cherry blossoms, high park

High Park will be closed to cars this week for cherry blossom season

There will be no vehicle or parking access to Toronto’s High Park beginning Monday as the cherry blossoms begin their peak bloom. Cherry blossoms typically bloom between four and 10 days, depending on weather conditions, so traffic and parking closures will be in place during this time (although TTC Wheel-Trans vehicles are exempt). The best way to get to the park during this time is via the TTC, by foot, or by bike.

The closure is meant to help manage the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to turn up at the park to take part in a centuries-old tradition known as hanami, the Japanese term for flower viewing.

“Keeping the park vehicle-free with minimal traffic is one way of ensuring the animals and their environment are protected during this peak visitor season,” the High Park Nature Centre previously stated in a news release. “[I]n the past, we recognized that driving around the park during cherry blossom season would be a challenge because of the number of vehicles. So to allow for a more positive, environmentally responsible and stress-free experience, High Park will be park vehicle-free during cherry blossom season.”

To give Torontonians a perspective on how crowded it could get, a  local Redditor shared a car pileup photo of the streets surrounding High Park.

According to ‘Sakura’ Steve Joniak, even though the city experienced colder weather over the weekend, full bloom has already begun at High Park, with trees beginning to show up to 75% of open blossoms.

The city’s history with cherry blossom trees dates back to April 1959, when Toru-Hagiwara, the Japanese ambassador to Canada, presented Toronto with 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura as a gift to the city for its support of Japanese-Canadian refugees after WWII.  Many of the trees were planted along High Park Trail around Grenadier Pond, which today has the most impressive grove of Sakura–cherry blossom trees in the city.

The flowers typically bloom toward the end of April or early May, but experts suggest that milder weather conditions in the city led to cherry blossoms blooming earlier than usual this year, with the first blooms appearing in front of Robarts Library at U of T near St. George and Harbord streets, followed by Trinity Bellwoods.

“It is always a special time of year when the Sakura trees are in bloom in High Park. Plan your trip using TTC or other means and take in the beauty of the cherry blossoms,” said city councillor Gord Perks. “Please enjoy the Sakura trees respectfully so future generations can also enjoy them.” 

If you don’t relish the idea of crowds at High Park, there are plenty of other areas where you can enjoy the cherry blossoms.  While you’re at it, check out the best places to find cherry blossom-inspired food in Toronto.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO