As the early days of autumn bring cooler temperatures and colourful displays of nature, many city folk long to get onto some of the GTA’s best hiking trails. If you think that a solitary drive out to the Bruce Trail is your only option, think again.
If you can’t or simply don’t want to drive for an hour or longer just so you can be at one with nature, many local clubs—including the Toronto Bruce Trail Club, the North Toronto Ski Club, and the Outing Club of East York—run bus and carpool hikes to the Bruce Trail and Oak Ridges Trail every weekend.
But why leave the city at all? Toronto’s Humber, Don, and Rouge Valleys and numerous smaller ravines—all TTC-accessible—are criss-crossed with hiking trails that range in difficulty from easy country walking to buckets-of-sweat challenging. And unlike the relatively distant Bruce or Oak Ridges Trails, the city’s ravines are within easy reach for a lunchtime stroll or evening constitutional without having to plan your entire day around the excursion. So many trails run through the city’s valleys and ravines that it’s virtually impossible to catalogue them all. Books like Murray Seymour’s Toronto’s Ravines: Walking the Hidden Country provide a valuable resource, and have captured some of the more interesting trails.
With so many paths to follow, where should you start? If a guided tour is your thing, a wide array of local environmental and community groups provide ravine walks and hikes for both members and the public. Some of these include Friends of the Don East, the Toronto Field Naturalists, the Toronto Bruce Trail Club, and the Rouge Valley Naturalists, among others.
But the most fun is to be had exploring trails without a fixed plan. You need nothing other than a bit of time, some comfortable shoes, and a sense of adventure. The next time you’re near one of Toronto’s ravines and see a worn footpath branching away from the road or sidewalk, take the turn and see where it takes you. The path may provide a quick shortcut from one neighbourhood to another, show you a new vista, or mark the beginning of a challenging ridgeline hike. Or it may just lead to a dead end. Either way, you’ll have seen a bit of nature normally hidden away in plain view.
Photo of a trail in the Don Valley by Val Dodge