Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.
Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Also be aware that some of the amenities, parks, or services listed below may have limited availability or opening hours. Please check the links included below for up to date information on what’s open and what’s not.
And now on to the regular post …..
Several years ago, I was training to do the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I had never done a walk (and I walked it more than I ran it) of more than about 20 km, and since a marathon is 42 km, I planned out a walk that would be about 30 km in length and incorporate some ups and downs to get my legs built up.
This walk starts and ends in mid-town Toronto at Yonge and Eglinton, and takes in parts of the Beltline, the Don Valley Brickworks, the Lower Don Trail, Riverdale Park, Corktown Common, the Martin Goodman Trail, the Beaches Boardwalk, the Glen Stewart Ravine, the Taylor-Massey Creek Trail, E.T. Seton Park, Wilket Creek Park, Sunnybrook Park, the Burkes Brook Ravine, and Sherwood Park – whew!
Length: About 32 km, including about 200m of vertical ups and downs
Surface: Mostly paved, with gravel path on some of the ravine trails, plus the wooden boardwalk in the Beaches.
Public Transit: Start and end at Eglinton Station on the Line 1 subway
Starting from Eglinton Station, head south on east side of Yonge St and turn east (left) at Manor Road. Cross the street and turn right (south) down Tullis Drive. Follow Tulis south to Belsize Avenue, crossing the street to the south side. You’ll see a fence laneway in front of you – take that as it’s a public right of way and follow it to Millwood.
Turn left (east) on Millwood and proceed down the hill. At Acacia, turn south (right) and follow that to Davisville Avenue. Cross Davisville and turn west (right) for a few meters to Pailton Crescent. Turn left (south) and follow Pailton to Merton Street. As you cross Merton at the crosswalk, there is a path directly in front of you beside a condominium building and that takes you to the Beltline Trail.
At the Beltline, turn left (east) and follow it for about 100m to the entrance into Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Inside the Cemetery follow the purple painted lines on the road, following it east under Mount Pleasant Road and around towards the memorial gardens. The marked path takes you east and south and exits the cemetery at Moore Avenue, opposite the entrance to the Moore Ravine Trail – careful, there are always many impatient drivers as you try to cross.
Descend on the trail into the ravine and follow it for about 1km. When you reach the entrance to the Don Valley Brickworks, you can detour left over the bridge and follow the trails in the Brickworks, or else continue on the Beltline south until you enter the Brickworks opposite the main buildings near the car park. Exit the Brickworks complex here, crossing Bayview Ave at the lights to join the Lower Don Trail (turn right, south). Follow the Don Trail south parallel to Bayview for about 1.5 km to the traffic lights at Rosedale Valley Drive. Cross here and directly in front of you will be the stairs up the hill beside St. James Cemetery. Climb up to reach Wellesley Park.
Walk through the park and onto Wellesley Street, and keep going about 100m to Sumach Street. Turn left (south) and follow Sumach to the entrance to Riverdale Park. Turn left into the Park and follow the path diagonally across past Riverdale Farm, in a south-east direction, to reach the stairs leading down into the Don Valley. Follow the path down to reach the bridge over Bayview Avenue – climb up, cross the road, and then take the stairs down onto the Lower Don Trail. Follow the Trail south about 1.5 km to Corktown Common.
If you go past the Common, the Trail bends a bit west and then east under the Don Valley Parkway overpass, to come to a trail junction. Turn left (east) here to cross the Don River and then join the Martin Goodman Trail parallel to Lakeshore Blvd. If you detoured into the Common, follow the paths in the park back out through the junction tunnel that passes under the train tracks to rejoin the Lower Don Trail.
Once on the Martin Goodman Trail, follow it east for 2-3 km to reach the entrance to Woodbine Beach park. It’s better to walk on the north side of Lakeshore, as the cycle path and foot path are separated here so you’re not constantly being dinged by cyclist’s bells.
When you reach Woodbine Beach park, cross Lakeshore at the traffic lights and turn into the park, follow the Martin Goodman trail pathway connect to the west end of the Beaches Boardwalk. Keep going east following the boardwalk for 2 km to reach Balmy Beach Park.
At Balmy Beach, at the end of the Boardwalk, turn north (left) onto Silver Birch Drive and follow it north to Queen Street. At Queen, turn left (west) and follow it for about 500 m to the entrance to Ivan Forest Gardens park, on the north side of the street. Turn into the park and follow the trail north through the park, which will turn into Glen Stewart Park, and exit at Glen Manor Road East. Cross that street and descend into the Glen Stewart Ravine, following the trail north and east.
Exit the Glen Stewart Ravine trail at Kingston Road and turn right (east). Walk along Kingston Road east – you can either go all the way to Victoria Park Ave and then turn left (north) or else turn north up one of the side streets such as Scarborough Road and follow that to Gerrard – if you do that, turn right (east) on Gerrard and walk east to Victoria Park, then turn left (north). Once on Victoria Park, follow it north under the train tracks and on past Danforth Avenue. Keep going north past the Victoria Park subway station, and about 500m north of the station the road descends into a gulley. On the west side of the road opposite the Dentonia Park Golf Course you will find a set of stairs descending into the Taylor-Massey Creek Park trail system.
Once on the trail here, follow it west for about 4 km to reach the lower Don parklands. At the Lower Don off-leash dog park, turn right (north) and follow the trail north and then west crossing under the Don Valley Parkway to reach the junction with the Don Valley Trail system. Turn right (north) crossing the Don River over the old Don Mills Road bridge,
and follow the trail through the parking lot to reach a bridge over the train tracks. Turn left (west) at the top of the bridge and follow the trail to reach the entrance to E. T. Seton Park.
In Seton Park, cut across the car park and turn right (north) along the roadway. Follow the road north till you pick up the West Don Trail inside the park, and then take that trail north through E. T. Seton park all the way to the car park on the south side of Eglinton Ave near Leslie Street. Turn left (west) at that car park and follow the roadway west and then north to cross under Eglinton and enter Wilket Creek Park.
Keep going north through Wilket Creek till you reach the junction of the roadway/trail that turns west (left) heading towards Sunnybrook Park. Follow that roadway/trail west into and through Sunnybrook Park, towards the Riding Stables. Just before you reach the Stables, there is a path on the west side of the road that leads to a bridge which crosses the West Don River. Take that path west and on the other side of the river, turn left (south) on the trail beside the off-leash dog park. Follow the trail heading south and then bending west. On the west side of the dog park, turn right (north) onto the Burkes Brook trail. Follow this north and bend to the west to keep going parallel to the water. The trail officially ends after about 500-600m, but you can exit the official trail and keep going west on the unofficial trail. This continues for another 500 m to reach a steep hill climbing up out of the ravine to reach Bayview Avenue.
Cross Bayview (either directly here or else a bit to the north at the traffic lights by Sunnybrook Hospital). On the opposite side of Bayview, reenter the Burkes Brook trail and descend into the ravine again. Follow this trail west for about 1km, climbing the stairs passing through the off-leash dog area, to descend into Sherwood Park. At Sherwood Park, turn north and then west at the bridge over Burkes Brook (next to the City of Toronto maintenance buildings) and climb the hill along the roadway to exit the ravine/park onto Sherwood Avenue.
Follow Sherwood west for about 500m to Mount Pleasant Road. Cross at the traffic lights and continue west along Sherwood for about another km or so to reach Yonge Street. Turn left (south) on Yonge and follow it for about 1km to reach the finish back at Eglinton Station.
I like this walk because of the variety of scenery – the forests and wildness of the ravines, the garden settings in the parks, the sand and the lake along the Boardwalk, and the urban stretches through the upper beaches. That variety keeps it interesting over the whole length of the walk, and it also means that in any season there will something different. The ravines and shaded streets also mean you have some shelter from summer sun, though note that in winter most of the trails are not cleared or salted so they can get icy.
Another cool thing about this walk is that it actually follows a number of the various creeks and brooks that have been buried over time. For example, at the start of the walk, Tullis Drive follows the course of Mud Creek. If you listen carefully at the manhole cover at the corner of Tullis and Glebe Road, you can usually hear the stream following under your feet. The same happens on Millwood in the little gully that you descend into – that gully is there because of the creek. Check out the Lost Rivers project to learn more about this fascinating part of Toronto’s history.
I also like this route for the many angles it gives you on the Toronto skyline. From the Don Valley near the Brickworks, you see it from the north and east. From beaches, you see it directly along the lake and you get the tall chimneys of industry poking up as well. You always see the CN Tower poking through and that landmark is usefully to navigate by. These landmarks are reminders that while you’re walking through many beautiful natural settings, the industrial and commercial aspects of the city are always around you.
The many parks that this route takes in are also little time capsules. Corktown Common and the Brickworks, for example, are relatively new additions to the City’s park system, having been created in the 2010’s as part of the revitalization of what had been industrial areas. A generation earlier, in the 1970’s, parks such as E.T. Seton were added, and to offer the growing middle classes not just trails but also recreational amenities like a disk golf course and an archery range. A generation before that, in the 1940s after WW2, Sunnybrook Park was laid out after a private estate was taken over during the war to create a health facility for returning veterans. And finally, another generation back in the 1920s, the parks in the Beaches are 100 years old and reflect the formal gardens, picnic areas, and baseball diamonds that were popular then.
Finally, this route, especially around the Beaches, is great for people watching, I’ve seen everything from multi-generational families out for a stroll to movie shoots to outdoor aerobics classes. It can get crowded in high summer, especially on a weekend, but for people watching that just adds to the fun.
Food & Refreshment:
There are several spots where clusters of restaurants and coffee shops will set you up for the journey. That starts with Yonge & Eglinton, which is packed with places to grab some food as you set out or as you finish.
In the Brickworks there are washrooms, water fountains, and a great cafe, plus on weekends there are often farmers markets or festivals on (note that COVID-19 may crimp these a lot so check ahead).
At Corktown, there are washrooms and water fountains, and there are several coffee shops nearby. Near the Common, the shops/restaurants at the Distillery District, or the St. Lawrence Market, offer lots of choice.
In the Beaches, there are washrooms and water fountains in several of the parks. There are also cafes near the Boardwalk, and of course along Queen Street itself there are many places to chose from. If you are paying attention to the route, you’ll see that Queen between Silver Birch Drive and Ivan Forest Gardens is about half-way, so it makes a natural spot to stop for a break.
North of the Beaches, your last chance for coffee or food is near Victoria Park and Danforth. After that, if you are following the route as described, there are no coffee shops until you get back to Yonge Street. There are some washrooms and water fountains in Taylor-Massey Creek, E. T. Seton, Wilket Creek, and Sunnybrook Parks.
Note that all of the public washrooms and water fountains in any of the city parks are seasonal, so they close around October and don’t reopen till May. Note also that COVID-19 is causing restrictions on some of these facilities. In winter, you may need to use coffee shops along the route.
- I’ve described the route in a counter-clockwise direction. You can of course reverse that and go clockwise round. The hills are the same I think – you are still climbing in and out of various ravines, but it might be a bit easier going clockwise as the climbs are less steep.
- It’s easy to break this up if you want and tackle it over different days. Jump on/off points include the Brickworks, Corktown Common, Queen Street, or Victoria Park Station.
- The Distillery District and Corktown St. Lawrence are worth exploring in their own rights, as is the Beaches neighbourhood. If you break up the route, you could spend a few hours in either area and that would be a great way to explore the eastern part of the city.
- As noted, seasons matter quite a bit on this route. Summer near the lake is awesome, the trees in the ravines are stunning in autumn, the wildflowers in spring are gorgeous, and the quiet of a fresh snowfall is peaceful. You could walk this route multiple times and see different things every time.