Cycling with the family in Toronto doesn’t have to mean riding on busy city streets alongside cars. There are plenty of spots away from the traffic that are safe for kids—in parks, along the waterfront, or in the city’s river valleys or islands.
Be sure to consult the invaluable Toronto Cycling Map, available online or in bike shops.
Here are our favourite biking trails for families in Toronto.
Possibly our favourite family-friendly bike trail! The Toronto Islands are completely car-free and reached by ferry from the mainland. You can take your own bikes on the ferry or rent bikes (including two-seater tandems and four-seater quadricycles) once you get there. A single trail loops around the islands, along a wooden boardwalk, past beaches (one nude beach—just sayin’), and past those lucky private homes on the east end. Access: ferry from Bay St. and Queen’s Quay; see the ferry schedule.
Don River Trail
This approximately 20-km dirt trail extends from the waterfront in the south and forking off north of Bloor and east to Sunnybrook Park and Taylor Creek Park, respectively. It’s rife with quiet wooded areas, some old wooden bridges to cross, and a few open spots with more industrial scenery. The northern parts of the trail are more treed and secluded. Access: several access points; southernmost point just north of Lake Shore Blvd. E. and Cherry St.
Martin Goodman Trail
Part of the larger Waterfront Trail system, the paved Martin Goodman trail borders the shores of Lake Ontario for more than 50 km from Etobicoke in the west to Rouge Park in the east. The city is slowly filling in gaps in the trail, but for now it’s best taken in sections, because at some points the “trail” merges with (very) busy city streets. This interactive map shows the “caution” sections to be avoided with kids.
Best sections with kids:
Humber Bay Park to Coronation Park (or Harbourfront Centre)
The longest interrupted section of off-road trail is from Humber Park on Toronto’s west end to Coronation Park, just before Bathurst Street. It’s a great ride, taking in Sunnyside Park, passing Exhibition Place, and marinas filled with sailboats. Continuing east to the Harbourfront Centre, HTO Park and, the Toronto Music Gardens, the path isn’t too dicey but does require a few jags onto city streets. Access: Humber Bay Park (west), Lake Shore Blvd. W. and Strachan Ave. (east)
Tommy Thompson Park
On a manmade peninsula (the Leslie Street Spit) that juts into Lake Ontario, Tommy Thompson Park has a 7.6-km asphalt pedestrian and cycling trail that takes in marshland and patches of wildflowers. From here, you can connect seamlessly to The Beach section of the trail (below). Note that the Nature Centre and Bird Research Station in Tommy Thompson Park are currently closed. Access: foot of Leslie St.
From Coxwell Ave. and Lakeshore, through Ashbridges Bay Park and along The Beach’s wooden boardwalk, past playgrounds, beach volleyball, and ice-cream vendors. Access: Lake Shore Blvd. and Coxwell Ave. (west), Queen St. E. and Silver Birch Ave. (east)
You can begin anywhere east of Victoria Park Avenue to take this trail that is partly along (mostly) quiet residential streets (with a short leg on busy Kingston Rd.). The reward is the beautiful Scarborough Bluffs Park and Bluffer’s Park.
The paths in High Park (map) are scenic and many are great for kids, especially on Sundays, when cars are restricted to one park entrance (Bloor St.). Note that the park does have some huge hills though! You can ride on the sidewalks in the park, take a jaunt down to the zoo or to the cool castle playground. Or up on the north end of the park to the pool and splash pad. Access: various access points around the park.
Lower Humber Valley Trail
The larger, 32-km Humber Valley Trail extends to Caledon. The shorter section within the city limits is overwhelmingly wooded and quiet, winding through parks and beside the Humber Marshes. You may see people kayaking and canoeing the Humber River as you ride, and you can connect to Humber Bay Park by bridge over the Gardiner Expressway at the trail’s southernmost point. Two sections of the trail are broken up by Bloor Street. You’ll have to carry bikes up stairs and down to get to both sections of the trail. Access: Bloor St. and Old Mill St. (north), the Queensway and Stephen Dr. (south).