We haven’t had time to do any big trips lately, so instead we’ve taken to exploring our hometown, Toronto. We’ve ridden the Pan Am Path West – Humber River Trail, the Waterfront Trail west from Toronto to Port Credit, and the Pan Am Path East – Waterfront Trail to the Scarborough Bluffs (no blog post on that one, but here’s a link to the ride in Komoot – you don’t have to log in, just scroll down to see the ride photos and map). Since we live in the southwest side of the city, we decided to go to the opposite corner, the northeast, a section of Toronto that we’re wholly unfamiliar with! To get some ideas about where to cycle there, we turned to HAPPY TRAILS, a guide book for biking and hiking adventures in the Greater Toronto Area by Shawn Smith. From this book, we pieced together routes #11 (Finch Hydro Corridor East), #10 (East Don Parkland), #9 (Wilket Creek) and #5 (Lower Don) for a lovely ride from North York to downtown Toronto.
Read on for section-by-section trail details, tips and photos!
Finch Hydro Corridor East
We took the subway up to Finch Station to connect with the trail. When exiting the subway station, look for the Bishop Ave exit. That’s where the Finch Hydro Corridor is (it’s not on Finch Ave). Exit on the east side of Bishop Ave and you’ll come out at the bus pick-up. Just past the buses is a car parking lot. There are no signs to the trail, but a friendly bus driver pointed us into the parking lot where we found a bi-directional bike lane that leads straight onto the Hydro Corridor.
And we were off! Very soon we rode past the Bishop Allotment Gardens.
This is one of twelve city-run gardens where Torontonians can rent land to grow their own plants and vegetables. Check out the city’s website for more information.
Then we crossed over Bayview Ave at a snazzy bike crossing. Don’t forget to push the button or the light will never change!
Next we came across some beautiful switchbacks!
It doesn’t look that steep, so I was surprised at how fast we rolled down! It’s obviously steeper than it looks. Going up must be a workout!
At the bottom is a bridge that goes over the Don River, and soon we were in the East Don Parklands.
East Don Parklands
On this section of trail, we almost forget we were in a city! It’s quiet and cool down in the valley with the trees and river. There are lots of little spots where you can pull over and enjoy nature.
Betty Sutherland Trail
The trail comes out on the northwest corner of Sheppard Ave and Leslie Street. Cross to the southeast corner and you’ll find the entrance to the Betty Sutherland Trail Park.
This trail took us under the massive Highway 401. Pier crossed through the underpass first and took a photo of the tiny spec I am on the other side.
The Betty Sutherland Trail dumped us onto some side streets in an industrial neighbourhood before arriving at York Mills Road where we stopped for a bite to eat.
Fueled up, we headed west on York Mills Road.
Leaside Spur Trail
We briefly took the painted bike lanes on York Mills Road, which abruptly end near where a tiny sign tells people following the bike trail to turn left across 5 lanes of traffic. Good thing we’re comfortable cycling with motor vehicles! Still, we probably wouldn’t have seen the entrance to the trail if we hadn’t been following a roadie. He crossed traffic into the turn lane, went left onto Scarsdale Rd, then immediately turned left again onto a road under the bridge. Pier didn’t see the roadie dart under the bridge, so he kept cycling down Scarsdale Rd until I called him back. In his defence, the tiny trail sign is not visible if you’re coming from York Mills Rd.
The Leaside Spur Trail is built on the roadbed of an old railway line, which explains why it is straight as an arrow.
The trail continues south to Eglinton Ave, but we hung a right here at Lawrence Ave to check out Toronto’s Botanical Gardens.
Entrance to the gardens is FREE and there were lots of people enjoying them on this holiday Monday, but even so there were still serene spots to chill out in ample grounds. There’s also a cafe here if you want a snack.
Wilket Creek Trail
Wilket Creek Trail begins on the south end of Edwards Gardens. As you can see on the map, the Leaside Spur Trail runs parallel on the east side of Leslie Street, but we think the Wilket Creek Trail is the more scenic route.
TIP: There are bathrooms and a fountain at the intersection of Wilket Creek Trail and E.T. Seton Park Road.
From here on in we are on the Don Trail…
Don Valley Trail System
We stop to check out the train bridge just after Eglinton Ave.
And Pier can’t resist riding the mountain bike trails through E.T. Seton Park.
Then we’re riding under Don Mills Rd and over another old train bridge turned trail bridge.
At the intersection where you can turn left to Taylor Creek or right onto the Lower Don Trail is the Elevated Wetlands sculpture.
We turned right onto the Lower Don Trail…
Then we cross Pottery Rd…
…and continue south…
…until we reach Don River Valley Park (just before the Bloor Viaduct) and check out the Monsters for Beauty, Permanence, and Individuality sculpture series by Duane Linklater.
For more info on the sculptures and their significance, see this article: Don’t Miss the Don Valley’s New Gargoyles
The farther south you go, the busier and narrower the Don Trail becomes, but apparently not on Labour Day Monday! Guess families were too busy getting their kids ready for school to go for a bike ride.
If you’re tired of riding the trail, you can take the stairs to Riverdale Park and get back on city streets. There are plans to build a switchback bike path from the Don Trail to the park so cyclists don’t have to carry/wheel their bikes up the stairs.
Now we’re downtown and the trail is a straight shot to the lake, passing under main streets such as Gerrard, Dundas, Queen and Eastern.
The Don Trail used to end at Queen St. E, but with the portlands being developed, they’ve extended the trail all the way to the lake. But we got off the trail at the new community of Corktown Common on these not-yet-complete bi-directional bike paths.
And we ended our ride in the Distillery District.
This leisurely downhill ride took us just under 2 hours. Best yet, we’re now familiar with some great cycle routes in the northeast end of Toronto! We’re definitely going to peruse HAPPY TRAILS for more route ideas outside of downtown.