If you can’t wait until your summer vacay to get a breath of fresh air, take a day trip to one of the many lush green spaces just beyond the GTA. Under two hours out from the downtown core you can find trails, lakes, waterfalls, gorges and many opportunities to soak in some sun, sans noise pollution. Clear your Saturday schedule, put on your runners, and pack your vape pen. Get ready to let nature revive you.
Belfountain Conservation Area (1.5 hours north of Toronto)
Forest bathing, anyone? Just northwest of Brampton you’ll find the Belfountain conservation area with its 20 acres of lush forest and spring-fed waters from the West Credit River. Cross the river gorge using the suspension bridge and hike your way along the escarpment. It’s an easy-going half hour hike. If you’re up for an adventure, link up with the connecting Bruce Trail.
Elora Gorge (1 hour, 50 mins northwest of Toronto)
The Elora Gorge boasts 22-metre high cliffs along the Grand River valley, and an exhilarating challenge for kayakers and tubers. Rent one here and get an adrenaline rush with your fresh air. If rapids aren’t your thing, check out a 2-acre swimming hole or the 3 kms of walking trails where you can look down at the gorge in all its leafy glory.
Cobourg’s Victoria Park Beach (2 hours east of Toronto)
This well-loved, family-friendly beach has been called one of the best in Ontario. You can walk a boardwalk to downtown Cobourg, check out the East Pierhead Lighthouse, or just plant yourself down on this groomed white sand and look out over an endless Lake Ontario.
Rattlesnake Point (just over an hour west of Toronto)
Rattlesnake Point Conservation area spans 650 acres across the top of the Niagara Escarpment and is said to offer the most incredible views in Ontario. Look over the lush forest cover all the way to Lake Ontario, or test your strength at one of the 3 sites for rock climbers. There are some 235 routes for climbers of all ranges of experience.
Cheltenham Badlands (an hour north of Toronto)
“Badlands” is a geologic term for a landscape of soft rock that’s been eroded into a rolling landscape of rounded hills. It’s a rare phenomenon and we have a pretty stunning example of it just an hour from the city. The Cheltenham Badlands occupies 90 acres of moon-like terrain featuring dunes and craters along the Niagara Escarpment. Come for a hike around these rocky trails and don’t forget to wear something ‘gram-worthy.
Warsaw Caves Conservation Area (just over 2 hours northeast of Toronto)
You don’t need a tour guide to explore the system of 7 ancient caves here in this park inside the valley of Indian River near Peterborough. Hike around 15 kms of trails and stop wherever you feel called to drop deeper into the earth. The surrounding forest is majestic.
Eramosa Karst Conservation Area (an hour southwest of Toronto)
The Eramosa Karst is said to have the largest number of unique karst features of anywhere in the province – underground caves, sinkholes and streams – so expect a geological spectacle. With 7 km of multi-faceted trails with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, you could easily make a day of a trip here.
Paris, Ontario (1.5 hours southwest of Toronto)
Paddling through Paris is, in a word, heartwarming (this town was voted ‘Canada’s prettiest little town,’ after all). Century-old buildings dot the banks of the Grand with jutting balconies and lots of lush foliage. Rent a canoe and paddle your way down the Grand River, starting in Paris and ending up in Brantford at any one of these access points.
Bluffer’s Park and Beach (an hour east of Toronto)
If you live downtown and haven’t yet been to the Scarborough Bluffs, make a point to this summer. Striking rock face stretches for nearly 15 kms along the Lake Ontario shoreline in East Toronto, reaching reaching 90 metres above the coastline at its highest point. Hike to the top of the Bluffs to visit Scarborough Heights Park, or to Cudia Park and the lookout at Cathedral Bluffs. Or, just chill on Bluffer’s beach with your pup and a joint.
Looking to explore other regions of the country through an elevated lense? Check out our Canadian smoke stop bucket list.