Favourite Toronto Walks – Lytton-Lawrence Loop

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

Route:

entrance to Eglinton Park

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.

The foot path between Lawrence Park Collegiate and Glenview School

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.

Entrance to Alexander Muir Park

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.

Path under Mount Pleasant Road with Strathgowan Avenue straight ahead

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.

Sights:

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.

Burkes Brook in Chatsworth Ravine

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.

The Eglinton Park fieldhouse

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.

Diversions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Walk Journal – Feb 10, 2019

Where: Toronto – Lytton Park, Lawrence Park, Hoggs Hollow, Armour Heights, Upper Avenue

Duration – about 2 hours, about 9 km

Weather – cloudy and dry, about -3C

Today was a get-back-on-the-horse walk. I’ve been out of sorts the past couple of weeks, between lousy weather and demands of work. It’s put my walking out of kilter and as a result I’ve felt cooped up and restless.

Since there is still a fair amount of ice on sidewalks and trails, I decided to get a longish walk in by sticking to main roads. From our place near Avenue Road and Roselawn, I headed north and east through the Lytton Park neighbourhood to pick up Yonge Street at Glengrove. Then it was straight north along Yonge, through Lawrence Park, past Yonge Boulevard, and down into Hoggs Hollow to Wilson Avenue. There I turned west and climbed the Wilson Ave hill to Armour Heights at Avenue Road. Another left and it was south all the way down Avenue Road through Amour Heights and the Upper Ave, back to Roselawn.

North along Yonge – down the hill at Hoggs Hollow

For the most part, it was an easy walk. The sidewalks on the main roads are mostly clear of ice, and the weather wasn’t too bad compared to the past couple of weeks. The hill up Wilson to Armour Heights is not too steep – it’s a steady climb on a moderate slope though it does go on and on.

Looking west up the hill on Wilson to Armour Heights

In the other seasons it’s a more pleasant walk, particularly around Yonge & Wilson. The West Don River flows south-east under Wilson and across the south-west corner of Yonge & Wilson, then under Yonge and into Hoggs Hollow at the site of the historic York Mill, in what today is known as Jolly Miller Park. It’s named after a pub called the Jolly Miller that was a hang-out in my college days, though today it’s been renovated into a much swankier place called the Miller Tavern. There are some lovely trails here and Hoggs Hollow is a bit of a fancy neighbourhood, so house-snooping as you wander the streets is good fun.

In winter, with mounds of grey snow/frozen slush along the streets and park trails closed by ice, the trees bare and the grass brown, with traffic sounds magnified by the lack of vegetation, the area is not at its best. Today it was just hills to climb.

Still, walking up Yonge and down Avenue Road always offers people watching opportunities. I passed a young couple who were so perfectly matched – beautiful faces, slim, petite build, similar features, similar hair – that it made me think, how often do you see couples like that? There’s the old saw about partners growing more alike as they age, but these two were young. Even then, most of us don’t look that much like our partners, and let’s face it, most of us are pretty ordinary. It reminded me of the convention that in a typical couple, one partner has settled up and the other has settled down. You know what I mean – one partner is usually the looker compared to the other. Not these two – they were walking examples of another old saw, that like attracts like. More power to them, whomever they are. It’s pleasing to know that the world has beauty in our collective gene pool.

There is also the retail landscape – having lived near these neighbourhoods for more than 30 years, I’m always watching out for familiar places. There is a grocery store at Yonge & Bedford just north of Lawrence, and it’s been there for decades – it was the nearest one to Glendon College when I was there in the early 1980’s, and it was also open 24 yours a day. I’d often walk over and late-night-shop for cheap eats to eke out my food money. Then there’s Gamberoni’s restaurant on Yonge – I haven’t been there in probably 20 years, but early in our marriage we celebrated birthdays and anniversaries there with close friends over several consecutive years, and seeing it still thriving brought a smile and memories of laughter – cheers Paul. I bet the pasta is still the same.

On Avenue Road in the Amour Heights/Upper Ave neighbourhood it was more of the same – there’s been a lot of change and turnover amongst the old standbys. The old Lobster Trap restaurant is gone now, renovated into a steak place. The old Steak Pit restaurant is gone too, with a condo is going up in its place. But the Copper Chimney is still there where we order our Indian takeaway, and the Safari Bar & Grill where I’ve played many a game of pool with the lads. It’s like finding new clothes in the closet amongst well-worn favourites.

A walk in February reinforces that sense of change – winter is mid-way, soon to surrender to spring. Pristine fresh white snow changes to dirty ice and then to meltwater & slush. Cold grey skies change to sunny blue. And neighbourhoods change as homes are sold and families move. I passed at least a half-dozen real estate open house signs, and a dozen more for-sale signs. February now marks the start of the spring home-sale period, an earlier harbinger than the return of robins or the start of spring training baseball. Just a couple of weeks from now we should get our first spring thaw and a blast of warm air, and that’s always something to look forward to.

Walking is visceral that way – you get a good look at your neighbours and passers-by, at their homes and shops, and at the parks, gardens, and streets of your community. It triggers memories and the free association of ideas, past mingling with present and plans for the future. John Lennon once said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. For me, walking is what happens when living my life.

Walks in Winter

Today was a day for a winter’s walk, January cold and about 15-20 cm of snow overnight. When you get out early on a day like that, especially on a Sunday when people are up later anyway, you appreciate the city in winter and the clean fresh face it wears this time of the year.

I hadn’t realized how much snow we had gotten overnight until I went out – the sidewalks were still covered in snow in many places and the roads were also covered except where cars had made paths to follow. It made for a more strenuous walk than usual for our neighbourhood but it was quite cold so the exercise was welcome to keep the blood flowing.

I headed north from our place, into the Lytton Park and Chatsworth neighbourhoods. There is a school called Glenview near us, and when our son was younger we would go there to go sledding on days like we had today. Seeing other younger parents brought back memories of his adventures then.

At the bottom of the hill at the school and east out the back of the schoolyard is the Chatsworth Ravine, and that was gorgeous in the sun with a fresh coat of snow.

Chatsworth Ravine park

As I followed the trail through the ravine, I could hear the sounds of digging out – the scrape of snow shovels and the hum of snow blowers. There is also a small creek flowing through the park (Burke’s Brook) and it hadn’t frozen over so there was the ripple and splash of that as well.

Burke’s Brook in Chatsworth Ravine

From the ravine I kept east to Duplex and up the stairs, crossing the road to Chatsworth and then down the hill to Yonge. From there I crossed and went into Alexander Muir Park, and along the trail east through the ravine under the Mount Pleasant bridge and then up Glengowan into the Lawrence Park neighbourhood. This is a lovely part of Toronto, with mature trees heavy with snow, brick and stone homes dating back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, and quiet streets that reward a wanderer with the sounds of birds and squirrels.

By the time I climbed the hill on Glengowan and looped back north up onto Dawlish, I was pretty tired after slogging through the snow, so I went west back to Mount Pleasant and then south to Blythwood, so that I could go west back to Yonge and make my way home.

Today brought many things to mind about walking in Toronto in winter:

  • the smell of wood smoke in the air
  • the excuse-me shuffle as you pass others heading the other way on the narrow shovelled portion of the sidewalk
  • the curse of unshoveled stretches and the blessing of clear patches
  • salt, salt, salt in some places and ice, ice, ice in others
  • the friendly nod and smile as you pass homeowners digging out
  • the glad-it’s-not-me thought when you see a snowed-in car
  • the crunch and squeak of cold dry snow underfoot
  • the uncertain navigation of drivers without winter tires
  • the laughter of children rolling down hills and their excited shrieks on sleds and toboggans
  • the snow hush muffling the streets, as traffic sounds are deadened

You know a city by it’s sounds and smells and people and streets, and in winter all of these change. Toronto in spring, in summer, in autumn are different places, and winter has its own character too. I’m like many people in the city, I like it when the sun is out and when it’s cold I can’t wait for spring.

And still, I have to admit it’s beautiful, in any season. I read an article on the BBC news website today, about words in Japanese that have no direct translation into English. One phrase in particular came to mind as I walked in the snow – “mono no aware”, which the BBC article translates as “the ephemeral nature of beauty – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last”.

Snow melts, we all know that, and even before then the wind and sun play upon the surface, sculpting the shapes and casting shadows that change with the movement of trees and boughs. No two moments in a snowy landscape are the same and no amount of photography can capture them all. Standing still, absorbing, you take them in and let them go like breaths, exhaling clouds.

Mono no aware. Snow in the city. Winter calm.