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Good Experience

Ask Marshall: Where can I get big nature payoff close-ish to Toronto?

Marshall Johnston

Welcome to “Ask Marshall,” a series in which our resident outdoorsy pal will answer all your burning where (and wear), what, why, why, and how questions about the great Ontario wilderness.

I’m looking for maj views within a short drive. Where can I get big nature payoff close-ish to Toronto?

Ugh, there are so many great places to go close to the city. But like all good places, you have to share them. Translation: these aren’t your top-secret, locals-only spots.

In the city

Okay, so let’s start inside city limits. Have you met Don and Humber? Forget what you thought you knew (garbage streams! sparkling chemical brooks!) — the Don Valley and Humber River have a plethora of trails if you're looking for a beautiful walk. You won’t believe me until you get down there but I swear, it’s amazing. Just watch for mountain bikers.

For Dan Valley walks, park at the Loblaws on Redway Road and walk to the trailhead from there. Or take the subway to Castle Frank like the good city mouse you are.

If you’re headed to the Humber, there’s parking at Riverwood Pkwy, Etienne Brule Park, James Gardens Raymore Park and Weston Lions Park. Old Mill station is the best stop if you’re TTC-ing.

Hamilton way

Waterfalls. Hamilton’s got ‘em. A lot of ‘em. Strap on your hiking boots during an off-peak time (these beauties get busy) and go exploring.

Devil’s Punchbowl will give you two for the price of one. This epic gorge has got the Upper Falls, a 33.8-metre waterfall, and the Lower Falls, a 5.5-metre waterfall. You might even spot the Toronto skyline from the observation deck.

Tew’s Falls, at 41 metres tall, is Hamilton’s biggest (well, tallest), baddest waterfall. Hike to Dundas Peak for wicked views of the Dundas Valley. Because Tew’s is a little tew popular, you’ll have to make a reservation for your visit if you’re coming between now and November 15.

Websters’ Falls is actually the area’s biggest. It’s 22 metres tall but also pretty wide, so the falling water looks a little more major. Combine it with a hike to or from Christie Lake. Oh, reservations also required for this one right now.

Spencer Creek is… not a waterfall. It’s a trail. A four-kilometre out-and-back trail. It’s easy, there are trees, there is water, there may even be a beaver. Combine it with one of the above.

A little further out

If you’re looking for something out of the way (but not like, too out of the way), give Mono Cliffs Provincial Park a whirl. The (deep breath) Lookout Trail Side Trail to Cliff-top Side Trail To Spillway Trail is a 10.5-kilometre loop that takes you up, down and around forests, rock formations and lakes. Cool! It’s moderately hard — aka, a great barometer for whether you have, or want to have, what it takes to be a full-time hiker.

One more thing

If you’re looking to get out of the city but don’t have a car, get yourself signed up for a car share program (oh hey Communato). Or just hit up your local rental company. The fine folks at Budget know me by name at this point. Rent a car for the weekend, drop it off on Sunday, split it with your pals.

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