UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
Do you find yourself daydreaming about lacing up your hiking boots and trekking through the great outdoors? Dream no more — Southern Ontario has your cravings covered with a multitude of excellent hiking options. Fill up your Nalgene, grab a bag of trail mix, and hit the path — adventure awaits.
When it comes to prime spots for getting outside in Ontario, Rattlesnake Point in Milton might be one of the province’s worst-kept secrets. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less beautiful or enjoyable. Choose from three trails in the Conservation Area that range from easy loops to more difficult, half-day out-and-back treks. If you’re up for a more strenuous hike, try the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail that leads to nearby Crawford Lake through the canyon and lush forests. For those wanting to stay longer than a day, Rattlesnake Point also offers many camping sites and outstanding rock climbing routes.
Pick a clear day and head up Blue Mountain for some incredible views of Georgian Bay via the Cascade Trail. Start at the South Base Lodge and begin your ascent, winding your way up beside a rushing waterfall. Pack a camera and get ready for a photo-taking extravaganza when you summit. Fitt Tip: for an extended walk, follow the top of the Niagara Escarpment north and head back down via the Village Way Trail. Or, if you’ve tired yourself out going up, get a ticket for a ride down via the open-air gondola.
High Park is perfect both for those who don’t want to leave the city and folks who just want a nice after-work stroll. Its many hiking trails make their way through the parkland and feature some of the most diverse plant life in the city. Plus, many trails pass by beautiful Grenadier Pond on the park’s west side, and there are plenty of perfect areas to break out a picnic lunch in High Park. There you can also find a zoo and a handful of recreation areas (including an outdoor pool).
This is urban hiking at its best. Begin your walk along Toronto’s largest watershed at the Humber River Arch Bridge on Lakeshore Blvd. The asphalt path follows the Humber River north, through areas where you’re likely to glimpse many species of migratory birds and butterflies. Make a U-turn at Dundas St. about a kilometre past the Old Mill Bridge, return to Lake Ontario, and finish off with a leisurely stroll east along the Martin Goodman Waterfront Trail.
When it comes to hiking in Southern Ontario, the Bruce Trail is king. While you certainly won’t be able to hike the entire thing in a day (it’s about 900 kilometres from end to end), we can definitely suggest some of the most beautiful sections to check out. Just over an hour north of the city is Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, where the Bruce Trail splits off into over 10 kilometres of picturesque side trails, some of which will take you through a canyon or past the up-to-30-metre cliffs themselves. Or, take the QEW Highway around the “Golden Horseshoe” to Beamer Memorial Conservation Area — this section of the Bruce Trail will take you right past one of the best lookouts on the whole Niagara Escarpment.
If you’ve lived in Southern Ontario for a while, you probably know Elora as the home of one of one of the province’s best swimming holes. But close by is Elora Gorge and its three kilometres of hiking trails that skirt 22-metre high cliffs. If you’re looking for a longer trek, Elora has you covered on that front as well: try the Elora Cataract Trailway, a 47-kilometre trail that takes you by the Grand River, Lake Belwood, and through gorgeous Ontario countryside.
Dundas Peak is close to Hamilton, one of Southern Ontario’s largest cities, and the views from the top are well worth the climb. But the best part of this four-kilometre out-and-back trail might not even be the peak itself. At the other end of the trail is Tew Falls, an Instagram-worthy waterfall if we’ve ever seen one. Regardless of what time of year you go, make sure your camera or phone is all charged up — you’ll be taking a ton of pictures.
Maybe you want a hike that’s a little farther away from the city? No problem. Take a day and head north to the Bruce Peninsula. This national park has you covered with over 10 kilometres of wooded and waterfront hiking trails. Our top choices? If you’re looking for a challenge, try the Marr Lake Trail, which will take you across a boulder beach before linking up with the Bruce Trail and taking you past The Grotto. Or, if you’re not feeling like a strenuous hike, try the Cyprus Lake Trail, a five-kilometre route a ways away from the hustle and bustle of Georgian Bay and The Grotto.
Over 20 kilometres of hiking trails await you at Albion Hills, just under an hour north of downtown. The area only offers easy and moderate trails, which makes this an ideal destination for the entire family. And if you’re looking to make a weekend of it, Albion Hills also has campsites and mountain biking. Fitt Tip: save this one for the autumn when the crowds have thinned out and the trees start to turn. It’s quite the spectacle.
The Bluffs are one of the most recognizable natural landmarks in the Greater Toronto Area, stretching for 14 kilometres along the Lake Ontario shore. See why for yourself by walking northeast from Bluffer’s Park along the shoreline of Lake Ontario with the towering cliffs looming above you. This five-kilometre hike might not be the most challenging of Ontario’s many trails, but the stellar scenery makes it well worth the trip.
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