Here’s some free advice from conservationists on where to go.
The Ontario countryside is awash with vibrant colours, an annual autumnal spectable that many city-dwellers might sadly miss out on. Never fear: the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) can recommend a few specific spots to maximize your viewing pleasure of this year’s foliage.
Mike Bender, an associate director at the TRCA, says the lower end of the Don River Valley and the lower Humber River and valley area are particularly nice. The trail in the Don River Valley Park runs alongside the water, connecting Toronto’s urban neighbourhoods and their communities to valuable greenspace. The park also improves the safety for Toronto’s cyclists and pedestrians by providing access to the downtown area through paths to other bike lanes, recreational trails and parks, like the Beltline Trail and Don Valley Brick Works Park—two spots in the city that boast spectacular fall views.
“The Don River valley winds its way through Toronto parks and conservation areas and provides an interesting glimpse into the history of the city,” says Bender. It’s easy to feel disconnected from the hustle and bustle of city life as nature takes over in an urban area.
The Don Valley stretches 32 km from the Oak Ridges Moraine in the north to Lake Ontario in the south. It’s an important watershed for the city. There are numerous trails that branch off the multi-use paved trail, taking cyclists to city street access points or other adjacent parks. The Waterfront trail connects trail users to the Don Valley from the lakeside, at the southern start point.
Located on the Toronto waterfront, Tommy Thompson Park is another recommended spot to soak up the leaves. For equally colourful vistas, the Toronto Islands has a number of trails that are even more picturesque in the fall.
Scarborough’s Rouge Park—the country’s first national urban park—is another unique wilderness setting to enjoy autumn’s bounty. It houses some of the best remaining wetlands, forests and agricultural lands in the GTA, from the Oak Ridges Moraine to Lake Ontario.
“There’s enough fall colours to enjoy in the city,” says Bender, “but you have to head out to the conservation properties on the Oak Ridges Moraine for the most spectacular views.”
Outside of the city, East Duffins Headwaters is another conservation area on the Oak Ridges Moraine near Uxbridge that is worth visiting, according to the experts at TRCA.
“The Moraine is a mixed deciduous and coniferous forest,” says Bender. “This heavily forested area makes for a rich palette of fall colours across a giant landscape.”
A lot of the forests in the GTA are similarly mixed. According to the TRCA, there’s an abundance and variety of colour, but there isn’t one dominant species of deciduous tree that has a striking colour to look out for.
If you’re in search of great mountain biking trails, Bender suggests heading out to Albion Hills Conservation Area, which has some of the most impressive trails in southern Ontario. There are dozens of trails designed for riders of all ages and skill level. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on any of their conservation trails, but there are mountain biking and horseback riding trails, and even cross-country skiing trails in the winter. Horseback riding is typically limited to the Oak Riges Moraine area because the soil is sandier and gravel-heavy, so the grounds can take that kind of impact.
The TRCA urges visitors to use proper trail etiquette. Horseback riders have the right of way, and then yield to hikers, while mountain bikers must yield to all three. The TRCA recommends visitors stay on the trails, and keep their dogs on leashes to protect the wildlife. This also helps limit the spread of any invasive species.