Hikes are always a pleasure, but during the spring, hiking alongside a rushing river with flowers and trees blooming everywhere is hard to beat.
There is something about the sound of rushing water and the way it carves through the landscape that is truly mesmerizing, especially this time of year. Fortunately, the Toronto area is home to some incredible river hikes that offer a chance to escape the city and immerse oneself in nature.
In the springtime, rivers are lively, and in some spots, straight up raging thanks to April showers and snow melt making its way down the river system from up north. Combine the rushing rivers with spring flowers and generally less-crowded trails, and you’ve got a recipe for some serious weekend adventuring.
Benefits of Hiking Near Rivers
Before we dive into the specifics of each hike, let’s take a moment to appreciate the benefits of hiking near rivers. First and foremost, being near water has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind and body. The sound of flowing water can help reduce stress and anxiety, making for a more enjoyable hiking experience.
In addition to the mental health benefits, hiking near rivers can also provide a unique opportunity to observe wildlife. Rivers are often home to a variety of animals, including fish, birds, and mammals. Taking a break along the riverbank to watch for wildlife can add an extra sense of wonder to your hike.
Rouge Valley Loop
Our first river hike is the Rouge Valley Loop Trail, located in Rouge National Urban Park in the eastern part of Toronto. This 15-kilometre trail follows the winding path of the Rouge River, offering stunning views of the river and the surrounding forest.
The trail is well-maintained and relatively flat, making it accessible to hikers of all skill levels. Along the way, you’ll pass through open meadows, dense forests, and wetlands. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including beavers, deer, and a variety of bird species.
Whether you’re looking for a quick day hike or a longer, more challenging trek, the Rouge River Trail is a must-visit for any nature lover.
Humber River Trail
Next up is the Humber River Trail, located in the west end of Toronto. This 30-kilometre trail follows the Humber River as it winds through forests and meadows, past historic sites and beautiful parks.
The trail is divided into several sections, each offering a unique hiking experience. One of the most popular sections is the Humber Marshes, where you can observe a variety of bird species and other wildlife. Another highlight is the Old Mill section, which takes you past the historic Old Mill Inn and Spa and through dense forests.
One of the best things about the Humber River Trail is its accessibility. The trail is easily accessible by public transit, making it a great option for those without a car. Whether you’re looking for a short, easy hike or a longer, more challenging trek, the Humber River Trail has something for everyone.
When it comes to raging rivers, it doesn’t get any more fierce than the might Niagara River — yes, the one with the falls.
One of the best places to get an up-close looking at the ferocious Niagara River is by descending into the gorge at Niagara Glen.
Niagara Glen is a popular hiking area located along the Niagara River, just a short distance downstream from the famous Niagara Falls. The area features an extensive network of trails that wind through a stunning landscape of towering cliffs, deep gorges, and lush forests. Hikers can enjoy breathtaking views of the Niagara River as it roars and tumbles through the rapids, creating a powerful display of nature’s raw power.
The experience of standing at the edge of the river and watching its relentless flow is truly awe-inspiring.
Don River Trail
Heading back eastward, we come to the Don River Trail, located in the heart of Toronto. This 19-kilometer trail follows the meandering path of the Don River through dense forests and urban parks.
The trail is divided into several sections, each offering a unique hiking experience. One of the highlights is the section that takes you past the historic Don Valley Brick Works and through a beautiful ravine. Another popular section is the Taylor Creek section, which offers stunning views of the beautiful creek.
Although it might be a surprise to some, there is also fishing along the Don River, especially in the section north of Pottery Road.
One of the best things about the Don River Trail is its accessibility. The trail is easily accessible by public transit, making it a great option for those without a car. Whether you’re looking for a short, easy hike or a longer, more challenging trek, the Don River Trail has something for everyone.
Last but not least, we have the Bruce Trail, which is an 890-kilometre trail that follows the Niagara Escarpment, a unique geological formation that runs from Niagara Falls to Tobermory.
The trail offers stunning views of the escarpment and the surrounding landscape, including several rivers and waterfalls. One of the highlights is the Beaver Valley section, which takes you past the stunning Eugenia Falls and through dense forests and meadows.
There is an 11-km loop section of the Bruce Trail that includes both Eugenia and Hogg’s falls. Stunning this time of year.
While this section of the trail is a bit of a drive from Toronto, it is well worth the trip for anyone looking for a challenging, multi-day hike. The trail offers a chance to experience some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Ontario.
Tips for Hiking Near Rivers
Before you set out on your river hike, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, always be aware of the weather conditions. Rivers can be dangerous during heavy rainfall or flash floods, so it’s important to check the forecast before heading out.
Additionally, be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, especially on longer hikes. Hiking near rivers can be hot and humid, and staying hydrated is essential for a safe and enjoyable hike.
Finally, always practice Leave No Trace principles when hiking near rivers. This means packing out all of your trash, respecting wildlife and their habitats, and staying on designated trails.