Restrictions are expected to be lifted soon across Ontario. More places are starting to open up to visitors and like hundreds who had to spend months on lockdown, you could be craving for some fresh air and lots and lots of open space where you can run around ala Maria on The Sound of Music.
The bad news is you can’t exactly do that in downtown TO because one, even parks there are crazy-crowded these days, and two people might think you’ve gone cuckoo after the lockdown. So if you’re looking for someplace more private where you can sing about the birds and how happy you are to be away from the four corners of your house, we’ve got a few suggestions for you. Here are some of the best hiking trails and natural wonders near Toronto you can explore in the upcoming months.
1. Rouge Urban Park
Canada’s first national urban park is located just 30 minutes away from the skyscrapers in downtown Toronto. It is one of the biggest national parks in North America that spans almost 80 square kilometers and features a diverse ecosystem where you can meet 1700 species of plants and animals.
It is one of the few national parks that features some of Canada’s oldest indigenous sites, and Toronto’s only working farms. It has various trails even for beginners that will take you in the middle of lush forests and out to see beautiful ponds, rivers, and other wetlands.
You can hike, jog, ride a bike, camp, or just sit by the river and listen to the sound of the wind and the water. The park reopened on June 1 and they are expecting visitors to follow certain precautions in line with the government’s social distancing rules.
But if you don’t plan on sneezing into other people’s eyeballs anyway and just want a peaceful escape by yourself you should be good to go. Just be wary of bears. Yes, there have been confirmed sightings of black bears in the area recently. The park even posted a paw print on Facebook just to remind park-goers to practice caution.
2. Hilton Falls
The absolute superstar of this conservation area is its 10-meter waterfall set amidst beautiful rock formations that seem like something out of the Amazon forest. It’s located in Milton Ontario, near the 401, around an hour away from downtown Toronto. You can view this majestic water feature from the viewing station that also affords a view of the ruins. The latter is what’s left of an old mill in 1856. It was powered by two 40 foot diameter water wheels which were destroyed in a fire. The place was abandoned in 1967. The waterfall may also in part freeze during the winter months.
Aside from the enchanting waterfall, the area is also home to hiking trails, and a stunning reservoir that can be reached through the lakeside trail. It’s this park’s best-kept secret and is a nice spot for a picnic. The vast reservoir is so serene you can stare at it for hours on end. The park opened partially on May 22 and reservations are now required before you can visit.
3. Scarborough Bluffs
The bluffs, located 40 minutes away from downtown Toronto, stretches 15 kilometers along the shores of Lake Ontario and stands 30 feet above the coastline. The stunning geographical wonders are the result of wind and water erosion from Lake Ontario and the accumulation of sedimentary minerals 12,000 years ago.
There are trails that afford a view of the bluffs from a safe distance and picnic areas where you can sit and enjoy the view. It can get pretty packed at times so you need to plan your visit to avoid the crowds Some trails lean close to cliffs so it can get a bit scary, but these spots afford an unobstructed view of the water where you can even spot sailboats in the summer.
From the shore, the view of the bluffs is breathtaking. Many come here to take pictures and have a picnic. Although it’s a challenge to come here without your car, and be sure to carry your trash back before you leave as some locals complain of having to pick up after visitors who sometimes leave bottles and other garbage.
4. The Grotto at The Bruce Peninsula National Park
If you have a little more time to spare you can head North to the Bruce Peninsula National park located three hours away from Toronto. The grotto is definitely worth the drive and the view more than makes up for the hours you’d have to spend sitting on your butt to get there. It features stunning rock formations, majestic coves, turquoise waters, and a beautiful cave with an underwater tunnel. It’s a favorite spot among snorkelers and scuba divers and one of Canada’s most beautiful swimming areas.
The water in the cave is illuminated by the light coming from the other side of the cove and looks stunning in the summer. It can be reached through a 45-minute hike along the trail. The latter will take you in the middle of a forest that holds the grotto as a reward at the end of your long walk. If you just want to enjoy the view the best time to visit is in the spring or fall since summer is when most of the crowds come here to swim.
Parks are slowly starting to open across the country as restrictions are slowly being lifted. If you want to reconnect with nature, see animals, and a variety of wildflowers up close there are numerous beautiful parks around GTA for you to explore. It’s best to plan though, read about the restrictions and visit the park’s website to see their new opening hours or if you need reservations before you go.