Off the Beaten Path: Trail Running in Toronto

TORONTO July 2nd. Digital Champion Alex Flint started running  5 years ago while he was living in Calgary. After a couple years as a fair-weather runner, finishing a few 10k races and a half-marathon, he decided it was time to try and reach the next level. This year Alex is training for STWM as well as a 100km ultra-marathon. You can connect with Alex on Twitter @alexflint and on his blog Distance Obsessed.

Off the Beaten Path: Trail Running in Toronto. By Alex Flint

Living in a big city means running on the street isn’t your only training option! In Toronto, we’re lucky to have everything from the beautiful lake shore and indoor tracks, to giant parks and challenging trails to run through. Running downtown can be exciting, bobbing and weaving through traffic like a parkour ninja, but some days you just want to get away from the noise of the city and enjoy some peace and quiet. Let me share with you some hidden treasures in Toronto that have turned my training runs from a daily grind to a true joy.

1) Leslie Street Spit. If you want to escape the sound of traffic, one of the best places to go is the Leslie Street Spit. A 5km man-made headland, which runs from the bottom of Leslie Street out to Lake Ontario, the spit is paved the whole way out. The way I approach the route to make it a bit more exciting is to start on the well-maintained gravel paths just to the east of Leslie Street. I go out about 2km before I reach a fork in the road, where I go left for some rougher terrain. You can also veer right towards a small bridge that will connect you with some more well-maintained paths. You’ll know you’ve reached the turn-around when you see a lighthouse at the top of a hill, which is a nice wake-up call for your legs before making the trek back.¬† I usually run a 20km route starting at Sherbourne, going along Cherry Beach and then down the Spit. Here is a map of this route.

2) High Park. As Toronto’s largest park, High Park is nearly 400 acres in size. It has a great mix of paved roads and paths, grassy fields for picnics and sports, indoor facilities, and beautiful 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. I love following the trails throughout the park, switching back and forth from one to another along my run. Since High Park is a big rectangle, you’ll never get lost or be far from a main road. Last month I did a beautiful 16k route with a friend, which you can find here.

3) The Lower Don River Trails, Brickworks Park, Taylor Creek, David Balfour Park, and the Beltline Trail. This group of trails has sections that are almost completely unknown or unused by runners. In my hours spent out there I have come across only a handful of other runners. These trails are some of the best (and only) places in Toronto to experience technical trails at any significant distance. Starting where Pottery Road meets the Don Valley Parkway (DVP), there are a series of trails going north on both sides of the river. As you continue heading north, just beyond Millwood Road, you’ll hit some steep dirt trails and wooden bridges built by mountain bikers. Some of the hills are so steep that you’ll need to hold on to a tree to stay upright! This is definitely my go-to place for longer training runs as all the trails mentioned above connect. You can do a quick 5km run or spend hours out there, finding new paths and making every run an exciting experience.

Just because Toronto is a bustling city, doesn’t mean we are stuck running on busy sidewalks or paved bike paths. Adding trail running to your training routine will not only benefit you physically, but will also calm your mind, revitalize your spirit, and keep you on track for a successful marathon season! Happy running!

Do you have any favourite Toronto trails? Share them with us in the comments below.

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2 Responses to Off the Beaten Path: Trail Running in Toronto

  1. Myron says:

    i really liked the horse trail we ran in the Lawrence/Yonge area Tune Up run. Minus the horse droppings, of course.

  2. RunningFree says:

    Thanks for your post! I’m a casual runner doing mostly 6 – 10 K runs. I developed a knee injury due to too much running on concrete and would like to do longer distances mostly on trails instead of roads. Are there any Toronto running groups that focus on trail running? Or trail running clinics offered by the usual running clubs? Thanks.

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