Toronto High Park is a gem in the west end of the city. In this post, I cover my relationship with the Park from my past to the present and give you reasons to visit and start your own relationship with High Park.
Growing up near High Park
I grew up in the Roncesvalles-High Park area of Toronto, Ontario. Back then, the area was known for its rich Polish and Ukrainian heritage. Today it is an upcoming trendy neighbourhood, popular with the new generation of Hipsters. The west side of the neighbourhood borders Toronto’s largest public green space, called High Park. It is 399 acres in size, of which about 1/3 remains in its natural state – making it a great place to explore.
My parents’ home is a 10-minute walk away, and because of this I have many childhood memories of biking there, swimming at the pool, skating at the rink or on the pond, playing at the playgrounds, and taking class trips to cross country ski, birdwatch, visit the Zoo or a history lesson at Colborne Lodge.
I didn’t realize how lucky I was to live so close to a large nature area until I was much older and met people who grew up in other areas of Toronto or further away who had never visited the park. My husband grew up in Scarborough and never visited High Park until after we started dating. We now visit it a few times a month.
My Relationship Today with the Park
Today, I live in The Queensway neighbourhood which is about a 10-minute drive west of High Park. I am teaching my daughter about nature and to love the outdoors by taking her often to the Park. At 6-months-old we joined Nature Babies, where parents and their babies meet up bi-weekly for a guided hike through the park – each week a different path and a different lesson. We continued these Nature Clubs until the school was closed due to Covid-19. We plan on enrolling in more classes when they reopen.
In the summer we frequently ride our bikes to the park to have a picnic. We love visiting the animals in the zoo. They have Llama’s and enormous Rodents! In the winter, we will drive their and go for winter hikes. The trails are great any time of year and we love snow shoeing in the wide-open spaces. We even went on a picnic in January – yes it was cold, but we made it work!
High Parks Rich History
- The Park was purchased for the purpose of a sheep farm by the Howard family who lived at Colborne Lodge. The Lodge is still on the property today.
- The Howard family donated the property to the City with several conditions, one of which is that the park would remain a free space for the people of the city and that alcohol would not be served on the grounds.
- In the early 1900s – before artificial refrigeration Torontonians harvested ice from local natural sources—including Grenadier Pond.
- You can read more about the rich history of the park on Wikipedia.
Why visit High Park?
High Park is open year-round and offers so many sports and recreational activities that you are sure to find something of interest.
- Winter – Hockey, ice skating, tobogganing, snow shoeing.
- Spring/Summer/Fall – Baseball, soccer, swimming, splash wading pools, biking, gardening, fishing, tennis, lawn bowling, trackless train ride with stops throughout the park.
- All year long – running, hiking trails and nature walks, birdwatching, High Park Zoo, Off-leash dog area, picnics.
Popular with Tourists
- Grenadier pond is located at the south end of the park. It’s a great spot to look out for wild-life in the summer. In the winter once the pond freezes you can go ice skating (however, I must caution you to use at own risk)
- Cherry Blossoms bloom in the spring attracting people from all over the Province.
- Summer outdoor theatre – Shakespeare in the park put on by the Canadian Stage company.
- Expansive manicured gardens and fountains with peaceful walking pathways.
Popular with Residents
- High Park Nature School programs
- Nature walks and hiking trails.
- Exercise trail (includes some outdoor exercise equipment – like pull up bars).
- Community garden plots and kids’ eco-gardens.
- Several playground area throughout the park.
- Local schools often visit Colborne Lodge and High Park Nature Centre.
- Grenadier Café – year-round dinning in the heart of the park.
- The concession stands serving up drinks, ice cream, popsicles, and other snacks.
Other Benefits of High Park
- Year-round washrooms (although in winter they are mostly portables) – not all parks keep their washrooms open during the fall/winter months.
- In summer, the park is closed to vehicles allowing for space for humans and their pets 😊
High Park Address and Website:
High Park’s official City of Toronto website https://www.toronto.ca/explore-enjoy/parks-gardens-beaches/high-park/
- 1873 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6R 2Z3 (Main entrance)
- Two other vehicle entrances located off Parkside Drive and one off The Queensway Avenue
Let me know in the comments if you have been to High Park and what you love about it!
If you like planes, I suggest you visit Danville Park.
What other nature spaces in the Greater Toronto Area do you want to know about?