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5 Stunning Hiking Trails That Are an Easy Drive From Toronto

You don’t have to venture far from the urban jungle for some one-on-one time with Mother Nature

Man stands at high viewpoint in a blue t-shirt looking through binoculars at nature

Hiking in Toronto isn’t limited to laps in the Eaton Centre. Not far from the city’s towering skyscrapers are conservation areas, urban parks and restored wetlands with an expansive network of trails for hikers of all levels—most are less than an hour’s drive away.

Go upstream from the lake on the Humber River Recreational Trail, Toronto

This trail has a long history: it was a key trade route for Aboriginal inhabitants and early settlers between Lake Simcoe and the Great Lakes. Nowadays, this recreational area offers easy paved trails that start from the shores of Lake Ontario and follow branches of the Humber River through parkland and natural habitats.

Tall grass, bushes and trees surround the Humber river 

The entire system stretches 50 kilometres, but it’s easy to do small sections at a time. (The West Humber River section, for example, is 19.3 kilometres out and back.)

Drive time from downtown: about 30 minutes

Pass incredible waterfalls on the Dundas Peak Trail, Hamilton

An industrial city on the rise, Hamilton is home to more than 100 waterfalls that aren’t far from the downtown. This 3.9-kilometre trail (out and back) winds its way through forest to Dundas Peak, a rocky outcropping with views of the gorge below.

Hamilton waterfall spills over a rocky gorge 

Along the way, you’ll pass the tiered Webster’s Falls and 41-metre-high Tew Falls—only a few metres shorter than Niagara Falls. The trailhead starts from the Tew Falls parking lot at the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area in Dundas.

Drive time from downtown: about 55 minutes

See centuries-old trees at Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area, Milton

This area is popular among rock climbers for its limestone cliffs along the Niagara Escarpment near Milton.

Viewpoint with a balcony made of rocks with two adults and a small child looking out at Rattlesnake Point Conversation Area 

But it also offers 12.7 kilometres of trails that pass ancient cedars estimated to be 800 years old. Trailheads for the Vista Adventure Trail (1.5 kilometres) and Buffalo Crag Trail (3 kilometres) start at the Rattlesnake Point parking lot. Get here via the 401 or QEW to the Appleby Line.

Drive time from downtown: about 45 minutes

Trace the river’s route along the Elora Gorge Trail, Elora

This 7.2-kilometre loop trail, which follows the edge of the gorge in the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, has it all: views of the Grand River rushing through the gorge below, waterfalls tumbling over limestone cliffs and ancient cedars clinging to cliffsides.

The river running along the Elora Gorge Trail 

Staircases lead down to the banks of the river, ideal for a picnic; in summer, you can also swim, canoe or kayak. The trailhead starts from the observation area in the quaint historic town of Elora.

Drive time from downtown: about 90 minutes

Choose your own trail adventure at Rouge Park, Scarborough

Rouge National Urban Park is the largest urban park in North America, with a network of trails through forest, meadows and wetlands with varying degrees of difficulty. For photographers, the Vista Trail offers panoramic views of the river valley; for history buffs, the Mast Trail follows a 200-year-old logging route through a rare Carolinian ecosystem.

Fallen thin tree, big and small rocks in river with grass along the side at Rouge Park 

A highlight is the 4.5-kilometre Cedar Trail and Beare Wetland Loop, which passes through the ravine, lush forests and restored Beare wetland. The trail is accessible via Meadowvale Road (north trailhead) or at the bottom of Zoo Road (south trailhead).

Drive time from downtown: about 30 minutes

Inspired to get out on the trails?

Don’t forget these six hiking essentials. If you’re planning an overnight trip, check out six Ontario parks where you need to camp this year.

And whether you’re driving to a trailhead close by or making it a day trip, auto insurance from CAA can help protect you on your way.

Image Credits: Conservation Halton, Hamilton Conservation Authority, Grand River Conservation Authority, Numinosity (Gary J Wood) on Visual Hunt/CC By-SA and Chloe Tse