to BBQ fests to Toronto’s own Holiday Market. Check sites like Toronto.com or BlogTO to see what’s happening.

Favourite Toronto Walks

After looking back, I realized that I’ve written a number of posts about favourite Toronto walks, and I wanted to collect them together in one place so that you could find them.

Favourite Toronto Walks -Martin Goodman Trail

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! As part of its COVID-19 strategy, the City of Toronto has closed the parks noted below. The Trail itself is open for walking, but the parks and their facilities are not.

And now on to the regular post …..

The Martin Goodman Trail winds along the shore of Lake Ontario, from the Humber River in the West, past Sunnyside Beach, Ontario Place, and Queen’s Quay, crosses the Don River and loops down around Cherry Beach, and then follows Lakeshore Road through Woodbine Park onto the Beaches Boardwalk to end at Balmy Beach. If you want summer, follow this path.

And if you’re not in summer, walk it anyway – the autumn colours, the spring flowers, and the natural ice sculptures of winter all offer sights to keep you interested.

And for people watching, this is Toronto hanging out in its backyard – the whole city makes an appearance at some point. It’s endlessly entertaining and changing to fit the seasons and your mood. Go walk it, and take the time to hang out and chill.

Length: roughly 18-19 km end to end, so 4-5 hours depending on stops. The Martin Goodman Trail is also part of the much longer Waterfront Trail, which within the City of Toronto itself runs from Mimico Creek in the west all the way to the Rouge River in the east. It’s around 50 km across the city, and I’ve walked that as part of my Crossing Toronto Big Walk.

Surface: paved the whole way, though you can walk on boardwalks too at Sunnyside and in the Beaches

Public Transit: to start (assuming you’re going west to east) take the subway Line 1 to either Queen Station or Osgoode Station. Catch the 501 Streetcar heading west to either the South Kingsway (east bank of the Humber River) or the Humber loop stop (west bank). From the streetcar, walk south to pick up the trail on the east side of the Humber Arch bridge At the finish, walk from Balmy Beach north up to Queen Street to catch the 501 Streetcar at Neville Park to head back west to Queen Station on subway Line 1.

Route: The Trail is strait-forward and well marked. It officially starts on the east side of the Humber River just past the Humber Arch Bridge, though there are also several km of waterfront trail on the west side of the river, between Mimico Creek and the Humber.

The Humber Arch Bridge

Strictly speaking, there are actually 2 parallel trails, one for bikes and one for walkers. On weekends especially, the bike trail can be busy with speeding spandex, so keep to the walking trail.

There are lots of park benches along the way, and in Sunnyside Park and in the Beaches, there are also lots of comfy Adirondack-style chairs. On a weekday morning, they’re heaven for resting tired feet.

The path follows the lake pretty closely with many little diversions through side gardens. There are a couple of street crossings to negotiate, near Bathurst Street, at Cherry Street, and near the Beaches. Otherwise you really can’t get lost – just head towards the CN Tower from the west end, and towards the Ashbridge’s Bay chimneys once you’re past the CN Tower.

Sights: There are lots of little joys along the trail. You might see a mother goose and her goslings trailing obediently. Or stop to take in the flowers and the visitors at one of the little butterfly gardens that dot the parks. Or there’s the site of planes taking off from Billy Bishop Airport on the islands (even more spectacular during the Toronto Airshow).

The view from the Humber Arch Bridge looking east

As you walk along the trail, there’s also many spots to take in the Toronto skyline. You may not realize it, but you are starting a bit south of the city when you are over by the Humber. As you walk towards Queens Quay, you’re walking north and east, and the many condo and office towers compete with the CN Tower and Rogers Center to dominate the view.

At Sunnyside Beach looking back west towards Mimico

Then as you move past all the shops along Queens Quay itself, and cross the Don River channel at the docklands to head to Cherry Beach, you enter a more relaxed area with sand and trees. It’s a great spot to stop for a picnic.

Cherry Beach
The trail heading east from Cherry Beach

Continuing on, the beach vibe takes over completely past Ashbridges Bay. The sand will tempt you in any weather, and in summer it’s our own version of Venice Beach. I once came across a movie shoot in progress, across the path from a step aerobics class, and alongside grandparents walking with grandkids slurping ice cream who were staring at muscle-shirted beach volleyball players.

The Beaches Boardwalk at Woodbine Beach
Balmy Beach on a not so balmy day …

Food & Refreshment: The Trail has several places for food and drinks, though most are open only during the Canadian summer – Victoria Day to Labour Day. Outside those months, the Trail has dozens of spots that are perfect for a picnic with may picnic tables, benches, chairs, shady spots under trees and sunny spots on sand.

The Sunnyside Pavilion Cafe is a lovely spot for coffee or something stronger.

There are many options around Queens Quay, especially on a summer weekend when there’s usually a festival or market of some kind.

And of course, when you get to the Beaches, a short walk north from the trail takes you to Queen Street with its many shops, restaurants, and bars, not to mention Beaches institutions like Ed’s Real Scoop Ice Cream.

There are a number of public toilets along the trail, at Sunnyside Park, at Queens Quay, Cherry Beach, Woodbine Beach, and Balmy Beach. These are only open between May – October, however. Outside those months, your best bets more or less on the trail are the shops at Queens Quay. Otherwise you’ll need to leave the trail and head towards the shops on one of the parallel shopping streets. Or just walk fast and drink lightly.

Diversions: Because the Trail runs though and nearby to many fun neighbourhoods, like Queens Quay, and especially the Beaches, there are many ways to change the route around.

  1. Shorten it and just walk from the Humber to Queen’s Quay, or from Queen’s Quay to the Beaches.
  2. West to east is fun for me because I like to end at the Beaches, but going east to west is also good. In that case, starting off with a great breakfast at a Beaches joint like the Sunset Grill sets you up to hike away.
  3. As mentioned, the walk changes character dramatically when you go off season. For a number of years, we liked to walk the Beaches Boardwalk on New Year’s Day, and often the wind off the lake is particularly icy. It’s still fun though, and when he was small our son liked to throw snowballs into the lake.

Favourite Toronto Walks – The Beltline

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic!

And now on to the regular post …..

The Beltline is one of Toronto’s best known and favourite walking trails. There are actually two, connected Beltlines – the York Beltline which runs from just north of Eglinton near Caledonia Road over to the Allen Expressway, and the Kay Gardiner Beltline which runs from the Allen to the Don Valley Brickworks.

Length: about 15 km for the full length, approximately 3 hours

Surface: about 50/50 gravel and paved. The York Beltline is paved and the Gardiner Beltline is mostly gravel with some paved sections in Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Public Transit: To get to the start, take the Eglinton 32 bus west to Caledonia Road from either Eglinton or Eglinton West/Allen station on the Line 1 subway. From the finish, walk up Yonge from the north-west corner of Mount Pleasant Cemetery about 300 m to Davisville Station on the Line 1 subway.

Route: The start of the York Beltline is a few blocks north and west from the intersection of Caledonia Road and Eglinton, near the Canada Goose outwear factory. It follows a well-marked paved trail east roughly parallel to and just south of Castlefield Avenue. At Marlee Avenue, you have to leave the trail, walk north about 50 m to cross at the traffic lights, then follow Elmridge Drive over the Allen Expressway. Just after you cross the bridge over the expressway, turn right (south) onto a trail that runs parallel to the Allen, and just off that pick up the trail again, walking east on what is now the the Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail. Follow that east all the way to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, just past Yonge.

Just after you cross the bridge over Yonge, there is an entrance from the Trail into Mount Pleasant Cemetery. You can follow the marked Beltline path within the Cemetery, where the Beltline is marked by painted lines on the road. Alternatively, you can walk along the Beltline Trail outside the cemetery east to Mount Pleasant Road, where there is another entrance into the Cemetery that joins the marked path on the road.

Follow the Cemetery road markings east under Mount Pleasant and then south to exit the Cemetery on Moore Avenue, crossing that road to enter the Moore Ravine. Follow the trail downhill towards the Brickworks. You can divert or end here, if you’d like, or you can just make a quick pit stop and then keep going.

The Beltline Trail proper runs just to the west of the Brickworks and heads toward Bayview Avenue. There is an entrance to the Brickworks trail network at the northwest corner of the Brickworks property, and another entrance further south off the Trail, opposite the main buildings. Use either entrance to pit-stop here.

Leaving the Brickworks, walk past the parking lot on the southwest corner to pick up the trail as it bends around to the west parallel to Bayview Avenue. It then climbs up a little hill, then turns northwest and drops down into the Yellow Creek ravine.

Follow the trail north until you come to Mount Pleasant Road. Cross carefully! The traffic always seems to be doing 10-20 kph faster than the speed limit and there is no formal crosswalk. If you’re nervous, turn south when you come off the Trail at Mount Pleasant and walk about 100m to climb some stairs up to Crescent Road. This crosses Mount Pleasant on an overpass, and on the other side you can then descend back to Mount Pleasant and walk north to pick up the Trail again at the entrance to David Balfour Park.

Here the Trail keeps going north through the Yellow Creek ravine. The official trail climbs out of the ravine just south of St. Clair Avenue on Rosehill Avenue (on the northeast corner of the Rosehill Reservoir), but you can follow the rough unofficial trail under St. Clair along the west side of the creek. This takes you to a gated entrance back into Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Follow the road up out of the ravine and wind your way back to the northwest corner of the Cemetery. Leaving the Cemetery here takes you back to the Beltline Trail and completes the loop. Congrats, you’ve walked it!

From here, take the stairs down onto Yonge Street, then turn right and walk north a few hundred meters to Davisville Station, or else south and walk about 1 km to St. Clair Station.

Sights: I love walking the Trail at any time of the year. My favourite time is probably in the early autumn, just after the trees have started to turn colour, on one of those blue-sky, crisp days we get in October.

Summer is great as well, with wildflowers, shaded lanes, grasses, and laughing children along the way. And then a clear winter’s day can be gorgeous as well. And of course, spring is great when you’re itching to get out and the birds are singing everywhere.

Each season brings its own sights and sounds and smells. They’re all fantastic, and that’s probably what makes the Beltline the busiest Trail in the city. Mid-week is lighter traffic than weekends, but if you like people-watching than any holiday weekend with decent weather will bring out the crowds.



Food & Refreshment: On the Trail itself, there are several water fountains along the way: near Walter Saunders Park; at the entrance to Mount Pleasant Cemetery; and in Mount Pleasant just before you cross Moore Avenue. These are available from May to end of October.

Just off the Trail, there are several food options. There are pizza, fast food, and coffee options on Eglinton near Caledonia Road, at the start of the York Beltline. There are similar places near Davisville Station at the other end. There are also several coffee places on Castlefield, parallel to the York Beltline. Finally, there is the Saturday farmer’s market at the Brickworks, and the everyday option of Cafe Belong, also at the Brickworks.

Diversions: There are several ways to vary the walk, including:

  1. Walk it in reverse, from east to west
  2. Shorten it, by starting and ending at the northwest corner of Mount Pleasant cemetery and just walking the loop through the Cemetery, the Moore Ravine, and the Yellow Creek/David Balfour Park portions.
  3. Shorten it even more and just walk from the Cemetery to the Brickworks.
  4. Just outside the Brickworks, on the west side of the Trail, there is a linking trail up out of the ravine to Chorley Park in Rosedale. Climb that to get a fantastic view east over the ravine – spectacular in the autumn.
  5. Instead of following the Yellow Creek Trail to David Balfour Park, take Milkman’s Lane up out of the ravine into Rosedale, and then wander through there over to Yonge. Depending on your route, you’ll probably end up near either Rosedale or Summerhill Station.
  6. Incorporate portions of the Trail into other walks, such as what I call the Midtown Cemetery Walk.

The Trail is a great way to explore Mid-Town, get some exercise, and explore Toronto history. Enjoy!

Favourite Toronto Walks – Tommy Thompson Trail

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to Practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! That means that, unfortunately, Tommy Thompson Park is closed right now, until restrictions are lifted. Read on to dream about walks when we’re all released from our cages.

And on to the regular post …..

For the past 150 years, Toronto has been growing and building at a furious rate – the skyline has evolved with every decade, as new towers join and dwarf older ones. In recent years, there have been more than 100 high rise buildings under construction at any one time.

All of that development, including the roads that connect it, has resulted in massive amounts of demolition and of excavation, which has created hundreds of thousands of tons of construction debris. It all has to go somewhere, and for 50+ years that somewhere was Lake Ontario.

And thus, from debris was a park born. Today, through a lot of effort from a lot of people and groups, especially the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority, the Leslie Street Spit has become Tommy Thompson Park, and the Trail within the park has become one of the most popular in the city. While many bike out to the tip of the park, I like to walk it in a loop. It’s a great way to escape the city – it can be so quiet that, on a winter’s day, you can hear the ice groaning along the water’s edge. And yet, only a couple of km away, that ever-changing Toronto skyline is in full view – the park is one of the best places for taking selfies of the city. And it’s also one of the best places to view wildlife in Toronto, home to many species of birds and waterfowl, as well as squirrels, raccoons, coyotes, beaver, and more. It’s a favourite year-round, and a must for any visitor to Toronto.

Length: about 12 km if you do the full loop around the tip

Surface: gravel and pavement, about 50% each though you can use the paved road the whole way if you’d like

Public Transit: take the #83 Jones bus south to Commissioners Road, either from Donlands station on Subway Line 2 or from the 501 Queen East streetcar.

Route: Starting from the parking lot at #1 Leslie Street, follow the trail signs into the park. The walking trail proceeds south and west from the car park just to the south (left-hand) side of roadway. If the trail is too muddy, you can just walk the road. Follow the trail/road about 1 km into the park, until you come to a gate on the south side (left-hand) side. Turn left and follow the trail/road along the south side of the ponds. Where the road turns right (north), on the lake side of the road, there is a gravel/dirt path. Follow that along the shore to the tip of the point, by the lighthouse. Loop around the lighthouse and follow the trail back to the roadway. Follow the roadway straight east all the way back to the the car park, where you started.

Sights: For me, there are several key sights along the way. First and foremost, there’s that stunning view of the Toronto skyline.

Then of course there is the wildlife, especially waterfowl. In spring and autumn, there are many migratory species coming through – I’ve seen clouds of raptors like hawks, eagles, and vultures, as well as swans, geese, ducks, gulls, and many other species.

I’ve also seen a lot of evidence of coyotes, though I’ve never actually seen one in the park. Similarly, there are often trees downed by beavers, though again the actual animals keep hidden during the day. Both of these species are nocturnal, so one of these days I’m planning to visit late in the evening, just at sundown, to catch some of the night critters.

In summer, there are also many species of butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, beetles, and other insects, plus snakes, turtles, toads, frogs, and fish in the ponds. You can spend hours just exploring the ponds and observing in the smaller creatures.

As well as the city and the wildlife, there’s also the lake itself. In any season, sitting by the water and listening to the lap of the waves is deeply relaxing. I’m sure it’s also pretty dramatic during a storm, though also pretty exposed.

And finally, there’s an interesting free-form artistic side to the park. Over the years, many people have built sculptures out of the construction debris – wires, bricks, concrete and rebar are combined with driftwood to create some fantastic pieces.

Food & Refreshment: This is a bring your own picnic spot, because there no restaurants or refreshments in the park. At the intersection of Leslie and Lakeshore, just outside the park, there are several coffee shops as well as a grocery store, so you can pick up snacks there. Bring lots of water, especially in the summer, because there are no fountains anywhere. There are also few washrooms – just a couple of portapotties along the way.

Diversions: I’ve drawn the full loop trail on the map, but you can also make a shorter walk by cutting across the park about a third of the way along.

You can also just go straight along the north road to the tip, and back the same way – it’s a bit more sheltered/shaded if the weather is blustery or sunny, and it’s a bit shorter that way as well.

One other alternative is to start at Cherry Beach

and follow the Waterfront Trail to the entrance to Tommy Thompson Park – that adds about 1.5 km, and is a nice walk in its own right.

Finally, the TRCA hosts various events in the park, so check out the park website to see what’s happening.

Walks Past – Gaff Point Trail, Nova Scotia

Hey Toronto, remember to Practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic!

And now on to the regular post …..

Every few years, our family packs up the car and heads east to Nova Scotia. We’ve come to love the South Shore, basing ourselves around Mahone Bay or Lunenburg for a few weeks in late summer to soak up sun, swim, gorge on seafood, and soak into the village feel. It feels like a second home for us, and we can’t wait to get there as often as we can.

On our first family trip there, in 2008, we were chatting with some locals who told us about a great beach called Hirtles. It’s a badly-kept secret at this point, but we can always get away from the crowds by walking the nearby Gaff Point Trail.

We’ve done this walk many times now, and it’s become a ritual on every visit. To get to the Trail, you have to drive to Hirtles, about 20km outside of Lunenburg. From the parking lot, you follow the boardwalk over the dunes to the beach, and then turn right to walk south along the beach for about 2 km to get to Gaff Point itself.

When you get to Gaff Point itself, there’s a well marked trail that loops around the point and returns you to the beach. It’s only about 3 km long, but it winds through little meadows, moss-treed forest, and rocky shore, packing a little taste of Nova Scotia geography into its short length.

One of our favourite parts of the walk is actually after we’re done the trail at itself. By then we’re always a bit hot and tired, so it’s wonderfully soothing to wandering back towards the car park, trailing tired feet in the water, and then rewarding ourselves with a swim at the end. That’s easier if the tide is out, because there are some rocky stretches of the beach that are tough. I’ve walked it in sandals a few times and now usually wear hiking boots, which I carry for the last km as I splash in the water.

We have so many memories of the walk. One year when our son was about 6, we noticed that someone had made little inukshuks from the rocks along the shore,

Another year, someone had put a solitary lawn chair up on a small cliff overlooking the water, to sit and contemplate the vastness of nature.

We often take a picnic lunch with us, to enjoy sitting on the rocks in the sun. One year it included a thermos of homemade seafood chowder that I’d made the night before,

and enjoyed it sitting on the rocks listening to the jug and gurgle of the water.

Later this year, we’re planning to return to Nova Scotia in September, this time to drop off our now 18-year old son at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Afterwards we’ll spend a few weeks in old favourite haunts on the South Shore, and I am sure we’ll make time for Gaff Point, to say hello to an old friend as we enter our new chapter as empty-nesters. The sea is always there.

Favourite Toronto Walks – Cedarvale-Nordheimer Ravines

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Toronto was growing and like many North American cities at that time, was investing in transportation infrastructure, and in particular in roads, which led to a plan to create the Spadina Expressway. Thankfully, that wasn’t fully built (other than a short section now known as the Allen Expressway), and instead we have the park and ravine trail system that I think of as Cedarvale. It’s a great walk, and I like to extend it a bit and include Ramsden Park as well so that I end on Yonge.

Length: about 5.5 km, around 1.5 hours

Surface: about 50/50 paved and gravel

Public Transit: To start, take Subway Line 1 to Eglinton West-Allen Station and walk south a few hundred meters to the entrance to Cedarvale Park. Finish and the exit from Ramsden Park at Yonge street, opposite Subway Line 1 Rosedale Station.

Route: From the entrance to Cedarvale Park, off Ava Road, walk south following the paved trail. Continue past the Off Leash Dog Walk area and down into Cedarvale Ravine. Follow the gravel trail through the Ravine and exit at Heath Street. Cross the street and cut through the St. Michael’s College grounds past the Loblaws grocery store to St. Clair Avenue. Cross the street and enter Nordheimer Ravine. Follow the gravel trail down through the ravine to exit at Poplar Plains Road. Cross the road, follow Poplar Plains Crescent to Rathnelly Avenue, then turn south and follow it to MacPherson Avenue. Turn east and walk to Avenue Road, then turn south, crossing Avenue at the traffic lights at Dupont, then keep going south on Avenue to Pears Avenue. Turn east and enter Ramsden Park. Follow the paved trail through the park to finish at the park exit at Yonge Street.

Sights: I love this walk any time of the year. In summer, you might be able to watch a bit of cricket at the pitch in Cedarvale Park, or perhaps some baseball in Ramsden. There are often lots of other walkers, joggers, and strollers of all ages, so people watching is fun too. And there are some wild stretches along the ravine trails where marshy ground combines with bushes and trees to create wetland ecosystems full of wildlife in the heart of the city.

Nordheimer Ravine from the Spadina Bridge

It’s also fun to take your time and stroll on this route, because the many park benches provide opportunities to chill out in the shade or bask in the sun and just sit, soaking up the birds and crickets. It’s usually pretty quiet, especially Monday-Friday, so there’s often times when there’s no one in sight as you’re walking the trail.

Finally, there’s history here as well. For example, cutting through the Rathnelly neighbourhood takes you what is known as The Republic of Rathnelly. It got its name in 1967, when a group of residents decided to form an independent republic, as a bit of joke that turned into a semi-serious movement that was instrumental in fighting the Spadina Expressway.

Between late autumn and early spring, the ravines can be pretty muddy, slushy, or icy, and that just adds to the fun. I’ve done this route in all seasons and the changing scenery keeps it interesting.

Food & Refreshment: On Eglinton near the start, there are several restaurants and coffee shops where you can grab a bite before you start. At the finish on Yonge, there are several places as well, so it’s easy to eat and then walk, or walk and then eat. I’ve also stopped at the Loblaws on St. Clair and grabbed a sandwich. Plus, there are several water fountains in the parks, though they are turned off between November – April.

There are public washrooms at the community arena in Cedarvale Park, and in Ramsden Park. You can also use the washroom at the Loblaws.

Diversions: If you’re feeling in the mood for a longer walk, you can keep going past Ramsden Park, crossing Yonge and entering the Rosedale Valley behind Rosedale Station. Follow Rosedale Valley Road down to Bayview Avenue and cross to join the Lower Don Trail. You can then turn north and follow that trail up to the Evergreen Brickworks. If you are feeling especially frisky, you can keep following the Beltline Trail from the Brickworks up through Moore Ravine, through Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and finish at Yonge near Davisville Station.

I’ve also done all this in reverse, starting at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and following the Beltline to the Brickworks, then going up Rosedale Valley Road to Ramsden, and on continuing up through the ravines to end back at Eglinton. It’s mostly uphill in that direction so it’s a tougher walk.

Finally, since I live close to Yonge & Eg, you can start there at Eglinton Station, and either walk along Eg to Cedarvale, or better yet, go south to Davisville to pick up the Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail and follow that all the way to the Allen, where it ends. Then just cut south a few blocks through the back streets and you end up next to Eg West station, where you can start the route described above. Doing it that way adds another 45 minutes or so to the route.

Favourite Toronto Walks – Mid-town Cemeteries

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Toronto, as you probably know, is blessed by geography in the form of the many ravines that cross the city. Over the years, some of these have been woven into the fabric of Toronto as cemeteries.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is something very calming about walking through graveyards. Since Mount Hope, Mount Pleasant, and Prospect cemeteries are all within a few km of my home in mid-town, I’ve worked out a walking route that takes these in and ties them together with some interesting neighbourhoods and paths. The route is lovely any time of the year, but if I had to pick early autumn is my favourite, when the trees are just turning colour.

Length: about 16-17 km, probably between 3.5 and 4.5 hours duration depending on your pace and exact route meandering through the cemeteries

Surface: about 80% paved; only the Kay Gardiner Beltline is gravel

Public Transit: take Subway Line 1 to Eglinton Station to the start; take the eastbound 512 St. Clair Streetcar at the exit of Prospect Cemetery, to get back to the Subway Line 1 at St. Clair Station

Route: Starting at Eglinton Station, walk north on Yonge Street to Erskine Avenue. Go east on Erskine to Mount Hope Cemetery entrance. Walk through cemetery (I like to bear left – to the north – and walk next to the Blythwood ravine) to the exit gate on Bayview Avenue.

Turn right and go south on Bayview to entrance to Mount Pleasant cemetery (about 2 km). Walk through Mount Pleasant (lots of options for meandering) and pick up the Beltline path markers at the west end of the eastern section of the cemetery. Follow the Beltline markers through the underpass beneath Mount Pleasant Road, and then more meandering options through the cemetery to get to the exit at the north-west corner of the cemetery.

Join the Kay Gardiner Beltline and head west all the way to its end at the Allen Expressway. Turn right and go north slightly, to Elmridge Drive and cross the Allen, continuing across Marlee Avenue. On the south-west corner of Marlee and Roselawn (note Elmridge turns into Roselawn when it crosses Marlee), turn left and go south a few meters to the start of the York Beltline trail. Follow this west all the way to the finish at Bowie Avenue.

Exit the trail and walk east along Bowie to Caledonia Road, then south on Caledonia to Eglinton. Go east a couple of blocks to the northern entrance to Prospect Cemetery.

Meander south through Prospect Cemetery to the south entrance on St. Clair. Turn left (east) and cross the street to catch the streetcar back to Line 1 St. Clair station.

Sights: The best part about this route is the variety of sights and sounds, terrain and trails. There’s the calm orderliness of rows of headstones; the subtle geometry of hills and grassland and trees and gardens; the colours in any season; the scents of new cut grass and flowers, and the food smells amongst the shops along Bayview; the sounds of kids playing, dogs barking, birds singing; the crunch of gravel underfoot.

In themselves, these cemeteries are fascinating time-capsules. The history of Toronto is written in the names on the headstones, and you can piece together the waves of immigration by the names and dates. There are the graves of the famous (former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King in Mount Pleasant cemetery) and the humble (the graves of the several different orders of nuns in Mount Hope cemetery).

Tying them together are the trails and streets of mid-Toronto. The Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail and the York Beltline Trail follow the route of the Beltline Railway, which carried goods from mid-town to the terminal stations further south. Bayview is a major road and is the main street of Leaside, one of Toronto’s early planned neighbourhoods that dates back to the 1920s. And of course starting on Yonge and ending on St. Clair puts you into some of the most vibrant areas of Toronto.

Food & Refreshment: There are lots of options at the start and end of the route. I suggest fuelling up with a good breakfast or early lunch in the Yonge and Eg area, where there are many options, ranging from organic juice bars to old school diners to grocery stores. At the finish on St. Clair, a short walk east from Prospect Cemetery takes you into the Corso Italia, where you can reward yourself with a gelato, an espresso, or a beer.

Along the way, the stretch along Bayview between Soudan Avenue and Davisville Avenue is packed with shops, restaurants, coffee stops, and bars, so there’s lots to choose from. The Beltline trails don’t have anything directly on them, but you can duck out at say Oriole Park, or near Castlefield Road, where there are a few coffee shops.

Toilet facilities can be a challenge between November and April. In warm months, there are public washrooms in some of the parks along the way, but these close in the cold months. There is one year-round toilet in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, near the office in the middle, but otherwise you’ll have to leave the route to hit a coffee shop.

Diversions: There are several ways to add some variety to the route.

  1. Walk it in reverse – it’s uphill this way, and it’s fun to end at Yonge & Eg and the shops/bars/restaurants.
  2. Split it up – a good mid-way point is to bail out as you leave Mount Pleasant Cemetery, near Oriole Park. That puts you at Davisville Station on Line 1, an easy way to jump back on.
  3. Exit Mount Pleasant Cemetery through the main entrance in the south-west corner and walk down Yonge to St. Clair. This way you skip the Beltline and instead walk along St. Clair to Prospect Cemetery, passing through the Wychwood, Hillcrest, and Corso Italia neighbourhoods with their shops, restaurants and bars . This lets you finish on Eg, and you can take the bus back to Eglinton Station on Line 1. In winter this can be a better route, especially if it’s muddy on the Beltline.
  4. There are several other cemeteries in mid-town that you can incorporate into the route. There is St. Michael’s Cemetery, tucked behind a gate off Yonge just south of St. Clair. There are also the series of small Hebrew cemeteries along Roselawn Avenue between Avenue Road and Bathurst, just north of the Beltline Trail. Each of these are interesting in their own way, expanding on the story of Toronto as they illustrate the waves of immigration that have made up the city over the past 150 years.