Rosedale Valley Trail

For those who live in the downtown core or West Toronto, the Rosedale Valley feels like a kind of eastern boundary in the city – one of the last roads to the east before reaching the Don Valley Parkway (DVP). But the East Toronto neighbourhoods lie beyond the DVP boundary, making the Rosedale Valley an accessible connector between the downtown core and the Don Valley trail system and neighbourhoods beyond. It is also a main feature of the Toronto Marathon’s route for both the 21.1 km and 42.2 km races each spring.

The Rosedale Valley Trail proper is 2.5 km long but connects to a wide variety of other trail systems and routes in the city, allowing you to create a longer run if you wish. These can be accessed from the top (northern part of the valley at Yonge and Aylmer) or the bottom (the southern part at Rosedale Valley Road and Bayview Avenue) of the Rosedale Valley. If you start at the northern part, you can access the valley road just south of the TTC Rosedale station on Yonge Street. Here you will find Aylmer Road, a short connecting ramp which curves southeast to join Rosedale Valley Road. While running down Aylmer, stay on the sidewalk on the north and east side of the road. As Aylmer and Rosedale merge, cross over to the west side where you will notice a paved but worn trail that runs parallel to Rosedale Valley Road. Follow this trail and you will find yourself running downhill into a tree-shaded valley that is particularly breathtaking in the fall, when the leaves change colour and the valley turns gold, orange, and red. Look up and you will notice that you pass under a number of large bridges as you run – these are some of Toronto’s major east-west roads which cross the valley as they connect the centre of the city with eastern neighbourhoods such as Greektown, Leslieville, and Riverside.

As you near the bottom of the valley trail you will notice a grassy cemetery to your right; this is St. James’ Cemetery and Crematorium, which, having opened in July 1844, is Toronto’s oldest operating cemetery. Shortly after passing the cemetery, you will see Bayview Avenue appear ahead and, on your right, a paved trail leading into a small parkette. This marks the end of the Rosedale Valley Trail, and the start of the “choose your own adventure” part of the run: if you continue to Bayview Avenue, you can join the Don Valley trail system, run up to the scenic grounds of Brickworks, or from there take Milkman’s Lane back up to the residential streets of Rosedale. However, if you turn right into the little park in the valley, the trail will lead you to a long staircase that will bring you up to Wellesley Park. From there, you can head west on Wellesley to get back into the city centre, or go south on Sumach Street to Riverdale Park West, where the infamous Riverdale hill can add a little extra workout to your run. Or, of course, you don’t have to leave the valley at all – you can simply turn right around and run back up the valley for a 2.5 km climb to Yonge Street!

High Park

High Park is way more than selfie crowds and cherry blossoms. With over 400 acres of mostly natural park space, High Park is a beloved Toronto landmark that was first opened to the public in 1876. Amidst the beauty of the Humber River, High Park is best known among runners for its steep inclines.

There are both road and grass trail options but keep in mind that High Park can get busy with cyclists and other sports enthusiasts.

Easily accessible by TTC via High Park Station, High Park is boarded by Bloor St. in the north, Parkside Dr. in the west, The Queensway in the south, and Ellis Ave. in the east. There are countless loops to explore depending on what your workout is and how your legs are feeling. The park is large but it’s hard to get completely lost, however, there are many alternate paths so look at a map ahead of your run or keep your GPS handy. Here are a couple of routes to get you started.

4km High Park Loop

Head west on Bloor St. towards Parkside Dr. and then head south. and then head east on High Park Ave. and then up Spring Rd. Here’s a map overview.

5.1km High Park Loop

The outer loop along West Rd. and then up Spring Rd. is roughly 5km and 55m in elevation. Here are some detailed directions if you’re checking out the area for the first time.

Hill Repeats

If you’re looking to give your quads a work out to remember, the hill on Centre Rd. is around 100m in elevation. The lower part of Colborne Lodge is also quite steep but the sharp turns can be a little tricky if you’re doing hill repeats here.

For some variability and some serious incline, definitely check out High Park. After you’ve finished your work out, treat yourself to breakfast at the Grenadier Cafe!

The Beltline Trail

If you live in Midtown Toronto, chances are you’ve heard of the Beltline Trail. The Beltline Trail was established in 1989 and was built on the former Toronto Belt Line Railway. The  9km trail actually consists of three sections and each has a different name. If you’re on the West end, the York Beltline Trail starts at the end of Bowie Avenue, just West of Caledonia. The York Beltline Trail passes through the former city of York and is the only paved section of the trail. From there, so run East to Allen Road at which point you’ll need to head to the street to cross over the Allen and pick up the trail on the other side. 

The Kay Gardner Beltline Trail runs from the Allen East to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. While you’re running on dirt, the trail is not at all technical. You’ll run under Eglinton Avenue and pass the backyards of the beautiful homes that line Chaplin Crescent to the North and Forrest Hill Road to the South. This tree lined section of the trail is very popular for runners, cyclists, and walkers! Be careful crossing Bathurst Street, and enjoy the nice, subtle downhill before reaching Oriole Park. The trail continues on past the park where you’ll reach the Yonge Street overpass. The trail continues past a section of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery where the it ends at Mount Pleasant Road.  

To pick up the last segment of the trail, you’ll need to enter the cemetery and head South where you’ll exit the cemetery at Moore Avenue. Cross the road and you’ll enter the Ravine Beltline Trail. This final section of the trail starts with a steep downhill drop and then turns slightly under the Cat’s Eye Bridge and through Moore Park Ravine where you’ll enjoy a nice downhill run to the Evergreen Brick Works.

The Martin Goodman Trail

A go-to favourite for runners of Toronto, the Martin Goodman Trail (often lovingly referred to as “the MGT”) stretches nearly 20 km along the Toronto waterfront, from Mimico in the west to the Beaches in the east.

If you were to start in the west and run east, you would first encounter the beautiful Humber Bay Bridge, a landmark of the waterfront with spectacular views of the Toronto skyline. From there the MGT parallels Sunnyside Boardwalk, so you have the choice of running on the boardwalk or pavement. As you run closer to the city, you will pass a number of historic Toronto structures, including the century-old Palais Royale dance hall and event space, the Boulevard Club, established in 1905, and Branch 344 of the Royal Canadian Legion.

At the top of a hill beside the Legion and the Argonaut Rowing Club (a hill infamous for its inclusion in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Half-Marathon), you enter Marilyn Bell Park, named for the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. To the north you will see the extensive grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, an annual summer fair established in 1879. Within the Exhibition grounds, the big red BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC, looms large. A little further on, to the south, the former amusement park and entertainment area known as Ontario Place can be seen. A variety of special events, festivals, and concerts continue to take place here throughout the year, and IMAX movies are shown in the enormous Cinesphere, the world’s first permanent IMAX theatre constructed in 1971.

As the CN Tower looms closer, the trail cuts through Coronation Park opposite the regal Princes’ Gate, the monumental entrance to Exhibition Place constructed in 1927 for the 60th anniversary of Canadian confederation. Beyond Coronation Park sits Billy Bishop Airport, a city airport accessible by ferry or underground tunnel.

Running south of the downtown core, look to your left and then way, way up for a view of the 553.3 m-high CN Tower and the huge white dome of the Rogers Centre, proud home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Running further east, past the Harbourfront Centre and Queens Quay where you can catch ferries to visit the Toronto islands, you will cross some major Torontonian streets: Bay Street, home of Toronto’s financial district and stock market, then Yonge Street, often recognized as the longest street in the world, though its 1,896 km are now contested due to name changes.

Heading into the east end of the city, you will pass the Redpath Sugar Refinery, the Redpath Sugar Museum, and the sweetly named Sugar Beach. As you turn right off Lakeshore onto Cherry Street, you will cross over the Keating Channel and run into the Lower Don Lands. The street ends at the picturesque Cherry Beach, with its lake-side windsurfing and boating clubs, but the MGT continues to the east with a forested trail leading to Tommy Thomson Park and the Leslie Street Spit. The spit is a 5km extension of environmentally sensitive recreational land which juts out into the lakefront. Protected by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, you can explore the trails while taking in the diverse bird species, lush plant life, and breathtaking views of the skyline.

Back on the lakeshore, the MGT continues east, past Ashbridge’s Bay and into the eastern waterfront known as The Beaches where you can stay on the paved trail, run parts on the boardwalk, or take to the sandy beach for an added challenge. At its most eastern extent, the MGT officially ends at Balmy Beach, though few runners can make it out there without pushing themselves another half-mile east to the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant for a drink from some of the coolest water around! There’s a reason that it has been nicknamed “the fountain of youth.” Once you feel refreshed and rejuvenated, turn around and do it all again from a new west-bound perspective! But don’t worry, you don’t need to run another 20 km to get back – you can also just jump on the Queen Street streetcar, part of the Toronto Transit Authority (TTC) network, take a well-deserved seat, and ride back into the downtown core.