Cerulean skies with hint of cottony cover and a perfect day for hikes. We were were not the only ones trooping into the Rouge National Urban Park, the parking lots were full, and inside hiking groups, wanderers, juniors, seniors, (some in uniformed identification), raring to enjoy themselves in the cool greens and gurgling fresh Creek waters.
The Rouge National Urban Park is 79 square km of green space, flowing waters, Lookouts and fauna and flora providing a perfect city escape from mundanity. The reason, the Park is centered around the Rouge River and its tributaries in the GTA or Greater Toronto Region extending all the way northwards from Scarborough to Markham, Pickering, Uxbridge and Whitechurch Stouffville. Statistics aside of being 22 times larger than Central Park of New York and stretching from Lake Ontario in the south to Oak Ridges Moraine in the north, the attraction is for the diverse landscape and activities. Its city locale has contributed natural landscaping for environmental benefits such as creation of wetlands reducing the flood force and creating a crucial habitat for semi-aquatic organisms’.
We enter the Park from the Toronto Zoo/ Meadowvale Road and with the sun provoking us on we follow the main path and a short distance on just step into the wooded areas to follow the gurgling Little Rouge Creek. The water is murky or soiley, in comparison to the icy clear waters of Alberta streams and rivers, to clear somewhat as we go further inside the wooded areas.
We walk along the Creek in search of the Vista Trail with the Lookout Tower. This is a two-level viewing platform, (constructed in collaboration with Ontario Power Generation) offering stunning views of the Rouge River valleys and Little Rouge Creek. The cool water proved more tempting, had to dip our toes, as after a few guesses of right and left paths we realised we were lost in the woods. Though lucky not to meet and greet a…deer, coyote, opossums, raccoons, skunks, ducks, beaver, red foxes, turkeys, river otters, woodchucks, porcupines, even a black bears, hawks, bald eagles and bats. Except for a flipping frog…. probably lost like us. Rouge National Urban Park is home to over 1,700 species of plants, animals and fungi.
Our mistake not to plan or map out the the Park Trails that vary in distance and walkability from rustic easy to difficult. The choice is from the quick 10 minute Celebration Forest Trail to the difficult Mast Trail that follows a former logging route and trails that wind through meadows, forests, wetlands, and farmland. https://www.pc.gc.ca › rouge › activ › randonnee-hiking
The Rouge Park is perfect place to careen down the hill on the paved roads (no cycling on the hiking trails). Reesor Road, which runs through the park’s section by the Toronto Zoo, is popular with cyclists, while the northeast corner of the park is better for anyone who wants a quiet ride closer to the countryside.
Additional activities: Water sports…boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle-boarding or swimming in the Rouge River, Petticoat Creek, and Duffins Creek. The history of the Park dates back 10,000+ years and walking the hills and woods one can visualise the Indigenous people traversing and inhabiting the space, and navigating the Rouge River in their canoes. .
Hope to visit again to view the Autumn colors but with a planned itinerary and from a different entry point.
There is more: Outreach and educational opportunities, including guided walks through the Rouge, camping and hiking workshops and Club Parka for families and kids ages two to six.
The only designated campground, on 114 sites, for tents, RVs and accommodations such as cabins, yurts or tipi for campers for a fee.
Dos and Dont‘s
- Carry plenty of water, eats.
- Dogs are welcome but on leash. Though we did see an owner and pet frolicking in the Creek
- As the sign says ‘Take only photos,leave only footprints’
- Most important…. beware of ticks. Hikers are advised to dress appropriately, bug spray self and a thorough wash once home. By the time I reached home I felt scratchy all over. Probably psychological .