After looking back, I realized that I’ve written a number of posts about favourite places in Toronto, so I wanted to collect them together onto one page so that you could find them. I’ll keep updating this page as I add more posts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Autumn has always been my favourite season. In Toronto, there are phases to it. Coming out of September and through early October, we usually keep our late summer warmth with the bonus of dryer, clearer weather with lots of bright blue skies. Then as you drift through the rest of October and into early November, the nights get cooler and the autumn colours take over the parks and neighbourhoods. Around then, usually by early or mid- November, we’ll get our first frost overnight and our first snowflakes. Our autumn usually turns into winter temps and weather well before the winter solstice and turn of the season on Dec 21, so when you think about it, between the late summer bit and the early winter bit, a Toronto autumn is really the 4 weeks or so between about early October and early November.
And while it’s a short stretch of the calendar, it’s made for walking. We’ll get lots of dry days, not too cold, and with scenery that never gets old no matter how many times you’ve seen autumn colours transform a park. When we lived in England back in the 1990’s, I missed that turn of the season more than anything else.
This year, autumn arrived right on cue. Late September and early October were glorious – blue-sky autumn days that demanded to be used because you knew that in just a few weeks, those gentle blues would turn to steely greys and the autumn rains would turn to frosts and snow.
So I did – I headed out for several longish walks through favourite parks and soaked up the sun for as long as I could. One favourite hike in early October was through Mount Pleasant Cemetery and down the Moore Park Ravine to the Brickworks. The autumn colours were starting to develop and on a mid-week afternoon, there were only a few people about so I could savour the quiet. I love this place.
Wandering the paths through the park, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of the city. The park is only about 15 years old, and is the result of natural regeneration nudged by careful planning, turning the clay quarry that provided many of the bricks that built Toronto landmarks like Old City Hall and Massey Hall into an urban oasis. It’s wonderful any time of the year, and at its best in the autumn.
As the month of October wore on, we started to get some grey skies and gusty rains, stripping those gorgeous colours off the trees and turning the trails to pointillist visions.
Every year, around mid October, there will be newspaper articles and social media posts about where to go to see the perfect fall colours. I ignore these. The perfect fall colours are right outside, in my favourite parks along my favourite trails. Toronto is awesome pretty much all of the time, and autumn is when it’s awesomeness on display, the more so because it’s natural and unforced. We take it for granted at lot of the time, so it’s worth reminding ourselves that we live, as the Parks Department motto says, in a city within a park.
And then in early November, other walks became reminders that winter is around the corner. I went up the East Don Trail on a blustery chilly day, maybe 4-5 C at best with an actual wind-chill under a grey forbidding sky, and was teased by a few snow flakes.
Then a few days later, we had actual snow, only a cm or 2 but enough to leave a trace on the ground. It feels like our 4 weeks of autumn have come and gone for this year. The forecast going forward is early winter – snow showers and low single digits as day time highs, with negative temps overnight.
That’s ok. The cycle of seasons means change, which means variety. Were the weather constant year-round, it would get tedious I think. So walking in wet leaves under blustery skies, now, is the path that leads to walking under soft spring breezes amongst new growth, in a few months. There’s greenery coming – you just have to be patient.
Where: Chaplin Estates, Belt Line, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Moore Ravine, the Brickworks, Pottery Road and Pape Village to the Danforth, then back along the Danforth over the Bloor Street Viaduct and then through Castlefrank and Rosedale to Summerhill & Yonge and up Yonge to Deer Park and back through Chaplin Estates to home.
Duration: about 3.5 hours walking, and around 17 km
Weather: Spring! 18 C and sunny enough for a sunburn
My walking regime this year so far has been patchy at best. I’ve put back on some weight that I’d lost, and I’ve been feeling flabby and out of shape. My weekly target of 60 minutes of walking 5 days out of 7 has mostly gone by the wayside, and the weather has been chilly and teasing – the calendar might say spring but the temperatures don’t.
On a holiday weekend, you never know what you’re going to get. Last year on Victoria Day we had a great walk through High Park and then up the Humber River. This year we decided to walk east, and visit the Danforth and Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood, and the weather forecast was promising.
The most direct yet still interesting route took us through familiar streets to the Beltline Trail and then east along that into Mount Pleasant Cemetery. From there we followed the Trail into Moore Ravine and down into the Don Valley into the trails of the Brickworks. On a nice holiday weekend day, there were hordes of walkers, families, dogs, bikes, runners, and self-snapping young couples. We took our time going through the Brickworks trails, and then crossed Bayview to the Lower Don Trail to head back north up to Pottery Road. Walking along that brought back memories as we passed Fantasy Farm – back in the 1980’s when I was at Glendon College we’d had several formal banquets there at which I had let down my student hair in epic fashion – and then it was the grinding climb up the hill to Broadview.
From there we meandered through back streets to arrive at the Danforth at Carlaw. The sun was out and the outdoor tables were packed. We found a spot at the Alexander the Great Parkette and grabbed takeout gyros from Alexandros to eat in the sun.
After that tasty pitstop, it was a stroll along the Danforth to Broadview, where my wife decided to hop on the subway home, while I kept walking. My route took me south on Broadview to Riverdale Park and down to one of the trails. I was trying to connect to the Lower Don Trail, but I guessed wrong and didn’t find the connector trail over the Don Valley Parkway – instead I ended up heading north and back up to Danforth at the Bloor Street Viaduct, so I decided to cross the bridge (since I’d come to it!) and cut through Rosedale to head home.
Walking through the neighbourhood, I thought about the essay my son is currently working on, on the subject of sustainability and how that is manifested in Toronto. One of his study areas is Rosedale. On paper this neighbourhood doesn’t have a large amount of green space, at least when defined in terms of public parks. And yet, the trees coming leaf and the ample yards and gardens of the large houses certainly gave a strong impression of verdancy, and the wealth displayed by the luxury cars parked in front of every house contrasted with the TTC bus stops scattered along the side streets. Does it count as sustainable if that neighbourhood has a higher percentage of Tesla’s than other areas of the city?
At the same time, there’s no question that it’s a lovely place to live. It’s always quiet and charming walking through Rosedale and it was no different on this walk. I know my way through there by now, having walked it many times, and I meandered along back streets between Castle Frank and Summerhill where I connected with Yonge Street.
Interesting fact – on Castle Frank Road, the Netherlands consulate owns a house, marked by the large Dutch flag out front. There is also a commemorative plaque beside a tree, planted in honour of the many thousands of Canadian troops who helped to liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War.
At Summerhill, Yonge Street led me up the hill to St. Clair and into the Deer Park neighbourhood, and onwards to Oriole Park. I passed a baseball game in progress that brought back memories of my son at 7 playing there. I kept going through the Chaplin Estates back to Eglinton and up Oriole Parkway to reach home footsore and sunburned.
In the end I’d done more walking in one day than I’d done in several weeks over the past few months. It felt good to be tired, like I’d worked out and deserved to sit for awhile and watch a baseball game.
It was a great spring walk, on our first really proper sunny spring day of the year, and now I need to build on that and get back into my routines. Stretching out your strides with the rhythm of walking feels good at anytime, but it’s especially sweet when it’s the first time all year you can finally go out in shorts and a T shirt.