Exploring Toronto by bike ensures your visit won’t be spent on Google Maps finding transit stops or resting your sore feet in a Tim Hortons (Canada’s national coffee chain). Cycling Toronto is the best way to take in all of this city’s cultural diversity, natural beauty and urban energy. Let this guide direct you to Toronto’s 8 most scenic and safest bike routes so that you can take full advantage of your active vacation.
- The Martin Goodman Trail
The car-free Waterfront East-West link
Toronto rests on the shores of one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes — you’ll think its the ocean the first time you look over it! Lake Ontario was essential for shipping goods in Toronto’s industrial past, but recently it’s become the go-to recreation space for all walks of life. The Martin Goodman Trail is definitely the best way to see this natural feature when cycling in Toronto!
The Trail offers over 20 continuous kilometres of car-free bike lanes with connections to literally dozens of Toronto’s attractions. Try riding from Ontario Place to Trillium Park and across the core (or come along on the Toronto Hoods & Hidden Gems tour and we will guide you there!).
Those looking for the best range of photos of Toronto’s unique skyline will love the flexibility the trail offers. Think of it this way: the smooth pavement lets you easily traverse the ‘East Side’ and ‘West Side’ or our beautiful city. Plus, on summer weekends there is plenty of activity along the trail. Take a break on a bench and just watch the people go by, find some blanket space among the beach-goers at Cherry Beach, or maybe you will run into a festival!
- High Park
Cycling in Toronto ‘s largest park, filled with forests, ponds and great bike lanes!
With its own zoo, splashpad, open fields, bike-friendly trails, ice cream, adventure park, Canadian geese and abundant shady spots, High Park is the ultimate family or nature lovers destination to go cycling to Toronto. Want another bonus? It connects directly to the Martin Goodman Trail!
We admit, its not Central Park, but High Park has plenty of promise (especially for those that are here in the late spring). Every Torontonian’s instagram feed gets absolutely swamped with photos of the great Cherry Blossom bloom that happens in late April or early May. Here are 15 thousand or so posts for those that don’t believe me!
Even if you missed the bloom, or don’t love our honking geese, we highly recommend spending an long and lazy afternoon in High Park. There are plenty of restaurants and bars on nearby Bloor or Roncevales Streets to eat and drink at when the sun starts going down. Also, there is a subway station nearby for those that would prefer transit options.
- The Toronto Islands
Beaches, canals, and beautiful views of Lake Ontario – your sunset spot!
If there is one “must-do” during your stay in Toronto, is has to be spending a day exploring the expansive Toronto Islands. Here you’ll find an incredible mix of beach space, nature reserve, amusement park rides and eclectic residences. One of these cozy cottages could be yours…if you are willing to put your name on a 15 year long waitlist that is!
Without a doubt, cycling the Toronto Islands is the best way to appreciate them –they are just a little too big to do comfortably by foot and the area is completely car-free.
Getting there: The Islands are reached by any of the three ferries at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, which is on the Martin Goodman Trail. We highly recommend buying tickets online ahead of time because the lines can get very long on summer weekend! Water taxis all along the waterfront can get you there for a little more money if you want to skip the wait entirely.
Some businessmen had plans to cover the Island in roadways and mega-hotels, until a group of entrepreneurial Island residents successfully lobbied the government to turn them into a park, thus saving it from development. We promise this space is full of amazing stories, stunning views and great food –so why not come on a Toronto Island bike tour with us and catch the sunset around a campfire tended by one of our friendly guides?
A quiet getaway and bird watching park right in the city
“Urban wilderness” perfectly captures the vibe of this unusual park. Bird lovers will find themselves absolutely surrounded by grey jays, geese, colourful & curious sparrows as well as some rare swans. One of my visits to the “The Spit” left me with a story I tell to other nature lovers –I had taken a break on one of the many side trails, when a Trumpeter Swan took off from the closet pond and flew directly over my head! For reference, their wingspan can get over ten feet!
Pro tip: Like the Islands, it is too large to comfortably walk, so cycling in Toronto’s fantastic nature reserve is the best way to go. Be sure to bring some water with you, as the far ends of the park can be a bit remote. See if you can find the lighthouse, and explore the rocky beaches nearby –a local artist often sets up gravity defying stone structures there.
The beautiful thing about these four sights is their closeness to Lake Ontario! This means they are all connected by the Martin Goodman Trail and can be cycled easily, but if you’ve already seen enough of the water, the next few sights highlight some biking routes to go cycling Toronto’s downtown core.
A wonderful 13km riverside trail heading north from Lake Ontario
The Humber River is home to an unusual event for most city-dwellers: an annual salmon run! Although this only happens in the fall, I still suggest riding this trail all year round. This one is great for people looking to put in a longer ride, but there are many ways to exit the trail early if the entire stretch cannot fit into your travel plans. The easiest way to access this trail is at Sheldon’s Lookout (accessible via the Martin Goodman Trail) but beware: you will be all uphill this way!
Richmond and Adelaide Bike Lanes
Join the commuters and cycle through the Toronto downtown core
Toronto is a hub of global commerce –did you know the Toronto Stock Exchange has more mining companies listed on it than any other market? Some say this makes Toronto “corporate” compared to its artsy french counterpart, Montreal. I say this is something to celebrate by riding in the shadows of the towers of industry that flank Toronto’s busiest protected cycling lanes.
Installed in 2015, these bike lanes form the backbone of Toronto’s cycling network. Over 6,000 cyclists use these lanes during peak season! That is a 1,194% increase from baseline before they were installed. Just be sure to avoid them during rush hour!
Pro tip: I enjoy doing a circuit with these lanes when I am searching for dense urban core vibes. Start at Bathurst and Adelaide, and ride all the way to Sherbourne street. Then hop up to Richmond and ride right back! Another way would be to come on The Toronto Essentials Bike Tour with me where I can give you all the dirt on Toronto politics and cycling advocacy while we ride these lanes.
Kay Gardner Beltline Trail
A mostly flat and wide trail running directly through residential neighbourhoods and parks
If you are looking for something more scenic than the Gardner Expressway, this east-west trail will take you out of the city’s congestion into 9km long tunnel of greenery. There is exposure to old and new when cycling Toronto’s Kay Gardner Beltline trail –it sits on an abandoned railway track and crosses over and operational transit yard.
Pro tip: We suggest starting off with a ride through Mount Pleasant Cemetery (it’s numerous mausoleums are more beautiful than creepy, I promise!) and then picking up the trail on the north side of the grounds. You will find the trails nice and wide as well as popular at most hours. This Torontoist. article covers everything you ought to know before setting out on this ride.
8. Brickworks & Don River Trail
While riding “east-side” river trail running at the base of the Don Valley its easy to forget you are in the middle of the city
This combination will bring you to arguably Toronto’s greatest urban renewal success story, one of its main rivers as well as though a section of its enormous ravine systems –known locally as our “accidental parkland.” The Brickworks picks up cues from New York’s High Line park by converting an abandoned brick quarry into nature filled and community focused spaces (check out the year-round Saturday Farmer’s Market to see the Brickworks at its most vibrant). Once you’re done snacking on some maple candies and fresh produce, you can ride along the banks of the Don River on the Lower Don River Trail bike all the way to Lake Ontario!
How to get there: I suggest starting on Milkman’s Lane near (146 South Drive) and riding through the Rosedale Ravine to the Brickworks. There is a protected Bike Lane along Bayview Ave, that runs to Pottery Road where the trail can be entered. There are plenty of signs to guide you along the way
Whichever bike route you choose to ride in Toronto, you are bound to be pleasantly surprised. Once you leave the downtown core and ride just a little further, you will encounter forests, ravines, rivers, and beautiful scenery. Pack a picnic, some sunscreen, and your camera and hit the trails. Happy riding!