Written by Jim Bamboulis
Toronto is a big, loud and busy city. But thankfully, it also has a softer side. Often considered to be a city within a giant park, Toronto has plenty of quiet enclaves to enjoy a bit serenity.
To me, autumn is the BEST time to visit Toronto. The most wonderful time of the year, there are fewer bugs, it’s still warm and there’s a 100% chance that you’ll be dazzled by the changing colours of the leaves. The big city within the giant park is surrounded by colour and although you can see trees at every turn, there are five vantage points that make the fall experience that much more epic in Toronto.
View the valley from the Bloor Street Viaduct or Leaside Bridge. Or make your way down to Evergreen Brickworks, grab a bite and a coffee and continue along the paved trail along the Don River. No matter which direction you decide to go and no matter how you prefer to enjoy the fall colours, the Don Valley gives you a spectacular colour show at every turn.
In the west-end, High Park is always a pretty popular destination. But if you’re looking for a bit more of a local, off-the-beaten-path experience, take the subway to Old Mill Station. Exit the train, exit the station and once outside, turn right and walk north along Old Mill Trail. When you get to the stop sign, turn right again and walk east along Old Mill Road. Walk down the small hill and you’ll cross a bridge that overlooks the Humber River. Turn left into the parking lot at Etienne Brule Park and follow the trail north.
Follow that trail along the Humber River between Old Mill Station and Dundas Street West (round trip – about 6 kilometres) and you’ll see everything from salmon jumping and deer to incredible bright coloured trees – all without the massive crowds. Here, you’ll get the feeling of being covered by a canopy of bright coloured trees all while feeling the crisp fall air hitting your skin.
In the summer, the islands are loaded with people, festive with picnickers and concert goers. It’s awesome. But if you prefer a much calmer, serene environment to go along with the feeling that you’re the only one on the islands, then autumn is the absolute perfect time to take the ferry and visit. Walk around without the madness of the crowds and really take in the beauty of the bright colours while enjoying an unobstructed view of the lake at the same time.
Head east, to the Scarborough/Pickering border, near the Toronto Zoo and you’ll find the Rouge. This park is Canada’s first national urban park. It’s massive, gorgeous and features more than 1,700 species of plants, more than 225 types of birds to go along with fish, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians. Oh, and it’s been around for about 10,000 years.
If you want a closer look of the fall colours at the Rouge Valley, make sure to check out the Rouge Valley Conservation Centre. They offer daily tours that offer you a chance to learn and explore one of Toronto’s most beautiful parks.
Kay Gardner Beltline Park
Even some people who live in midtown Toronto, around the corner from this absolute gem of a park, have no idea that it even exists. Hard to believe but yes, this is one of the best hidden gems in the city, especially during the fall.
The Beltline Trail is about 9 km long and follows an old railway line from Allen Road in the west to Mount Pleasant Cemetery in the east. It’s an easy, straight and peaceful trail that allows you to walk, jog and cycle. It’s a perfect stretch and offers a natural oasis right in the middle of the big city.
Check the map below for exact locations of each of the spots mentioned above.
There are definitely other places in the city that deserve a mention. If you have a favourite, please share it below. Thanks all and enjoy the season.
Hey y’all. I’m Jim. That kid went on to spend 16 years in the broadcast media world before starting up Travel Mammal, a site dedicated to working with brands to promote travel, food and cultural experiences.
Travel Mammal isn’t about the selfie or checking things off a list. It’s about experiencing both the journey and the destination. To breathe, learn and really absorb what’s around you, in the moment and experiencing in a way that is both memorable and meaningful.
Happy travels, y’all.