With so many options for winter hiking in and around the Greater Toronto Area, from pastoral farmland to dramatic cliffs to picturesque woods, there’s no reason to stay indoors. Don’t let the cold weather get you down; bundle up, make a plan and hit the trail!
Great Esker Side Trail
Silver Creek Conservation Area
Distance: 8 km roundtrip
Time: 2.5 hours
Why it’s awesome: At this small conversation area, you’ll experience varied topography within a short distance, from farmland to wetlands to forested areas. To access the Esker Side Trail, you should park at the Silver Creek Farm, where you can explore the grounds containing a picturesque 19th-century farmhouse, barn and stable as well as two ponds. You’ll have to hike on the main Bruce Trail first to access the side trail, so make sure to look at the map posted near the parking lot before setting out.
How do I get to the trailhead? The parking lot at the farm has a handy trail map
Read more: cvc.ca/silver-creek-conservation-area
Distance from Toronto: 65.9 km
Parks Canada / Rob Stimpson
Distance: 1.5 km roundtrip
Time: 1 hour
Why it’s awesome: While this trail is just steps away from civilization, you can easily immerse yourself in nature. Take in views of the Scarborough Bluffs, Little Rouge Creek and the Rouge River Valley as you hike this short route. Make sure you have proper footwear, and check the weather before you head out; some parts of this trail are quite steep and become very slippery when wet.
How do I get to the trailhead? Start at the Rouge Valley Conservation Centre parking lot
Read more: rvcc.ca
Distance from Toronto: 33 km
Black Creek Side Trail
Limehouse Conservation Area
Distance: 3 km roundtrip
Time: 1.5 hours
Why it’s awesome: A walk through this conservation area combines natural beauty with historical points of interest. To reach the Black Creek Side Trail, you’ll have to follow the main Bruce Trail past a 19th-century powder house and a kiln that was used in the lime industry of the 1880s (hence the name "Limehouse"). Once you’re on the side trail, follow it south to its end, and use the Bruce Trail to loop back up to your starting point. This route takes you past the “Hole in the Wall,” which is an interesting area full of fissures in the rocks that you can climb down and explore (weather permitting).
How do I get to the trailhead? The trailhead is marked at the parking lot
Read more: cvc.ca/limehouse-conservation-area
Distance from Toronto: 62.6 km
Tommy Thompson Park
Distance: 11 km total
Time: 3 hours
Why it’s awesome: Jutting out from the shore of Lake Ontario, this park stands on man-made land comprised of sand and earth fill dredged from the harbour. This haven for wildlife is also a respite for hikers from the bustling city, and easy to access by car or on foot (note: the pedestrian bridge is closed during the week). The park, which is home to many species of birds, fish and other animals, is only open evenings and weekends due to the Port Authority’s operations in the area.
How do I get to the trailhead? The trailhead is marked from the parking lot at the Leslie Street and Unwin Avenue entrance.
Read more: tommythompsonpark.ca
Distance from Toronto: 6 km
Cliff-Top Side Trail
Distance: 2.8 km one-way
Time: 1 hour
Why it’s awesome: This short trail showcases the beauty of the Niagara escarpment. Walk through a cedar forest and catch glimpses of serene lakes through the trees. The trail showcases striking 30-metre cliffs, which you can pause to admire at the viewing platform. Once you’re finished, jump on another portion of the Bruce Trail to enjoy more scenery.
How do I get to the trailhead? You have a few different options to get to this side trail, so consult the map near the parking lot to plan your route.
Read more: ontarioparks.com/monocliffs
Distance from Toronto: 97.7 km
North Loop Trail
Mount Nemo Conservation Area
Distance: 2.3 km roundtrip
Time: 1 hour
Why it’s awesome: Located near Rattlesnake Point, this less-frequented conservation area offers peaceful winter scenery. Hike one or both of the loop trails for stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and maybe even a view of the CN Tower off in the distance. Make sure you make a reservation ahead of time, as they are currently limiting the number of people in the trail. During winter, there aren’t any staff onsite, so bring exact change for your entrance fee and deposit it in the permit envelopes.
How do I get to the trailhead? The trailhead starts from the parking lot for both loops
Read more: conservationhalton.ca/mount-nemo
Distance from Toronto: 61.6 km
Lynde Shores Conservation Area
Distance: 5 km total
Time: 1.5 hours
Why it’s awesome: This small network of trails takes you through coastal wetlands and boasts beautiful views of the lake. Since the area is full of wildlife you may catch a glimpse of the local fauna, even in winter, so be ready with your camera. Note that the washrooms are currently closed, and you’ll have to pay for parking with a credit card.
How do I get to the trailhead? Trails start in the parking lot
Read more: cloca.com/lynde-shores
Distance from Toronto: 51.1 km
Guelph Lake Trail
Guelph Lake Conservation Area
Distance: 2.7 km roundtrip
Time: 1 hour
Why it’s awesome: Follow the trail through the quiet woods and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Guelph Lake. In winter, these dog-friendly trails aren’t maintained, but you can still hike or even snowshoe, if you prefer.
How do I get to the trailhead? Start at Victoria Road North where it intersects with Speed River
Read more: grandriver.ca/Guelph-Lake
Distance from Toronto: 100 km
Dundas Valley Conservation Area
Distance: 5.1 km one-way
Time: 3.5 hours
Why it’s awesome: This glorious hike through dense forests of deciduous trees is punctuated by meadows and glimpses of rolling hills. Hike to the top to Groundhog Hill to get a birds-eye view of the entire Dundas Valley.
How do I get to the trailhead? Park near the main loop trail and follow it until it branches off near the top of the Merrick Orchard.
Read more: conservationhamilton.ca/dundas-valley
Distance from Toronto: 73.6 km
Albion Hills Conservation Area
Distance: 6.5 km roundtrip
Time: 3 hours
Why it’s awesome: During the summer months, this small conservation area is a hotspot for campers, bikers and all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts. In the colder months, it sees fewer visitors, but is just as enticing as a hiking destination. Walk through pine forests and breathe in the fresh winter air as you explore this majestic section of the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Black Trail has both easy and more difficult sections, so make sure you’re careful to give yourself plenty of time to finish the trail.
How do I get to the trailhead? There’s an information kiosk at the trailhead, but since there are multiple parking lots consult the trail map online to make sure you’re at the right one.
Read more: trca.ca/albion-hills-conservation-area
Distance from Toronto: 75.3 km