Last call... for fall colours around Old Kingston Road
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Three good reasons to get out of the house: a country-like road in Toronto + an overlooked urban river + a very well stocked boutique filled with comfy clothes. (Note: This courtesy self-guided tour is not included in the 26 urban strolls and 52 mini-walks in the author's Toronto guide.)
As of mid-November, Colonel Danforth Park in Scarborough was still filled with colours. I hope this post will inspire you to go before the next strong gale!
Old Kingston Road
As a starting point, I recommend the free public parking spaces just east of 130 Old Kingston Road (one of the entrances to the University of Toronto at Scarborough and the historic Miller Lash House). This will put you closer to the trails.
Old Kingston Road branches out of Kingston Road at Fairmount Crescent and meets it again 1.7 km further up the road. Beyond Melville Presbyterian Church, the feel gets quite country-like. The road passes over Highland Creek, an impressive Toronto river that is often overlooked. Beyond Military Trail, it looks like a village.
This summer, I wrote about the trails along Highland Creek from the lakefront to Kingston Road. This time, I had the opportunity to discover the creek around Old Kingston Road.
From Old Kingston Road, you can take a paved path going north along the river. Normally, this trail follows Highland Creek into Morningside Park, 1.5 km to the west. But we currently can only venture over 1 km, crossing a small foot bridge and reaching a fence blocking access to the second pedestrian bridge. Restoration work extending to Morningside Avenue will continue until spring 2022. Note that you could take the other branch of the trail leading up to the Scarborough campus. We did not, choosing to return to check out Colonel Danforth Park.
Colonel Danforth Park
The trails south of Old Kingston Road lead into the huge park. For those wondering who Danforth was, he was an American commissioned by the government of Upper Canada in 1799 to build a road from King Street to the Trent River (in Trenton). He was not really a military man, but the title of "Colonel" was given to him by his workers, because of his military zeal at work.
For those wondering what Danforth has to do with Kingston: Danforth Avenue merges into Kingston Road at Scarborough. And Kingston Road eventually becomes County Road 2, passing Trenton (Danforth’s job, remember?) and reaching beyond the City of Kingston.
You can take the path across from the parking lots. We explored the dirt corridor that branched off to the right. It looped to the river near the bridge and back to Old Kingston Road.
The large paved trail east of the bridge is the one leading up the east side of Highland Creek into Colonel Danforth Park. As you pass the very high viaduct (that’s Kingston Road over your head), I recommend taking the dirt trail you'll notice near the river. It will lead you to the forest of mature trees and a bend in the river where a picnic table awaits us! Further along, the dirt path leads to the central street of the park.
You will eventually see a public restroom (unfortunately closed for the season). Go to the end of the parking lot and then head to the river (to your left) to explore the dirt path that borders it. This is where you'll find the best views of the river and the best access to the water's edge. Walking sticks will be welcome to reassure those who are a little apprehensive about navigating the root-strewn knolls.
The trail joins the central street. Walk back under the big viaduct to your starting point.
While you are here
Before or after your walk, you can pop in for a coffee just a minute's drive away eastbound (10-minute walk), at Creek Coffee & Co. (370 Old Kingston Rd, open daily 8 am to 5 pm) or Highland Harvest (396 Old Kingston Rd, open 9 am to 3 pm, closed on Mondays). Both serve coffee and snacks, and have seating options.
After Morrish Road, Old Kingston Road looks like it running through a village. This is where someone started honking at me relentlessly. Which really got on my nerves… until I realized that it was a good Samaritan, telling me that I had lost a wheel cover! Genuine village life!
The look when you stand under the white colonnades of the small Shops at Hyland Creek is charming! That's where you’ll find Creek Coffee & Co. A little further, the window of In the Spirit (376 Old Kingston Rd, open on weekdays 10 am to 6 pm and Saturday 11 am to 4 pm) caught our eye. Once in, we discovered that it was very well stocked with beautiful, comfortable and affordable clothes, and that it was in fact the store of a yoga center with an inviting lounge that served as a wine bar before the COVID-19. Their classes are currently online only but they hope to resume all normal operations in January.
Adjacent to the commercial stretch is Wesleyan Cemetery dating back to 1800. We sat on its benches to enjoy our coffee. I noticed a stone dated 1810!
Next is Highland Harvest, an attractive rustic looking restaurant/bakery/grocery store. Their scones are delectable and they do sandwiches. They featured home-made stew to-go in their cheese and deli counter during our visit.
Finally, just before Kingston Road, completing the small-town feel, awaits Ted's Restaurant (404 Old Kingston Road, open 8am-3pm), a classic greasy spoon.
All in all, a 5.5 km walk (approx. 90 min), that you can cut to less than one hour walk if you skip the trails north of Old Kingston Road.
Nathalie Prézeau is the author of the walking guide Toronto BEST Urban Strolls available in Toronto’s major bookstores, on torontourbangems.com/shop and amazon.ca or indigo.ca. We also deliver or contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a pick up with a discount at 299 Booth Avenue, in Leslieville.