If you are living in Canada’s largest city, you’ve likely been stuck at home for what feels like the hundredth consecutive week. While there is hope on the horizon, the warm weather has us itching to get our summer started now. You may have to wait a little longer to get your travel on, but, for those missing their usual travel-filled summer, we’ve got you covered in the meantime.
What are we allowed to do in Toronto? Well, no one really knows for sure, but we do know that a daily walk is kind of essential for maintaining both mental and physical health. Walking has been a constant throughout this long-haul of a year, and despite heavy restrictions, both coffee shops and takeout restaurants are still operating. Do you know what that means? It’s time for a walking trip around the city!
What’s the plan?
Toronto may be known as NYC’s little Canadian sister, but it is still pretty big, one of the continent’s largest in fact (AKA, you probably won’t want to walk it all in one day). So, here are three unique walking routes to choose from for your next jaunt in Toronto, ranging from 1.5-2 hours each:
1. Tranquility Meets Turbulence
Starting in the West end of the 6ix, we have a route that takes you from High Park all the way down to Coronation Park by the lake. This one provides a perfect mix of tranquil nature and bustling city.
Start at beautiful High Park, which can be accessed from Keele station. The park entrance is directly across the street at Bloor St and Parkside Dr. The map above shows the eastern trail (psst…dogs are allowed off leash in places!), where you’ll stroll past towering hundred-year-old trees and tranquil bubbling brooks. If you’re feeling extra energetic, feel free to explore more of this 161 hectare gem of a park!
Find your way to exit at the Eastern gates, where you will arrive at High Park Blvd and Parkside Drive. High Park Blvd is a picturesque winding road, lined with extravagant houses both historic and new. The gardens will dazzle in full bloom, and you’re sure to discover some other fun gems along the way.
Turn right on Roncesvalles Ave, and be charmed by the abundance of quaint shops and restaurants, creating a lively yet cosy nook within the city. Take a peek down the side roads as you go, because the neighbourhood is lovely. At this point you may need a bit of a pick me up, and Cherry Bomb is the perfect spot for a nice cold coffee beverage and a pastry. Or, if you need something a little more substantial, Cafe Polonez is a great option for takeout.
Continue walking east, and welcome to Parkdale! By now, that tranquility from the High Park area is replaced by city bustle. Parkdale may not be known for being the nicest part of town, but it has got some great little places on both sides of Queen Street all the way to West Queen West. Look out for the many flower shops, and the renowned ‘The Tempered Room’ serving both sweet and savoury pastries.
The final leg of this journey gives you a glimpse of popular Trinity Bellwoods park, just before you head down Strachan Ave. As you head towards the lake, look left to catch a glimpse of the CN tower!
Finally, you’ll find yourself at Coronation Park! This park also contains a small portion of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, and is dotted with benches and armchairs for public use. Grab a seat, relax, and watch as the sailboats navigate Toronto Harbour.
2. A Photographer’s Dream
This route hits some of the best landmarks in Toronto, perfect for being a tourist, even if in your own city! Bring your camera along for the journey to capture some of the most iconic views throughout the walk.
Starting at St. Clair West station, head to the entrance of Sir Winston Churchill park. This park alone could be its own day trip, but a short pass through gives you a good idea of its stunning beauty. Admire the skyline just over the trees, and head down the main path and down the steps.
The lower section of Sir Winston Churchill park also features an off-leash dog park, and some pause-worthy graffiti art. Get your leg day on with a quick trip up the steep staircase to continue on to Spadina Rd.
Take a right on Russel Hill Dr. to stroll through one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the city. The houses are old and cosy-looking, and the flowers are intoxicating.
The next incredible landmark you come to is Casa Loma, Toronto’s castle within the city. TAke in the total picture before heading down the ‘Staircase of Dreams’ (located in Spadina Park). The view from these stairs is arguably one of the best (although, that can be said about many views on this walk).
Continue south to experience The Annex, yet another iconic Toronto neighbourhood. Eventually you’ll reach Bloor Street and just East of there is the entrance to Philosopher’s Walk, right next to the ROM.
Philosopher’s Walk is an escape from the busy streets, and guides you through a nature-filled section of the U of T campus. The path leads you to Queen’s Park, another great destination and photo-op. Be sure to pause in front of the building – who knows, you may catch a glimpse of some politicians (or, more likely, protesters).
Head West slightly to College and Mccaul, where you’ll keep walking South towards Baldwin Village in Old Toronto. Baldwin Village is home to several small restaurants and shops hidden away from the main street.
Thirsty? Carbonic Coffee has amazing drinks and pastries! Try their signature ‘Carbonic’, a blend of coffee and ginger beer, or stick to the classic latte (their imported oat milk is a must-try). Enjoy their minimalistic aesthetic, and don’t be afraid to chat with the baristas – they’re always down for a conversation!
Continuing straight down Beverley Street takes you right past the AGO and to Grange Park. Grange Park is home to all walks of life, including (thankfully) lots and lots of dogs. Take a rest on any one of the many benches scattered throughout this lively green space.
The final section of this walk brings you to the lake, and more importantly, the CN tower. Take a look up from the base of this world wonder to get an idea of just how tall it really is!
Congratulate yourself as you arrive at the waterfront. There’s nothing more peaceful than a stroll along the boardwalk, with the vast lake stretching for miles and miles – except maybe the fact that your walk is complete!
3. The Peaceful Pathway
Looking for a nature walk not too far from the city? This route covers some less central parts of Toronto, and it does not disappoint.
The walk begins at the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail (close to Davisville station), a beautiful 9 km walking and cycling trail stretching from midtown to the Danforth. Follow the trail through Mount Pleasant Cemetery. This may not seem like an ideal place to walk, but this one is too beautiful to miss. It has a network of paths to guide you through each section, and includes an incredible wide variety of trees and plants.
The trail continues through Moore Park Ravine, where it feels as though you are no longer in the city. Keep your eyes peeled for some possible wildlife sightings!
Follow the path all the way to Craigleigh Gardens, and you’ll find yourself at Bloor Street. Cross the Bloor Viaduct, taking your time to enjoy the views both North and South.
At last, you reach the Danforth, and just a short few minutes away is the spectacular Riverdale Park featuring incredible views of the city. The city skyline is the perfect backdrop for the end of your journey, so take a rest and enjoy the fantastic view!
If you love the city, these routes will show you some of the best parts and the hidden gems. If you don’t like the city… here’s your chance to fall in love with it. Looking for even more walking routes to explore? Check out the City of Toronto’s collection of guided walking tours here!
story and photos by Daisy Lankstead