Looking for some outdoorsy things to do near Toronto? Most visitors come for the CN Tower and never really leave the downtown core. But they’re missing out on so much! I’m a local Torontonian who has spent years finding the best ways to get outdoors. I’ve taken my dogs on countless adventures in and around the city, to get a break from the concrete jungle.
Some of my favourites are hiking the Scarborough Bluffs, skating on forest rinks in winter, and going apple picking each fall. But don’t worry, that’s not all I’ll share! You can find so much stuff to do that you’ll need to come back to experience it all.
1. Hike the Scarborough Bluffs
The Scarborough Bluffs are located just 20 minutes from Downtown Toronto. They’re easily accessible by bus or by car. If you’ve got stronger legs than I do, you can even cycle here.
The best way to enjoy a visit is to arrive just as dawn hits, when the parking lot opens. Then take the easy Bluffer’s Park Trail to the Scarborough Bluffs Lookout.
Watch the sunrise over the white sandstone cliffs, and look out at Lake Ontario.
It’s the most peaceful feeling you’ll get near Downtown Toronto.
It’s also a great spot for photos.
Then head up to the Cathedral Park Trail or the Scarborough Crescent Park Trail (I’ve done both in an afternoon. They aren’t very long). These take you above the cliffs so you can get better views of the lake.
They’re dog and cycle friendly, but are quite steep in areas, so I’d skip the bike if you’re not confident at mountain biking.
In the summer, this is a popular area for SUP, canoe, and kayaks to paddle around the still bay.
2. Go Tubing at the Elora Gorge
The small town of Elora is known for two things: its Mill and its Gorge.
The Gorge is a 1hr 15 minute drive from Toronto on small highways with views of farmland. It’s very peaceful, but you will want to make sure you’ve gassed up ahead of time as there’s long stretches between stations.
You can hike the Elora Gorge Trail, or go tubing.
You rent an inner tube from the Elora Gorge Tubing company – pre-booking is required online – then float down the fast moving river.
The river has some bumps, so they call it white water tubing, but it’s really not. It’s just slightly faster than a lazy river.
This is great fun for people of any age!
My dog loves to watch the tubes go by, but can’t figure out why I won’t let him jump in and chase them.
Afterwards, stop by the Elora Mill for lunch. They make great soups!
3. Stand Up Paddleboard at the Toronto Islands
Just a 15 minute ferry from Downtown Toronto is a whole other world. The Toronto Islands are an amazing place to get outdoors.
On land, you can explore the many trails and beaches. Or take to the water from Centre Island to SUP through the large marshland.
There’s also canoeing and kayaking if you’re not comfortable on a paddleboard.
The best times to go are early morning or late evening when you can get epic views of the Toronto skyline without much boat traffic in the way.
I took my mom at sunset once and the whole sky lit up purple behind the CN Tower.
Most people say the best way to get a picture of the skyline is from the boardwalk or a city park. But I think it’s from Centre Island on a paddleboard.
If you’re into birds, there are great bird watching opportunities while you SUP through the marsh area. It’s a whole different ecosystem than on the mainland.
4. Play Tennis at High Park
High Park has no shortage of outdoor activities.
My grandma took us here every summer to swim at the public pool, walk the small zoo (and see the famous escape artist capybaras), exhaust ourselves on the hiking trails, and to show how terrible we are at tennis.
If you’re actually good at tennis, I recommend their tennis courts. They have multiple courts at various places in the park.
In summer, these fill up quickly and often have a sign-up required. There’s a limit of 30-60 mins for play depending on how busy it is so everyone gets a chance to swing their rackets.
But in spring and fall, you can easily find openings.
After you play, sit on the grass nearby for a picnic and enjoy the greenery.
I take my dog to the off-leash park here when I visit my family now. There’s one area that’s an open park, while the rest are fenced-in trails to keep dogs from wandering off.
Parking can be challenging at High Park in the summer. If you can’t find parking along the upper entrance, head to the southern gates. There’s usually space there – and it’s free!
5. Visit Centre Island Amusement Park
You’ve probably heard of Canada’s Wonderland, but did you know there’s an amusement park closer to downtown?
Centre Island Amusement Park, also known as Centreville, is a classic theme park. They have a fair grounds area, old school rides like a log flume (my favourite!), and a petting zoo.
I always loved riding the Sky Ride (basically a ski lift that gives you and aerial view of the park).
The park is more suited for young kids. There’s no big daredevil drops like at Wonderland.
But it makes it a perfect way to get outside, have a bit of fun, and just enjoy the island.
I still visit and go on the rides (they’re not just for kids!), like the swan boat. Then I go for a cycle around the island in the afternoon.
It’s a great way to get outside without needing a car in Toronto.
6. Go Swimming at Woodbine Beach
The best beaches in Toronto are in the aptly named Beaches Neighbourhood.
I once cycled from Etobicoke to the Beaches just to lie out at Woodbine Beach for a day – that’s like 20km each way!
When you arrive, park at one of the paid lots early as they fill up. Then head to Tori’s Bakeshop for the best gluten free and dairy free treats. You can also stop at the small grocery store for any food you’ll want for the rest of the day on the beach.
The sandy beach is such a great place in summer. There are volleyball nets, kayak rentals, and a beautiful boardwalk to wander along.
It doesn’t have much sun protection, so bring an umbrella or a tent to block out the intense rays. When it gets too hot, just take a dip in the lake.
Summer in Toronto to me is being at Woodbine beach.
7. Hunt for Waterfalls at Dundas Peak
Hamilton has over 156 waterfalls. Making it the “Waterfall Capital of the World”!
You can make the most of this by visiting Dundas Peak.
I recommend hiking it in summer or autumn. During the fall, you get the most amazing views of the changing leaves of the Niagara Escarpment.
Dundas Peak is a hiking trail along the Bruce Trail. It’s an easy hike with an incline that’s about 2.9km in and out. Stop at the top for views of Tew’s Falls – the tallest waterfalls in the region.
Most locals recommend the trail to people because of it’s amazing views and easy terrain. You don’t even need hiking boots!
You can also take another trail at the bottom to get to Webster Falls. The trail to this one is a flat easy walk along the river.
Both areas are dog friendly, but they must be on leash.
I recommend parking at the Tews Fall lot. You need to prebook your ticket in summer, as they reduce the amount of people who can visit to conserve the area.
8. Explore the Cheltenham Badlands
Canada’s most famous Badlands are in Athabasca, Alberta. But Ontario has some too!
The Cheltenham Badlands are a unique area with rusty red rock that looks like rolling waves.
The geographic feature is caused by the exposed Queenston Shale after early settlors’ poor farming techniques eroded the soil. The iron oxidized in the soil, creating the rust colour you can see now.
To protect the area, you can’t actually hike on the Badlands. There’s a boardwalk trail that leads you to plaques explaining the geographic features.
If you want to pair them with a hike – like I did, since my puppy needed some exercise – you can hike a nearby portion of the Bruce Trail that connects to the Cheltenham Badlands trail and parking lot. It’s about 3km out and back. You’ll need sturdy shoes if it’s rained recently, as it gets very muddy.
9. Skate on an Outdoor Ice Rink
The most popular outdoor ice rink in Toronto is at Nathan Phillips Square. Every winter, the city freezes one of the downtown plazas and turns it into a giant ice rink.
You can rent skates, get hot chocolate, and even get Beaver Tails right at the rink!
It’s very close to the Distillery Christmas market, so you can easily make a wintery day of visiting both.
If you prefer a less crowded outdoor skate check out some of the skating trails in the city. My favourite is at Colonel Samuel Smith Park. I went to school beside the figure-8 rink, so we’d often go out skating after classes.
The other trails I’ve done are at College Park and Evergreen Brick Works.
If you’re going to go on a skating trail, be careful. While they are maintain, their ice isn’t as smooth or as flat as a traditional rink. You’ll want to look down more often to check for bumps in the ice or any rough patches.
It’s nothing compared to the roughness of the Rideau Canal when I moved to Ottawa, but I definitely tripped a few times growing up and embarrassed myself in front of my high school crush.
10. Watch the Sunset on the Toronto Boardwalk
Toronto has gorgeous sunsets over Lake Ontario. One of the best spots to watch them is at the Toronto Boardwalk.
Take an evening stroll along the flat path the runs the length of the city. There are benches, and Muskoka chairs dotted along the path for you to rest on.
I loved walking along the Humber Bridge with a hot tea as I watched the reds and oranges of the sky. You can also rent a bike and cycle or even rollerblade.
The area isn’t very well lit at night, so bring a flashlight if you plan to stay along the water for a long period.
If you don’t get seasick like I do, you can get an even better view on a sunset sailing tour of the Toronto harbour.
They get further out, so you can get better views of the sunset against the skyline.
Most tours offer drinks or dinner. So you can easily turn it into a full night event!
11. Cycle at Rouge National Urban Park
Did you know Toronto has a park 22x bigger than Central Park in NYC?
I didn’t and I used to cycle at this free park with my friends for years!
Rouge is a free national park made for people to have some green space in the city of Toronto. It’s home to the city’s only designated campground – with tent and RV campsite options.
But my favourite part is the paved cycling trails (you can’t ride bikes on the hiking trails).
You can cycle by the Toronto Zoo – and stop in to see Hudson the polar bear if you want.
You may even spot some deer or beaver as you go! It is a great stop on a Canadian road trip.
12. Go Apple Picking at Chudleighs
Growing up, we piled into the car every September to visit Chudleighs. This is easily the best spot for apple picking near Toronto.
You can take tractor rides through the orchard to get to your favourite variety. I’m obsessed with Royal Galas, so we’d always head out that way. You can even bring your dogs along!
Pick apples to last you the rest of autumn!
Then head to the petting zoo to say hi to Mac and Tosh – the two labradors who hang out amongst the goats.
There’s a giant hay maze, children’s playground with a giant slide, and a candy shop to keep kids busy.
Don’t forget to stop for a sausage and a cob of corn. You can have a picnic with them on the fields. They had this paint brush thing to paint butter on the charcoal grilled corn that was my favourite growing up.
If you prefer someone else pick your apples, you can buy them from the shop. Along with the best apple blossoms in the city!
13. Canoe or Kayak on the Humber River
The Humber River runs north from Lake Ontario up to Vaughan. The most popular part is the area from Old Mill to Lake Ontario, where people regularly canoe and kayak.
Launch your own kayak or rent one from Toronto Adventures.
The calm waters are easy to paddle in. You may even spot some beaver or herons as you go!
You’ll spot some fisherman wading into the water trying to catch fish. They’re especially busy in the fall during salmon season when the fish jump upstream on the northern waterfalls closer to Dundas Street.
I love to walk my family dogs here and try to spot the fish jumping each fall. My own dog would be too happy to jump into the water and try to catch some fish, so he stays home.
14. Play Volleyball at Trinity Bellwoods Park
Trinity Bellwoods Park is the largest park in downtown Toronto. It has a farmer’s market on the north end, an off leash dog park in the middle, and volleyball courts on the east end.
My friends growing up played volleyball, and this is where we’d come for them to play on the sand courts.
It’s a great summer activity without needing to go all the way to the Beaches for a good sandy court.
You do need to bring your own ball though!
15. Visit Farm Animals at Riverdale Park
Riverdale Park is home to the Lower Don Trail and – my favourite – the Riverdale Farm.
I’m obsessed with animals, so getting to go to a farm in the city is such a cool opportunity to be outdoors and get to connect with nature.
There’s a horse paddock, cows, a pig pen, and goats and sheep in a paddock. On top of that, the area is almost like Black Forest Village, with old time-y meeting houses, barns, and houses for you to visit and learn more about early Canada.
To get around the farm, you walk 3km of trails meandering around the paddocks. You can do it more directly, but it’s a nice way to enjoy a sunny day if you take the longer trails.
Best part: it’s free!
Note: It’s a farm, not a petting zoo. So you can’t pet the animals.
All the Best Outdoorsy Activities Near Toronto
Toronto may seem like a concrete jungle, but it’s actually full of outdoor activities for you to enjoy.
From the numerous hiking trails near the city, the gorgeous sandy Beaches neighbourhood, and even winter skating trails outside, you’ll find tons of ways to enjoy outdoor activities in Toronto.
So ditch the CN Tower and the museums for a day, and head to some of the locally loved sites for nature.
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Nina is the founder of Nina Out and About where she shares her experiences living in 18 countries in the past 11 years. A Canadian native, she also shares her favourite things to do in the True North with readers from around the world. Join 230k people every month in finding the best ways to explore Canada and beyond!