Scarborough Bluffs along Lake Ontario
This is a lovely walk that follows paved trails through Colonel Danforth Park along Highland Creek from Old Kingston Road in Scarborough to Lake Ontario and then along the bluffs and shore of Lake Ontario to East Point Park. Recommended for fall colours.
Lat/Long N43.779573 W079.176415
October 2005, November 2015, October 2016
11.7 km from (001). [Add 3 km if walking from TTC bus stop.]
about 3 h 15 min (not including rest stops)
The Highland Creek to East Point Park walk covers paved trails and some grassy areas from Old Kingston Road to Lake Ontario. Gravel and dirt trails are along the bluffs and shoreline. Sand, pebbles, & driftwood make up the path along the beach. The terrain is relatively flat with a few climbs and descents.
Washrooms, picnic table, BBQ at the Colonel Danforth Park parking area.
Picnic tables in the park or along the bluffs and shore of Lake Ontario.
The walk follows paved trails through Colonel Danforth Park along Highland Creek from Old Kingston Road in Scarborough to Lake Ontario and then along the bluffs and shore of Lake Ontario to East Point Park. This is a good walk for fall colour. It is basically a linear walk with a few loops. The descent down the bluffs to the shore is optional but relatively easy after the first few metres.
Colonel Danforth Park stretches along Highland Creek from the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus south to Lawrence Avenue East. South of Lawrence Ave E the landscape becomes more wild as Colonel Danforth Park is left behind.
As a Danforth, an American, was commissioned by the government of Upper Canada in 1799 to build a road from King Street east to the Trent River. Danforth was not actually a military man, but the title "Colonel" was most likely given to him by his workmen building the road because of his hard-driving, military style.
Highland Creek is a river in Scarborough that flows into Lake Ontario at the eastern end of the Scarborough Bluffs. It is home to several species of fish including trout, carp, and bass. It is a meandering river which, like most rivers in Toronto (including the Don River and Humber River), travels through a glacial ravine formed after the last Ice Age. It and its tributaries are almost entirely within the old City of Scarborough, and it provides the watershed for most of the central part of the city.
The hike begins at the parking lot (001) on Old Kingston Road near the road bridge over Highland Creek. If you are arriving via the TTC, you can take the Lawrence East #54 bus from the EGLINTON subway. Exit the bus at Morningside Ave. Walk north on Morningside passing the mall to Kingston Road. Turn right on Kingston Road and cross the street at Fairwood Cres. to Old Kingston Road. Turn right and walk downhill to the parking lot of the left (001) just before the bridge. It’s about a 1.5 km walk from the bus stop to the hike start.
001 - 002From the parking lot (001) cross Old Kingston Road and walk to your left across the bridge over Highland Creek. Just past the bridge there are a few large rocks and a paved path leading downhill to your right. The trail follows Highland Creek on the right and passes under the Kingston Road overpass. At the top of the hill there is a dirt path that goes off to the right. Follow this down to the Highland Creek river bed with its rocky bottom and water channel on the far side. The trail wanders through the woods along the creek and comes out to a paved road just before a bridge. Turn right and cross the bridge.
Keep to the grassy area to the left of the road and walk along the banks of Highland Creek. Follow the winding banks of the creek where the grass gives way to a sandy path along the banks and arrives at a more manicured lawn area with picnic tables and a BBQ. To your right there is a parking area. A set of stairs from the parking lot leads to the park washrooms (002).
002 - 003Leaving the washrooms, keep to the wide grassy boulevard to the right between rows of trees with the parking lot on your left and follow to the end of the parking lot. Here you will once again meet the paved trail by some large rocks. Turn right onto the trail heading south away from the parking lot and following the banks of the creek.
The trail passes under Lawrence Avenue high above and comes to a fork in the path. Keep to the left along Highland Creek. This path then passes under a large overhead water pipe. Along this stretch of the trail there are a number of small informal trails leading to the creek edge. You may wish to explore some of these. A large salmon was spotted in the creek in this area as I hiked along on a fall day. The paved trail moves a bit away from the creek and passes through a heavily wooded area with a lot of downed trees and dense undergrowth. The path crosses over a metal bridge (003).
003 - 004Past the bridge, the trail goes up a slight curved incline. Ahead is a metal bridge (004) taking you around to Lake Ontario. The GO train tracks pass overhead. There are great views of the mouth of Highland Creek and Lake Ontario here.
004 - 005Follow the gravel path along the Lake Ontario shoreline. The gravel trail begins along the upward path to the top of the bluff edge. At the top you come to the sludge treatment plant on your right and a large landfill hill on the left. Just past the plant before arriving at the treatment plant parking lot (005). Note: to avoid the steep and sometimes slippery dirt path described below to reach the top of the bluffs, head to the south-west corner of the parking lot and follow that trail to the top of the bluffs.Warning: Do not climb over the fence to get closer to the bluff edge which can be unstable.
005 - 006Turn left on the gravel path heading down towards the shore. At the intersection take the gravel path downhill along the shore. At the huge concrete water discharge pipe into the lake, climb the dirt path uphill and take the path to your left and climb to the very top of the Scarborough Bluffs. The trail follows the edge of the escarpment providing beautiful views of the bluffs and Lake Ontario . There are a number of informal trails in this area to explore if you wish. At one point this trail will come right alongside a two cable fence. Pass through the fence and continue along in the same direction on the other side of the fence.
On your right you will come to the large lighting towers of a sports field. The trail comes out to the large grassy fields of the water filtration plant (006). This whole area is named East Point Park. You will find a tree regeneration field to your right. There is some shade along the tree line to your left if you wish to rest or have lunch before returning.
006 - 007Head back and when you again come to the spot with two logs in the path over a wet area, you will notice an opening in the bluffs. Just past these logs pass through the fence again and you will find a relatively easy path down the bluffs to the Lake Ontario shoreline. If you do not wish to descend to the shore return as you came. At the bottom of the bluffs, walk along the sandy beach heading to your left (east). You will pass much driftwood and view the remarkable bluffs above.
Warning: You may encounter nude swimmers in this area.Continue along the waters’ edge until you once again come to the large concrete water discharge. Climb over this pipe and head back along the earlier path. Follow the paved path past the parking lot and at the top of the hill leave the roadway for the paved path to your left. Follow this back under Kingston Road and back to Old Kingston Road and the parking lot.
Enjoy the walk and the day!
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