Earlier this fall, the City of Toronto officially reopened the Lower Don Trail. If you’re not an avid cyclist or an eastender who travels over the Don River, you’re probably thinking – what’s that?
The paved path is a five kilometre trail along the Don River that runs from Pottery Road at the north to Lake Ontario. (It used to be a meandering river through the ravines over 100 years ago – if you’re really into history, read this.)
It’s best to explore on bike but you can always pop on and off the trail on foot at various points (Queen St, Gerrard St or Pottery Road). Whatever the season, here are five stops to make with kids in TOw.
1. CORKTOWN COMMON: If you’re starting at the south end at Lakeshore Blvd and heading north, you’ll come across a hill on the west side. Travel through the Bala Underpass (the colourful tunnel which has been transformed by StreetARToronto into a mural evoking Indigenous history of the West Don Lands) up to Corktown Common – a beautiful urban park and playground (it has an excellent splash pad in the summer.)
Trip tip: exit the park near River St to play at Underpass Park, the playground and skateboard park UNDER the Gardiner. There is also basketball nets there.
2. RIVERDALE PARK: East or west, you’ll need to park your bikes at the bottom or push them up the flat bike ramp along the stairs. Westward, head to Riverdale Park and Riverdale Farm; east-side, cross over the pedestrian bridge where you’ll find lots of greenspace and new “work out” playground next to the track. Climb the hill to Rooster Coffee for a café, snack and a gorgeous view of down town.
Trip tip: In winter, both sides are great for sliding.
3. GARGOYLES: At the same time the City reopened the trail, Evergreen (of Evergreen Brick Works) launched a public art program in the Don River Valley Park. The first installation is a series of gargoyle sculptures by Omaskêko Cree artist Duane Linklater. They are on display in a meadow north of the Bloor Viaduct.
Trip tip: This spot is a great pit stop to have a snack, explore the sculptures and watch the Bloor/Danorth subway cross the Don River.
4. TODMORDEN MILLS: When you hit Pottery Road, head east to Todmorden Mills, a former paper mill now historic site, museum and gallery. There is a great walking trail in the Wildflower Preserve. (PS: If you wanted to explore on foot, you can walk down Pottery Road or park at the free lot here.)
Trip tip: At Pottery Road you can also west on the new bike trail that takes you along Bayview Ave directly (on a bike path!) to Evergreen Brick Works.
5. PUMP TRACK: You can keep going and going and going north along the Don Trail. (We have yet to go the full distance with kids in TOw) but we have veered off to explore the Pump Track in Crother’s Woods.
Trip tip: The pump track is maintained by the community, so don’t go when it’s wet and mess up the trails and be sure to take out any garbage you may have brought in.
Where else do you stop and play?