Great Runs in Toronto

Set on Lake Ontario, Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America. It is a very cosmopolitan, diverse city, affluent, with a great arts and culture scene. Many travelers to Toronto will stay downtown, where there are many large office & apartment buildings, and numerous hotels. The running situation is mixed. The most scenic running is along the lakeshore, where there are some lovely sections with great water and skyline views. ne note here is that there is a TON of development in downtown Toronto, and things around the waterfront are constantly changing. There is a concerted effort to improve the trails, and transportation, along the waterfront.

There are also some good linear parks and trails that are pleasant for running. From the heart of downtown, it is about 1 mile to the lakeshore trails, and ~2 miles to the Beltline or Don River trails.A running highlight is The Island — a 15 minute ferry ride from downtown. Toronto is a geographically large and spread out city, so running beyond the immediate downtown/waterfront takes some planning. Major ‘business traveler’ suburbs include Mississauga and Etobicoke . There is good public transportation, called the “TTC”. The subway runs within the downtown limits and to the north, and there’s an extensive bus system. A new train whisks you from the Pearson airport to downtown. Note: you might see distance markers in km rather than miles.

Toronto topography is fairly flat. The weather is continental. Warm, humid summers with long days, and average high temps 80F (26C) in July/August. Winters are cold, with average highs just below freezing. About the same as Chicago and not nearly as cold as Montreal, and not too much snowfall.

The Iconic Routes

  1. Lakeshore - Martin Goodman Trail
  2. The Island
  3. High Park
  4. Toronto Downtowner
  5. Beltline Trail and Toronto linear parks

By area:

Downtown: Queens Park/downtown tour, Martin Goodman Trail.
Waterfront/South: Martin Goodman Trail and waterfront trails, The Island. 
West: Martin Goodman trail west, Humber River, Sunnyside Beach, High Park.
East: Beaches, Lower Don Valley River trails, Distillery. 
Midtown: Beltline Trail, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Forest Hill and Summerhill/Yorkville/Rosedale neighborhoods.
North: Botanical Gardens, linear park around the Science Center
Northwest/Pearson Airport: Trails in Mississauga, Etobicoke.


The Routes

Martin Goodman Trail

4.2 miles ONE WAY. Start: Queen’s Quay. MAP

The Martin Goodman Trail is a 30+ mile trail along the waterfront in Toronto. The trail is part sidewalk and part running/bike path, generally following the water. There are some spots with great views of the water. Best place to start is Queen’s Quay (pronounced ‘key’), which is within a mile of the financial district. It is about 5 miles one-way from Queen’s Quay to the Humber River Bridge. At the 3.5 mile mark, the path reaches Sunnyside Park. Some of the nicest sections of the trail begin here, leading to the Humber River, where a large white pedestrian bridge marks the end of the official trail. The bridge leads to 350 acre Humber Bay Park, with great views of the city and additional trails for running.

If you continue running beside the water and over the Humber Bridge, you’ll find yourself at Humber Bay Park. The view of downtown Toronto from this spot is awesome and ongoing restoration projects at the park have provided wildflowers, lots of pretty greenery, and a butterfly sanctuary. Combined, the east and west side of the park total 347 acres, so there’s plenty of room to throw your weight around.

It is also possible to run east from the Quay toward The Beaches, though it is more industrial through the Docklands area.

Humber Bay Park

6.4 miles, RT. Start: west side Humber Bay Bridge. MAP

Humber Bay Park is worth a destination run. Great views of the water and Toronto’s ever-expanding skyline. The start of the run is the west side of the Humber Bay pedestrian bridge, about 4.6 miles west of Queen’s Quay on the Martin Goodman Trail. It’s reachable by public transport. There are numerous distance options here. We’ve mapped a loop that includes Humber Bay Shores Park, jaunts out to Humber Bay Park East and Humber Bay Park West, and continuing west to Mimico Waterfront Park, then looping back to the bridge. It’s a solid 10k one way from Queen’s Quay to Mimico Park. There are options to run one way west and take a public transport back.

High Park

Access: from Bloor St. if coming from downtown; from Lakeshore trail. 
Park Trail MAP. Map of 3.2 perimeter run

Source: Toronto.com

High Park is a wonderful 400 acre park just north of the lakeshore and Sunnyside Beach. There are lovely gardens, little bridges, ponds, and waterfalls, and some more secluded trails. The best way to explore High Park is to start at the Bloor Street entrance and run along until you come across a little foot path or single track jetting off the main route. The park is randomly hilly. There are various road and trail options in the park. Following the outer perimeter trail is 3.2 miles. There are options for additional trails in the park.

Toronto Downtowner

5.3 miles. Start: City Hall (Queen & University). MAP

This is a downtown Toronto tour. Starting at City Hall, where there’s a skating rink in the winter, head north along University to Queen’s Park. It is 1/2 mile around the park and there are some pleasant interior paths. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is on the northern end of Queen’s Park. The it’s over to the University of Toronto, a lovely campus in the heart of the city with some beautiful older buildings. This tour takes you by some of the highlights, including the ‘philosopher’s walk’, Trinity College, University College, the Rotman School of Management, and the Roberts and Rare Books libraries. Exiting the university, head south to Dundas and by the Art Gallery of Ontario to end the run. To shorten the run, you can do less within the UofT campus, or lengthen it by running east to Yonge St., and then a few blocks south to see the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Distillery/Don Valley

3.8 miles ONE-WAY from Yonge & Front to trail intersection at Bloor. MAP
Option to continue another ~3 miles one-way to end of trail.

This is a good option slightly easy of downtown. Start at the intersection of Yonge and Front, in the heart of the financial district. Enjoy a quick jaunt through the Distillery Historic District (fun shops, restaurants), and join the Lower Don River Trail in the aptly named Corktown Commons at the ~2 mile mark. The Lower Don Trail goes along the river, paralleling the Don Valley Parkway, another ~2 miles to the intersection with Bloor St. Here, one can connect with the Beltline Trail just to the west across Bayview. The Don trail continues nearly another 3 miles, through numerous parks, to Todmorden Village.

The Beaches/Leslie Street Spit

The Beaches are a fun residential community near the water about 3 miles east of downtown. There are some good running options here. There are some good distances, so rather than describing a particular route, here are some distances and options. A good 5-mile loop is combining Woodbine Beach Boardwalk loop and Martin Goodman Trail to end of Beaches and back. It’s a nice run out to the lighthouse along the Spit. Note that the running in this area is open with great views but is also exposed — to wind and cold in the winter, and sun in the summer. Woodbine Beach, stretching nearly 2 miles, is the most popular beach in Toronto and probably the best for swimming.

Tommy Thompson Park on left, Woodbine Beach on right
  • Woodbine Beach along Boardwalk, to end and loop: 2.2 miles
  • Tommy Thompson Park, to end of Spit: 3 miles one-way
  • Woodbine Beach east along Goodman Trail to end of Beaches: 1.4 miles one-way

Center Island Park

6.4 miles, with options for more. Start: Center Island Pier. MAP
Longboat 10k Course Map
Access: ferry at Queen’s Quay. 15 minutes each way. C$7.25 RT. Schedule

Center Island is a 15 minute ferry ride from downtown. It’s a great destination for runners who have the time. There are beaches, picnic grounds, a lighthouse, children’s park, disc golf course, gardens, and other attractions. Also a great view of the Toronto skyline. There are numerous trail options for runners here. Our map starts at Center Island Pier, heads down the Avenue of the Island to the beach, then east along the water to Ward’s Island Beach, then west to Hanlan’s Point Beach (where there is a ‘clothing optional’ section), and out to the Hanlan’s Point Ferry. Total is 6.4 miles. It’s another 2.4 miles from Hanlan’s Point to the Center Island Pier. We’ve also included the 10k course map from the annual Longboat race, held in September. It’s possible to take the ferry to/from any one of Center Island Pier, Hanlan’s Point, or Ward’s Island (check the schedule).

Toronto Beltline Trail

8.3 miles ONE WAY. Start: Multiple Points. MAP

The Toronto Beltline Trail is a linear park running about 6 miles through the northeast part of the city, connecting the neighborhoods of Rosedale, Moore Park, Forest Hill, Chaplin Estates, and Fairbank. Built on a former rail bed, the trail consists of three sections, the York Beltline Trail west of Allen Road, the Kay Gardner Beltline Park from the Allen to Mount Pleasant Road, and the Ravine Beltline Trail south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery through the Moore Park Ravine. The surface is a mix of terrain and is fairly flat. There are parks, woods, and ravines along the way. There are street crossings along the way, and a few sections where one must leave the trail and run on the street to connect to the next section. Note the trail is not always well signed.

We have mapped out the Beltline trails in its three sections as a one way route, from west to east. The most developed section is from Mt. Pleasant Cemetery west to the Allen expressway. Below is a map of the entire linear trail and a guide to the sections with some nice detours.

Toronto Beltline Trails
  • York Beltline. Starts 1.8m west of Allen Rd. or Allen & Eglinton TTC stop. Leaves trail at Roselawn Ave.
  • Kay Gardiner Beltline. Starts just north of Allen & Eglinton. Continues seamlessly for ~2.5 miles, crossing Yonge, along northern part of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Ends at Mt. Pleasant Rd. Just south of the Kay Gardner beltline is the affluent residential area of Forest Hill. Lovely residential streets with gracious homes, among them Old Forest Hill Rd.
  • Road connection. About 1/2 mile. South on Mt. Pleasant Rd., then left (east) on Moore Ave. to Moore Park Ravine. Connect to Beltline Trail.
  • Mount Pleasant Cemetery. A nice detour off the Beltline Trail/Mt. Pleasant Ave. Running or cycling in the cemetery is fine and quite popular. There are lovely winding paths. Especially pretty in fall and a nice canopy on hot days.
  • Beltline Trail. Here, the trail continues seamlessly ~2 miles southeast, to Evergreen Brickworks, intersecting with Bayview Ave near Bloor St. Here, you can connect to the Lower Don River trail. The trail then heads west for a wooded 1 mile, crossing Mt. Pleasant Rd., then curling north and paralleling Mt. Pleasant Rd. for another mile or so, through David Balfour Park, to the intersection with St. Claire Ave E. (St. Claire TTC stop). Detour: very nice residential running streets in the residential area between west of Mt. Pleasant and east of Spadina, to the south of St. Clair and north of Bloor.

The closest access point to the heart of downtown is about 2 miles north of City Hall, where the trail hits Mt. Pleasant Ave. From midtown Toronto, closest access is about 1/2 mile from the Yonge & Eglinton interection to the Kay Gardiner part of trail, near the Davisville TTC stop.

Toronto Residential

Toronto is similar to other Canadian cities in that there are lovely residential neighborhoods adjoining busy commercial areas. To get a sense of some of Toronto’s nicer residential areas, Forest Hill, north of St. Clair, and the Summerhill/Rosedale/Yorville neighborhood, South of St. Clair are wonderful for running. The neighborhoods adjoin in the midtown Toronto area, and are also close to the Beltline trails.

Forest Hill. Very nice residential area, near midtown Toronto. Between Avenue Rd. to the east, Bathurst to the west (~2km), Glencairn to the north, and St. Clair to the south (~4km). Old Forest Hill Rd. a particularly nice street.

Summerhill/Rosedale/Yorkville. Another nice residential area. South of St. Clair and north of Bloor, between Mt. Pleasant and Bathurst (east to west). Crescent Rd., Cluny Dr., Ramsden Park are very pleasant.

Edwards Gardens, Ontario Science Center, Lower Don River Trails

6.8 miles one-way from Edwards Gardens to Riverdale Park at Bloor & Bayview. Transport: TTC Station on southern end at Bloor. MAP

Courtesy torontobotanicalgarden.ca

This is a popular area to visit in Toronto. A series of parks and trails provide for a nearly 11km run from the Botanical Gardens in the north to Bloor & Bayview in the Cabbagetown area in the south. The Edwards Gardens are part of the Toronto Botanical Gardens, which is lovely for running. The gardens are at the northern end of a series of parks: Sunnybrook, Wilket, and Serena Gundy Park. There are lots of trails for running here, and a straight shot from the gardens to Eglinton Ave. East is 1.6 miles. Cross Eglinton and you are at the Ontario Science Center, where there are more trails on the grounds through ET Seton Park, paralleling Don Mills Rd. Just after this park, in the Thorncliffe area, you’ll connect with the Lower Don Mills River trails in the Lower Don Parklands. This trail is along the river and paralleling Don Mills Rd. A good end (or starting point) is at the intersection of Bloor and Bayview, where there is a TTC line. The total distance from the Edwards Gardens to Bloor & Bayview is 6.8 miles, one way. From the southern end of this park, it’s only a couple of kilometers to the Beltline Trail and mid-town Toronto to the west. Distances:

  • Botanical Gardens to Eglington: 1.7 miles
  • Eglinton through Science Center to Lower Don Parklands: 3 miles
  • Lower Don Mills Trail to Bloor & Bayview: 2 miles.

Note that there is a project underway to improve the Lower Don Valley River trails.

Further Afield

Toronto is a large and spread out city. Business travelers might end up near the airport and in the Mississauga area, which is 20 miles from downtown. There is some very decent, accessible running in this area. Plan your stay carefully to be near the routes! Options near the airport are:

  • Etobicoke Creek Trail. East of airport and heads northeast toward Brampton. 6+ miles, some dedicated, some on road. Easiest access is from Mt. Charles Park east of airport. MAP of Trail.
  • Centennial Park. Originally a dairy farm, it was opened as a park in 1967 to commemorate Canada’s 100th anniversary. Recently one of the main venues for the 2015 Pan Am Games. The park also has a number of playgrounds, sport fields, baseball and softball diamonds, picnic areas, and a small ski hill built on top of a former dump! There are all sorts of trails in the park. Connect to the Etobicoke Creek Trail at southern end of the park at Centennial Park Blvd.
  • West Deane Park. About 2.5 miles south of the Toronto Congress Center. A 2.5 mile path (one-way) connecting several parks from north to south: West Deane Park North & South, Ravenscrest, Hampshire Heights, Echo Valley. MAP of trail north to south. Martin Grove Rd. is a good reference point.
  • West Humber Parkland. About 4 miles east of the airport is the West Humber Parkland. There are trails that go for miles north and south, most notably the Humber River Recreational Trail.
Options Near Airport

STAY

Toronto is a very spread out city. The core downtown area is bound by Bloor St. to the north, Bathurst St. to the West, the Don Valley Parkway to the east, and the waterfront to the south. There are many hotels downtown. Try to stay south of College or Queen for good access to the waterfront paths. There are some good hotel options to the west, toward High Park/Sunnyside Beach, but not much to the east of the Don Valley Expressway.

Below are hotels and options near Pearson airport.


Running Stores & Group Runs

Running Room. The leading Toronto running store chain with several locations: North (York Mills), downtown (Yonge & King), Beaches, High Park. List of stores and group runs. They also have an extensive series of route maps of various lengths from each store. MAP. Thanks here to Ed Mark, who is one of the Running Room’s ‘ambassadors’, for his help.

Downtown
Black Toe Running (Bathurst & Queen). Group runs nearly every day. Registration required for some. List here.

The Runners Shop. Near University of Toronto and Royal Ontario Museum. Canada’s oldest specialty running store, opened in 1975.

Running Room. Near Univ. of Toronto. Group Runs: Weds. 6pm, Sun 8:30 a.m.

East/Beaches

Running Room. Group runs Wed. 6:30 p.m. & Sun. 8:30 a.m.


Events

Good running calendar

Toronto Marathon. May.

Spring Run Off. April. 8k and 5k. Part of Canada Running Series. High Park.

Yonge St. 10k. June. Part of Canada Running Series. Waterfront.

Pure Protein Night Race. September.

Sunset Shuffle. August. On The Island. Can get sold out.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. October.

Longboat Race, Toronto Island. September.