Toronto Outdoor Activities
Learn to rock climb
Here’s a fact to consider if you live in Toronto and don’t rock-climb: For a few seconds every evening, one of the largest cliffs in the world shadows our city. In truth, the Niagara Escarpment may be better described as a long catalogue of crags that could fill a very thick guidebook for beginners and intermediates. You can learn to love looming limestone with Equinox Adventures, the oldest rock-climbing school in Ontario. Every weekend until November, the Toronto-based outfit hosts two-day introductory courses near Milton.
Cost: $195, all equipment provided
In-line skate the Humber River Recreational Trail
A pair of in-line skates and a TTC token (hoarded or new) are all you need to roll through a day of outdoor adventure beside the Humber River. Take the subway to Old Mill station and drop east into the ravine to pick up the flat but twisting, paved but scenic, multi-use trail as it winds 19 kilometres north to Thackeray Park at Steeles Avenue West. A one-kilometre detour along Weston Road at the halfway point is just long enough to convince you of the merits of getting back down into the lush and quiet river valley.
Wheel Excitement rents in-line skates and bikes (up to $30 per day) and provides trail maps: greentourism.ca, 416-260-9000
Online city cycling map, sections 5 and 1:
Disc golf on Lake Ontario
The first thing you need to know about disc golf is to never, ever, call it Frisbee golf. To the sport’s adherents this is the equivalent of going to Timmins and saying skidoo. Beyond that cardinal rule, there aren’t many others (there are no tee times, no dress code, and you can find players on discgolfontario.com), and the worst transgression is a gentle slice into the bushes. The course criss-crosses Wards Island (more times than necessary if it’s windy), and provides great views of Lake Ontario’s expanse and downtown’s gleam. The course is free but the ferry ride will cost you $6.50.
Island and ferry info: toronto.ca/parks/island, 416-392-8193
Course map: deltatangobravo.com/images/wards-island-disc-golf-course.pdf
East-end ravine bike circuit
Combine a Great Lake beach, a paved trail through a wide and deep-wooded ravine and a GO train that welcomes bicycles on weekends and you have a 12-kilometre bike circuit that’s within city limits but beyond expectations. Begin at the Guildwood GO station and head north into Cedar Ridge Park to begin following Highland Creek as it arcs up to Morningside Park and down to Lake Ontario and the beaches of East Point Park. From the beach you could backtrack nine kilometres through the park, or, to quickly close the circuit, head three kilometres west along Copperfield Road and Coronation Drive toward Guildwood.
Toronto Cycling Map, sections 8 and 4: toronto.ca/cycling/map/index.htm
GO Transit: gotransit.com
Catch waves in a kayak
Greater manoeuvrability, higher speeds and a lower centre of gravity are three reasons why kayaks beat boards for beginner surfers. A southeast wind will send catchable curlers over the sand bars of Woodbine Beach. Capsizing is likely, so make sure you can roll a kayak upright or else have a rescue plan for wet exits (which, for you sandcrabs out there, means pulling your skirt and swimming out of an overturned kayak). A surf spot is no place to test shaky self-rescue techniques. Touring kayaks are faster, but flat-hulled whitewater boats carve better.
Rentals start at $25 per day from Mountain Equipment Co-op: mec.ca, 416-340-2667 or $35 at The Complete Paddler: completepaddler.ca, 416-255-6905
For mountain bikers with single-track minds
Twenty minutes north of Ajax, the Durham Forest and East Duffins Headwaters conservation areas hide almost 100 kilometres of trails for pedal-powered knobby tires. The huge area offers some wide double-track for beginners and challenges experts with fast straightaways and twisting routes through sandy pine plantations.
Getting there: East on Highway 401 to Brock Road (exit 399). North for 25 kilometres to Coppins Corners (at Goodwood Road 21). East 4 kilometres to Concession #7 and south for two kilometres to the parking lot at Houston Road.
Online map: maps.gotwisted.com
More info: durhammountainbiking.ca, northerncycle.com
Get in stroke, and into rowing
Think of the sleek sculling hull as a floating rowing machine…with actual oars…and more varied scenery. The Don Rowing Club of Mississauga hosts three-hour “rowing sample” programs on the lower Credit River for adults who want to find out how stable and speedy rowing sculls really are.
Info and registration: www.donrowingclub.com/programs/sampler
New on the scene: Stand-up paddleboarding
Humber River/Sunnyside Beach
Laird Hamilton may have popularized surfing a longboard with a stand-up paddle on the north shore of Maui, but the calm water behind the breakwall at Sunnyside Beach is a good place to find your footing with this new sport. For extra adventure, slip west past the breakwall and turn inland to head into the Humber Marshes and explore the gentle waterway all the way up to Bloor Street.
Rentals: $35 per day from The Complete Paddler, completepaddler.ca, 416-255-6905
Parking: Sir Casimir Gzowski Park off Lakeshore Blvd. West
Parkour: French for urban adventure
Parkour is an improvisation of gymnastics, rock climbing and dance played out on an urban stage. Practitioners bound around downtown areas – the more built-up the better – while vaulting over railings, scrambling up walls and leaping off ledges. In short it’s playing with challenging but fluid body movements in environments most people only hurry through on their way to a cubicle. The sport is creative, and so social by nature, and newcomers are welcomed to weekend training sessions.
Weekend congregations: At 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday until autumn. Cloud Gardens, between Richmond Street and Temperance Street, west of Yonge.
More information: www.pkto.ca
Spelunk into Mother Nature’s belly
Does it still count as being outside when you are 25 metres underground? Experience a whole new side to nature with this one-day guided introduction to caving (“spelunking” to serious subterraneans). The caves of the Niagara Escarpment feature tight squeezes, ice caches that last deep into the summer and freshwater springs that give a whole new meaning to the term groundwater.
Info and registration: oneaxepursuits.com
Cost: $110 per day
Special to The Globe and Mail
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