Pandemic walk: Cedarvale and Nordheimer Ravines

Beneath the stately homes of Forest Hill are nature-filled paths open to everyone – not just the one per cent

The days are getting shorter, so don’t let summer pass by without enjoying the nice weather. A walk or hike will clear your head, provide exercise and boost your spirits during this difficult time. In this series, I explore some of the city’s parks and streets. This week: the Nordheimer and Cedarvale ravines, which cut through Forest Hill.

Start: Saturday, 5:07 pm, Roycroft Park, Boulton, south of Russell Hill

It’s been said that ravines are to Toronto what canals are to Venice or hills are to San Francisco. Two of the nicest ravines are the Nordheimer and Cedarvale. Neither walk is very long, 20 or 30 minutes at most. But they provide a stunning, nature-filled walk through one of the city’s more affluent neighbourhoods.


I entered the Nordheimer at Roycroft Park (Boulton south of Russell Hill), travelling northwest to St. Clair and Bathurst (basically the St. Clair West subway station). The path is wheelchair accessible, but some of the exits are only by stairs. Once up on St. Clair (opposite the Loblaw’s), I had to head a block north to Heath, where I found the accessible entrance to Cedarvale Ravine. From there, I travelled northwest to Ava, just a few blocks away from Eglinton and Winona. The main path is accessible, but again most exits and entrances have stairs.

Glenn Sumi

Gnarled tree roots add drama to Nordheimer Ravine.

What you can see, who’s there

On a sunny Saturday, I figured the ravines would be packed with people, but that wasn’t so. Perhaps the Forest Hill regulars were at their weekend Muskoka retreats.

The Nordheimer Ravine was especially unpopulated. I saw a few walkers, a jogger or two. The gravel and then asphalt path was easy to navigate. As I turned a corner I didn’t know what sight would greet me next. On one hill, there were enormous trees with their roots snaking out every which way. A little further on, I spotted friends talking on an overturned tree. Benches are scattered along the path. Just before you get to Spadina Road, there’s a big dog park (unused when I visited). You’ll also see the emergency exit that was used in the 1995 TTC subway accident. Beneath Spadina itself is some graffiti, including an “I Can’t Breathe, No Justice No Peace” illustration.

Glenn Sumi

There’s a big dog park before you get to Spadina Road.

Cedarvale Ravine was a lot busier. There’s a wide variety of plant life, since it’s in a wetlands area. Insects made noise, birds and butterflies flew about. The gravel path is wide and neat, although it was a tad more crowded with pedestrians, cyclists and joggers. The ravine opens up to Cedarvale Park, which is huge, with gently rolling hills, a cricket field, sport field and off-leash dog area.

Glenn Sumi

Cyclists and pedestrians enjoy Cedarvale Ravine on a sunny Saturday.

I ran into a friend who told me that in the past there have been Handmaid’s Tale cast member sightings. I’m sure production has halted during the pandemic, so no Elisabeth Moss or Ann Dowd appearance for me. Perhaps next time, praise be.

End: 6:15 pm, Ava and Everden

If I’m ever in Forest Hill again, I’ll definitely revisit these ravines. In some ways, they’re much more interesting than the streets and houses above. I didn’t spot any porta-potties, but since the paths aren’t very long, you can probably pop up onto a main street and use the facilities at a reopened shop. Just act like an entitled local and ignore the judgemental uptown side eye.

See more Pandemic Walks here and here.


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