Updated: Sep 22, 2020
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? A stop at the Shops at Don Mills + mini-walk around the Rainbow Tunnel by the Don River. Two good reasons to get out of the house!
Have you ever noticed the Rainbow Tunnel, as you were driving on the Don Valley Pkwy? it's been there for a long time
A couple of years ago, I bumped into BC Johnson, the artists responsible for this beautiful splash of colour in the middle of nowhere. He told me that he first painted it in 1971 (when there was no official trail) when people used to come to this tunnel to do drugs in peace. One of his friends had died and he turned the tunnel as a kind of memorial.
Nowadays, walkers and cyclists use the winding paved path which runs through the tunnel. The last coat of paint that refreshing the rainbows on each side of the tunnel was done a few years ago few years ago by the organization Mural Routes, with the help of youths who covered the inside of the tunnel with beautiful murals.
The Rainbow Tunnel is clearly visible on Google Map, but to access it easily, don't rely on your GPS! Take The Donway East from Don Mills Road or Lawrence Avenue East and turn southeast on Mocassin Trail (it's a street). Continue where it looks like a dead end and go down into the ravine. You will find a parking lot on your left. Access to the parking lot is closed in winter. On weekends, I recommend arriving no later than 11:00 a.m. to get a spot.
The entrance of the Moccasin Trail Park is just south of the parking lot. The first tunnel you will pass through runs under the parkway. You will cross the Rainbow Tunnel a little further on, a 5 minute walk from the parking lot.
On the other side of the tunnel, take the bridge over the Don River, then turn right onto the East Don Trail. I've explored all the little cross trails that lead to the right side of the riverbank and they all have their charm. You'll find one that overlooks a sandy beach providing the perfect spot for a riverside picnic.
Along the trail (which continues over 1 km) you will pass under a high bridge with a passage lined with a very cool art installation underneath. (Read more about this art in nature.) A bit further, by another bridge, you'll see an installation featuring rocks suspended at different heights, representing the various flood lines over the years.
Before or after the walk, you can visit the Shops at Don Mills, where all the shops are street-front. There is an Aroma Espresso Bar with large patio, which offers a large menu and is located in front of the site's public square.
This is also where you can visit Chef McEwan's super delicatessen on the north side of Shops on Don Mills, near a large free covered parking lot. There's everything you need for a king's picnic, including several take-out options!
Note that it is a 20-minute walk from the Shops at Don Mills to the Moccasin Trail Park parking lot.
Aroma Espresso Bar
1090 Don Mills Rd, North York (Shops at Don Mills)
Hours: (last checked on July 31) open daily from 9am to 5pm
38 Karl Fraser Rd, North York (Shops at Don Mills)
Hours: ((last checked on July 31) Monday to Saturday, 8am to 6pm; Sunday, 9am to 6pm.
This Toronto hidden gem is #52 in the #torontourbangems section in the authors new walking guide Toronto Best Urban Strolls.)
To get the guide, visit www.torontourbangems.com.