Fall is the best time for a hike because the air is fresh, the lower temperature means there is no sweating and jaunty outfits can be worn rather than sportswear. The leaves are changing too. People go wild for fall leaves and embark on “leaf-peeping” expeditions, travelling far to see the changing colours. However, in the GTA you don’t have to go far, and this weekend the colours will be popping all over the city. Here are five suggestions for Thanksgiving weekend walks where the autumnal spirit is alive, just be sure to bring your own decorative gourds.
COLIN MCCONNELL/ TORONTO STAR
Even though Centreville Amusement Park is closed for the season, you can visit Charlotte the Landrace pig at Far Enough Farm on Centre Island.
When the summer picnic and beach crowds have gone, the Toronto Islands are still worth a trip as there’s a sense of having the island to yourself at times. Take the ferry first to Wards Island and walk through the cottages near the dock, then meander west towards the Centre Island ferry dock for a few hours, by the boardwalk and over to Algonquin Island. Though Centreville Amusement Park is closed for the season, Far Enough Farm (centreisland.ca/far-enough-farm ) adjacent to it is free to enter and open every day from 10 to 5 p.m. You can visit Charlotte, their Landrace pig, and the other animals, all of whom are giving thanks they’re not on your table this weekend.
ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE/ TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
Rouge Park is a truly wild and rural hike and it's accessible by TTC.
MELISSA RENWICK/ TORONTO STAR
The changing fall colours surround the Don Valley Parkway and can be seen against the downtown skyline from the Leaside Bridge on Millwood Rd.
Rouge Park may be the wildest and most-rural hike you can take inside the Toronto city limits, and it’s accessible by TTC. This is the corner of the city where farm and city landscapes meet and the Rouge has some of the most dramatic ravine cliffs in the area. Begin at the Rouge Park Conservation Centre across Morningside Road from the Toronto Zoo. Here, the historic Pearse House (rvcc.ca/Pearse_House.html ), home to a family that ran an old sawmill on the river, adds to the rural feel of the park. Follow the trails that loop down to Twyn Rivers Dr. and return up the other side of river.
MELISSA RENWICK/ TORONTO STAR
If you visit the Humber Arboretum, be sure to climb the hill by the Centre for Urban Ecology building for the panoramic view across the Humber Valley.
SHAWN MICALLEF FOR THE TORONTO STAR
The viewing platform at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park affords views of the beautiful rolling Ontario forest and farmland spreading out to the east.
The Leaside Bridge carrying Millwood Rd. across the Don Valley is the less-famous upriver sibling of the Prince Edward Viaduct, but it’s nearly equally impressive. Opened in 1927, the bridge commands spectacular views of the Don Valley Parkway as it makes gentle curves along the river and the buildings of Thorncliffe Park. Nature and city complement each other here wonderfully as the dozen or so stark, white apartment towers poke up through the tree canopy.
Found behind Humber College’s North Campus, the Arboretum(humberarboretum.on.ca/) is a series of botanical gardens and natural areas near the end of the west branch of the Humber River multi-use trail. Established by horticultural students at Humber in 1977, its 100 hectares has six kilometres of trails and contains 1,700 species of plants and animals. Be sure to climb the hill by the Centre for Urban Ecology building for the panoramic view across the forested Humber Valley.
Mono Cliffs Provincial Park
For an out-of-town holiday weekend excursion, take the hour-or-so drive to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park (ontarioparks.com/park/monocliffs ) north of Orangeville for a Niagara Escarpment hike. A series of eight trails pass through park’s varied landscape, some connecting with the Bruce Trail, and one looping down near the cute Village of Mono Centre where a mid-hike Thanksgiving tipple can be had at the local pub. A viewing platform extending out at the top of the cliffs affords a deep appreciation of the escarpment’s height, with views of the beautiful rolling Ontario forest and farmland spreading out to the east.
Shawn Micallef writes every Friday about where and how we live in the GTA. Wander the streets with him on Twitter @shawnmicallef.