Hike #47: Vista Trail

Distance hiked: 5km
Location: Rouge National Urban Park, Ontario
Date: October 24 2020

Located in Scarborough, Rouge National Urban Park is the largest urban park in North America. The park features a number of trails through wetlands, forests, meadows, and along the coast of Lake Ontario. At the start of the pandemic Rouge National Urban Park became our go-to place to hike due to its close proximity to where we live. We haven’t been in a few months, so with pleasant weather on the forecast, we decided to return to enjoy the fall colours.

We initially planned to hike along the Monarch Trail, but the road leading to the trailhead was closed. Instead we parked at the main parking area near the Parks Canada’s visitor centre and hiked along the Vista Trail (1.6km one-way, rated moderate). With not much else to (safely) do these days besides hiking, it seems like everyone else had a similar plan as the parking lot was pretty packed.

The trailhead is located a few hundred metres from the parking area and is well signed. The trail features a two-level viewing platform and is reputed to provide one of the best places to view Toronto’s fall colours.

The viewing platform is located near the start of the trail. And I’m pretty sure that most of the other people visiting the park were all at this platform. Rules about physical and social distancing seemed to be forgotten. Someone even asked us to take a picture of them (with their grandparents!) with their phone.

From the viewing platform you can see Beare Hill to the north. It was once a landfill, but was decommissioned in 1983. Today the hill is one of the highest points of land in the City of Toronto.

We didn’t stay long at the viewing platform given the crowds. So we continued our hike along the trail, all the while trying to dodge people that we came across. The path is quite wide, but didn’t seem wide enough. Now I remember why we stopped hiking here during the pandemic.

Another interesting feature of the trail is its hydro corridor and abundance of power lines.

The trail then winds through the forest along a ridge and ends at the road on Twyn Rivers Drive.

There are a few options to extend your hike from this point. We crossed the road and hiked part of the Mast Trail (2.2km one-way, rated moderate to difficult) as the north trailhead is located here. The trail follows along a former logging route where pine trees were cut and floated down the river. We hiked about half the trail, and turned back once we reached the top of the ridge.

On the return trip along the Vista Trail, we made another modification to hike along part of the Orchard Trail (2km one-way, rated moderate) for a change of scenery and it seemed less busy than the Vista Trail. The trail winds through human-made wetlands and loops back to the main parking area.

We wrapped up our hike around lunch time. While it would have been nice to spend more time here, we were a bit concerned by the alarming number of people on the trails. We headed home and decided to just go for another hike on Sunday. This time somewhere outside of the city.


My progress on the 52 Hike Challenge can be found here

48 thoughts on “Hike #47: Vista Trail


    I’m with you. The number of people enjoying the outdoors around the city is unbelievable. The forest across the street from us was packed yesterday. It’s probably one of the more positive effects of the pandemic, but it looks like we don’t have enough trails to accommodate everyone with the same level of tranquility that we had before. I feel a bit selfish when I think like this 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There has been such a huge demand for our parks and conservation areas this year. Even the campgrounds seemed to be busier than usual. I’m with you, it’s great to see so many people visit these areas, but at the same time, it’s not as enjoyable when the trails are packed and there is more trash lying around. I imagine next year is going to be even worse since it’s already being branded as the year of the staycation.

  2. Olympus Mountaineering says:

    Nice to get a “glimpse” from Rouge National Urban Park.

    How do you co-op with the epidemic in Canada? Here in Greece, we are in the second lockdown since the end of October and we are not allowed to visit the mountains (actually to not leave our homes). Hopefully in Canada the situation is better.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Near the start of the pandemic, the parks were closed across Canada. However, the provincial parks and conservation areas in Ontario reopened towards the end of Spring. We’re in our second lockdown now, but the restrictions aren’t nearly as tight as the first one. Downhill skiing was shut down, but all the parks have remained open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. While it’s recommended that we remain at home, we can still go out and enjoy the outdoors.

  3. kagould17 says:

    This park is well named. Loved the vistas. I am with you on the social distancing, selfie requests and crowding. We try to seek out trails a little further afield or earlier in the day, but even that does not always work. Sigh. Will we ever accept crowded situations again without anxiety, once this current crisis is over? Keep on hiking guys. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s tough hiking anywhere within a 45 minute drive of Toronto, even if you leave first thing in the morning. The crowds have just been unbelievable this year. On Sunday we drove down to Niagara and found an area that wasn’t nearly as busy and it was so much more enjoyable. We always thought we’d live in Toronto, or a big city, for most of our lives while we still work, but we’ve started looking for a house outside the city. We figured this makes more sense since we’ve been spending more time outside the city and working from home is likely here to stay in some shape or form.

  4. Ab says:

    I love that Rouge Park is so close to home and is a wonderful urban oasis. It’s provided a wonderful outdoor getaway during this pandemic. We’ll definitely be back in the Spring time. It was particularly nice to escape there during the Fall with its beautiful colonies.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Back in March when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we used to go to Rouge National Urban Park all the time. It was fantastic as there was no traffic on the roads and hardly anyone else on the trails. Now it seems like everyone is out on the trails. I don’t blame them, I’m doing the exact same thing. It clearly demonstrates that there is a need for these green spaces and that our existing parks and conservation areas around the GTA can’t accommodate demand. Now that it’s winter, I’m hoping the trails won’t be as busy. We’re actually planning to go to Rouge Park later today. It’s too bad we got all this rain overnight as it looks like there’s not much snow left.

      • Ab says:

        I hope you enjoy your hike today and the trails aren’t too muddy!

        I do anticipate this summer there will be more people doing road trips in Ontario given what they learned last year. Are you booking your accommodations earlier this time for next summer?

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The trails were kind of slushy, but that’s preferable over mud. And it wasn’t very busy. And yes, we are planning on booking our campsites as soon as that reservation window opens. I have a few road trips mapped out and I’ve already picked up my 2021 annual Ontario Parks pass. I’m ready for summer!!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s funny how that happens. I guess there’s a lot of people who like the idea of spending time outdoors, but don’t want to commit to a full hike. Our strategy is usually to leave the city to hike or show up super early to the trailhead. And yes, it’s easy to see why this trail was so popular as the viewpoint was less than 500m from the parking lot and provided fabulous views into the valley.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Despite living in Toronto for over a decade, this was the first year that we’ve checked out Rouge Park. We used to come here a lot at the start of the pandemic back when there was no traffic on the roads. As people started to venture out in the Spring, the trails became more crowded so we started going further out of the city to hike. It’s surprisingly a really nice park for being so close to the city.

  5. ourcrossings says:

    It’s nice to have places like Rouge National Urban Park near where you live just so you ca enjoy the great outdoors. Fortunately, Sligo trails were fairly empty this year, especially early in the morning. Love autumn colours. Great photos. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. It’s always good to have access to green spaces nearby. The one downside to living in a big city like Toronto is that when the weather is nice, the whole city tends to want to spend time there and the trails become overwhelmingly crowded. That’s nice that the trails in Sligo were fairly empty this year. The morning is always a great time to go for the hike as there are better wildlife viewing opportunities and the trails are usually quiet. Take care.

  6. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    So great to have a big park in the middle of a city. It looks like it was a very pretty day.
    During a hike in the summer, we had someone ask us to take a picture of their group – the person walked right up to us, no mask, certainly no distancing. When we said “sorry, if not for covid, we would,” the person got really huffy. Some people insist on “business as usual.”

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’re extremely fortunate to have such a big park so close to the city. The only downside is that it is extremely popular, especially when the weather is nice. It’s unbelievable how some people still don’t follow public health restrictions. I don’t get it.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Rouge Park isn’t nearly as scenic as many of the sections along the Bruce Trail and it’s a lot busier, but it’s conveniently located close to Toronto. It’s especially lovely in the Fall when all the leaves are changing colour.

  7. alisendopf says:

    I read on your 52 Hikes page that you have successfully completed the 52 Hike Challenge! Congratulations! That was such a worthy goal, and you did it! I look forward to reading about your remaining hikes. I can’t wait to hear what you have planned for 2021.
    All the best, my friends,

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! On one hand, it feels awesome to have completed the challenge, but on the other, it makes me kind of sad to no longer have something to work towards. Luckily 2021 is right around the corner and with a New Year comes a new challenge.

  8. Lookoom says:

    So far I have limited my exploration of Park Rouge to the Toronto Zoo, but I recognize that there is a reserve of hiking trails. Regardless of the proximity of the city, it makes for a great outing.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’ve been to the Toronto Zoo many times over the years and never really realized that Rouge Park is right around the corner from it. This has been the first year where we’ve finally checked it out. It’s a good option for when we’re pressed for time or don’t want to spend too much time driving to go for a hike.

  9. Christie says:

    We have never hiked in Rouge Park, although it’s a stone’s throw away😉 We also noticed how crowdy all the parks in the city have become.
    Happy New Year!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We used to hike at Rouge Park near the start of the pandemic when there was next to no one on the roads or the trails. But of course all of that was short-lived. We’ve noticed that the trails have been busier this year too. It’s not that surprising given that there are few other activities to safely do. Enjoy the rest of your holidays and happy New Year to you as well.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a beautiful day to go for a hike. Turns out everyone else in Toronto thought the same thing. Despite the crowds, we’re glad we were able to get some fresh air and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s tough to get mad that other people are going for a hike when I’m doing the exact same thing. This year the trails near Toronto have been incredibly busy, so we try to show up first thing in the morning to snag a parking spot and avoid the crowds. I guess this is just the new “normal” now.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It makes me long for those beautiful fall days now that it’s winter. We used to hike at Rouge Park near the start of the pandemic and glad we returned in the Fall to check out the fall foliage. It did not disappoint. Thanks for reading.

  10. Live Laugh Dis says:

    The trails have become so busy here…along with the rain and mud…it is hard to find a good hike right now. Looking forward to when they aren’t so busy. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy your hikes and all the beautiful photos you take. Thanks for sharing. -Andrea

  11. carolinehelbig says:

    I admit that I was surprised when I read your first sentence. No idea until now that the Rouge is North America’s largest urban park. You captured it at peak time. The fall foliage is stunning. I probably mentioned this before, but I miss those incredible Ontario/Quebec colour displays.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We started coming to Rouge Park near the start of the pandemic when the roads (and trails) were empty since it’s so close by. While it’s not as secluded as some of the other parks that we visit, it’s a nice alternative for when we’re looking to squeeze in a short hike. We just have to remember to come early as the parking lot can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and during the peak of Fall.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This would be an excellent trail for running, except for the fact that’s it’s very popular, especially in the fall as it’s reputed to provide one of the best places to view the fall foliage in Toronto. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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