Updated: Jun 5
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? A cool access to East Don Trail from Wigmore Park + architectural pedestrian bridges + Middle East pastries.
I can’t believe I just “discovered” the Phase 2 of East Don Trail and its beautiful pedestrian bridges!
The pre-rusted Corten steel of the new pedestrian bridges ages very well in a natural setting.
The previous time I walked westbound on the East Don Trail, I noticed a bridge under construction and assumed it simply linked the trail to the residential area we could see towering above the trees. My bad! Recently, when strolling with a friend, I saw that the bridge was completed so we went to see where it took us.
Surprise! The trail past the bridge does not take us up to the condos as I imagined but it makes a turn westbound. Following the paved path, we eventually reach Wigmore Park 1.3 km further east (20-min walk).
Accessing the trail from Wigmore Park
I was thrilled when I saw that hilly Wigmore Park is set in a residential area surrounded by streets with free parking space. It provides a year round access to the East Don Trail, where side trails lead to untamed sections of the East Don River. Urban nature at its best. I had to return, this time accessing the trail from Wigmore Park.
As I’m always on the lookout for a decadent treat near the trails I explore, I found that Kunafa's was the closest (1801 Lawrence Avenue East), approx. 2 kms from Wigmore Park. Their website was very promising, featuring their specialty, kunafa (or kanafeh), a traditional Middle East cheese and dough pastry drizzled in sweet syrup.
We left Kunafa’s with our exotic loot, did the 4-min drive to Wigmore Park, and then parked on Pitcairn Crescent off Wigmore Drive. The picnic table on top of the hill was the perfect spot to have our first taste of the Middle East warmed pastry. Sooo good!
We then followed the trail down the slope into the forest.
What to expect along the 4.4 kms loop
See UPDATE (tips and more decadent places) from my latest visit on May 26, 2023 at the end of this post
If the ground is dry, I recommend you eventually leave the main trail to take the sinuous gravel trail to your left. It reaches the East Don River.
You can then follow the dirt path to your right, running along the water. It’s a lovely river walk amidst mature trees and tall grass, eventually leading through a large evergreen patch back to the main paved path and the first pedestrian bridge of Phase 2.
The Phase 2 of the East Don trail was completed in November 2020, extending 2 kms from Wigmore Park to the existing East Don trail.
With two pedestrian bridges linked by a boardwalk and railings adding lines to the perspective, the whole thing is a wonderful piece of architecture! Gorgeous metal panels with fish cutouts complete the polished look. We found similar panels on the other bridges.
A bit further, we reached the third pedestrian bridge, connecting us to the existing East Don Trail. I like that the new pedestrian bridges are made in the pre-rusted Corten steel that ages so well in a natural setting, which also ties in with the art installations along the trail further west.
At the bridge, the river is quite narrow on one side but it opens up on the east side, giving us a lovely panorama of the stream rushing… northbound. Northbound? One has to look at a map to see how the sinuous river works its way to Lake Ontario.
Art in nature
Turn right towards the Go Train bridge. Don’t miss the sign explaining the art installation by Robert Sprachman you’ll find under the bridge! The rocks suspended at different heights represent the various flood lines over the years, in increments of 8 years.
A bit further, under the majestic railway bridge, awaits A Walk in the Forest, also by Robert Sprachman. It is so nicely integrated into the bridge structure that it is easy to miss. But don’t! You need to slowly walk on one side, and then on the other, to see the story unfold.
Keep walking for 5 minutes and you’ll see the Rainbow tunnel to your left. A rainbow was painted on both sides and the tunnel is lined with colourful murals. It marks the middle point go my 4.4 kms loop.
On the way back, make sure to explore a few dirt paths to get closer to the river (your chance to see duck families).
I then suggest you follow the paved path back to Wigmore Park. You’ll see the new accessible ramp they built for the Phase 2. During my last visit, when we reached that point, we were greeted by a… remote control car! The ramp provided the perfect hair-pinned road for the feisty vehicle.
While you’re here
Kunafa's (1801 Lawrence Avenue East) spread of pastries was so appealing that I ordered one of each to try with my gang at home. They also serve black Turkish coffee in tiny cups to go, the sweet beverage strewn with fragrant cardamon. .
Note that Lawrence East is packed with small ethnic restaurants and shops along the 1.5 km stretch between Victoria Park and Crockford Blvd (Wexford neighbourhood in Scarborough). Next time I go, I want to try Café de Paan (South Asian street snacks in a cool setting) and Kahari Boys (Pakistan cuisine).
If you’re into seafood, while you’re here, you should check the jam-packed store Diana’s Seafood Delight, which I visited a while ago to buy oysters. It is adjacent to the Rusty Metal Dinosaurs Garden (installations by its neighbour AC Cut & AC Waterjet) and near the large bakery Crown Pastries.
See UPDATE (tips and more decadent places) from my latest visit on May 26, 2023
I went back with my family 20 days later (on May 26). It's amazing how fast the vegetation grows in the spring! I've added a fews new pictures with additional tips and two more decadent places we visited on Lawrence Avenue East.
I took them to the off trail (the gravel one). Interesting to see the difference in 20 days. Compare the AFTER and the BEFORE!
This time around, the last part of the dirt trail to access the river was trickier because hidden by the leaves. Just follow the sound of the river. Make sure to wear good shoes and note that you will have to climb over a fallen branch. (This is not accessible for everyone.)
End of May is pre-mosquito season. It was perfect. For the rest of the summer, I would not venture there without mosquito repellent... Usually n to as bad by the water, and there are fantastic picnic spots along the East Don River.
Once again, an AFTER and BEFORE comparison by the pedestrian bridge, 20 days apart.
On our way back, we choose to follow the dirt trail again (just off the pedestrian). Then we walked pass the tricky dirt trail we used earlier because we had noticed another dirt trail more clearly visible. It led us up into the forest (steep hill) and down left back to the paved path of the East Don Trail Phase 2.
We visited two more decadent places along Lawrence Avenue East. We first went to Cafe de Paan (2016 Lawrence Ave E.), serving South Asian street food. We tried different sandwiches, all good but less exotic to us (French-Canadians). Our favourite was the triple decker Bombay sandwich.
We really were pleased with the fun street pani puri that we filled with sauce and had to eat in one big bite. We were totally surprised by the ingredients combination in the rose falooda (an iced treat which we all loved!). We also tried the pink kashmiri tea and the yellow mango lassi, both velvety and delicious.
We went a bit further east to stock on scrumptious Syrian pastries at Crown Pastries (2086 Lawrence Ave E.). Mental note to try their Arabic ice cream on our next visit.
This post is a complement to local author Nathalie Prézeau's walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls. You already own this book? Check Nathalie's WEEKLY WALKS calendar available on her site www.torontourbangems.com/calendar. It's free, easily printable by season, and it includes page references which should help you enjoy urban walks year-round.
Nathalie's guides are 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.