What’s more Canadian than a hike with the family in the great outdoors? Well, lucky for us in Toronto, we don’t have to leave TOwn for a trip into nature.
It’s hard to believe that almost 20 per cent of our city is ravines and forest. According to Toronto author and dad Jason Ramsay-Brown, that means one in five footsteps taken should land us in one of these green spaces. His book Toronto’s Ravines and Urban Forests tells this story – the historical significance and ecological heritage about 29 of these special places.
And we’re inspired. He and his family spend the better part of the year planting trees, cleaning up ravines, or simply hiking or sitting by a creek making boats out of bark. These green treasures are extra special because they are so amazing for kids. For Jason, “the majority range from being child-friendly to extremely child-friendly.”
With his insight and advice, we’ve put together these five trails that will make your escape into nature a success even for the littlest legs in TOw.
- Rouge Valley: Here there is hiking, camping and swimming. And in the fall, the forest is ablaze with colour. There are tons of walks to choose from – short, long and guided – with beautiful tiny wetlands to discover and turtles that can be easily spotted. Here are some suggested routes.
- Todmorden Mills Wild Flower Preserve: The half-kilometre Oxbow Trail is a 15-minute loop along the Don Valley, making it extremely kid-friendly for those four-years-old and under. Thanks to the volunteers who have been working to restore the site back to its original vegetation, the trail feels like you’re truly off the beaten track. (This, even when you stick to the trail. And please, stick to the trail!)
- Glen Stewart Ravine: This east end trail is a very easy excursion because it is well maintained and much of it is board-walked. Parents don’t have to worry about rogue hands reaching out and grabbing poison ivy. There are stairs on the northeastern entry points, but it’s stair-free from the south. We also recommend the east end’s Williamson Road Ravine and Taylor Creek. (For the latter, you can either start or end for some playground play at Cullen Bryant Park.)
- Don Valley Brick Works Park: Once a quarry pit, the north end of the Evergreen Brick Works in the Lower Don Watershed has been transformed into diverse habitats of ponds, forest and meadows. It’s home to a number of turtle species – a trip is not complete without looking for the snapping turtles. We recommend walking a very short distance up to the Governor’s Lookout for a beautiful view of the city. If you’re into more hiking, travel there via Chorley Park in Rosedale.
- Riverdale Farm: You likely spend your time visiting the animals. Us too, but we often head east along a short trail to the Island House, one of the three original buildings from the zoo days that used to house birds and animals. Nowadays, you’ll likely see some turtles in the ponds and butterflies in the trees during the walk. (The trail to the Island House is not accessible in winter.)
Any others? Of course there are tons of family-friendly walking and biking trails around the city from the Humber to Highland Creek (where you can watch the salmon run upstream in the Fall) and through some of our favourite spots in the city like the Toronto Botanical Garden, High Park and Scarborough Bluffs.
Tell us – where you go?