Begin this 10-km waterfront walk with a spectacular view!
Updated: Oct 17, 2021
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Three good reasons to get out of the house: A spectacular panorama over Scarborough’s waterfront + a hidden public parking lot + getting acquainted with the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. (Note: This courtesy self-guided tour is not included in the 26 urban strolls and 52 mini-walks in the author's Toronto guide.)
Scarborough's waterfront is an urban gem offering some of the least traveled access to the lake in Toronto (when you go beyond the Bluffs). This post is about a very satisfying 10-km walk I did this week, from the eastern edge of East Point Park to the mouth of Rouge River, and return.
A great starting point!
There is a huge public parking lot hidden in a Scarborough industrial area around Highland Creek Treatment Plant (51 Beechgrove Dr). On the way there, it's easy to feel like you're entering a private road, but keep going. Look for the large smokestack of the treatment plant and you will find the parking spaces on the west side of Beechgrove.
By the way, this plant handles the wastewater for a population of 533,000! Solid waste is incinerated there. I learned from their annual report that in 2020, there were no complaints about the odour emanating from the plant! I guess they’ve improved their processes in the last decade.
From Beechgrove, you could take the gravel road down to the beach and head to Guild Park, 4 km further west. But I suggest you take the short dirt trail up the hill on the east side of the road.
The brave ones who make it to the top are rewarded with a splendid panorama of the lake, which takes on turquoise hues in the sun. With such a view, one feels like imitating Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music! The hills are alive... Those with a little less stamina can stay on the paved path contouring the hill.
Port Union Waterfront Park
The winding Great Lakes Waterfront Trail (called many names since the beginning of its development in 1988) is now aptly named since it connects 520 waterfront parks and 155 communities, villages and First Nations along the Great Lakes.
The history of the waterfront development is fascinating to me! So many relentless people were involved (not the least, the Honourable David Crombie) to keep on annexing new sections to the trail!
In the distance, you can see the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station (which will be phased out by 2025). The pebbled shoreline eventually gives way to a lovely sandy beach. You then reach a pedestrian bridge over Highland Creek.
Here begins the Port Union Waterfront Park. At first, the waterfront consists of small man-made bays lined with pebbles and large flat boulders. Several small birdhouses have been set up along the paved trail. After about twenty minutes of walking, the scenery changes and we see more trees.
A bit further, we come across the Rouge Hill Go Transit station. FYI: there are departures from Union Station at 6:35 am, every hour, until midnight 35 (more departures on weekdays), and the Union-Rouge Hill one-way fare is $7.90.
Port Union Waterfront Park
Not to be confused on Google Map: Rouge Hill Beach (in the center of Port Union Waterfront Park) and Rouge Beach, at the foot of the Rouge River (about a 30-minute walk from Rouge Hill Station).
We explored the dirt trail in the small forest by the lake. Further on, back on the paved path, a small bridge crosses over the tiny Adam's Creek marsh. Several birdhouses have been set up along the trail.
The heart of the action takes place at the mouth of the Rouge River, within Rouge Park. Passing under two bridges (one for pedestrians, the other for trains), you can access the river's marsh, a mecca for fishermen. It is adjacent to a large public parking lot.
From the top of the pedestrian bridge, there is a great view of the lake and the people. Cyclists share the trails with walkers. This is a favourite starting point for people with canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. Beginning the first week of June, swimmers can call the Toronto Beach Hotline at 392-7161 to find out the status of Toronto's 11 beaches, including Rouge Beach.
Rouge Park officially became a national park in 2015. It is now called the Rouge National Urban Park and covers 75 sq km. It is the first nationally protected park in Canada to be located in an urban area.
Don't forget to save some en edgy for the return walk!
While you're there
The closest places to snag a coffee not far from the starting point of this walk are Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (4411 Kingston Rd, open daily from 7am-10pm, an 8-minute drive from Highland Creek) or Coppa's Fresh Market (148 Bennett Rd, also open from 7am, a 5-minute drive from the plant). It features a bakery counter and several picnic options. Coffee is sold at the Customer counter.
A restaurant offering a good Pakistani and Indian take-out menu opened two months ago in the industrial area, a 3-min drive from the starting point of this stroll. Swadish Grill (670 Coronation Dr., open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Tuesdays) also serves mango shakes and chai tea.
If you want to give yourself a little break from the kitchen and order out on your way back, plan to call them for a pick-up! Otherwise, when ordering for a family, you might have to wait 20 minutes.
Nathalie Prézeau is the author of the walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls, which you can get on amazon.ca
or by contacting the author directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can pick up the book at 299 Booth Avenue, the author delivers in Toronto and Canada Post takes care of the other destinations.