Pandemic walk: Marie Curtis Park and Etobicoke Valley Park

This tranquil, accessible walk in Toronto's west end takes you along Etobicoke Creek from Lake Ontario up to the QEW

When NOW published its cover story on the Top 20 Toronto walks last month, some readers offered up alternate suggestions, and one of them was this two-pronged walk in Etobicoke. Not the easiest place to get to if you’re coming from downtown, but definitely worth checking out if you’re in the west end. It was one of the most tranquil walks I’ve taken so far in this series.

Start: Wednesday, 2:30 pm, Marie Curtis Park (2 Forty Second)

The westbound Queen 501E streetcar to Long Branch loop will drop you off about a 10-minute walk from the park. I got on a 501 bus – streetcars have been replaced by buses during the construction at Roncesvalles – that ended at Park Lawn, and decided to take BikeShare the rest of the way. (Hint: if you’re coming by bike, keep in mind that the Waterfront Trail is often confusing, meandering into residential areas before returning to the lake.) The Marie Curtis Park BikeShare station is at the extreme west end of the system. If you’re coming by car, there’s a parking lot at the park.

Glenn Sumi

Sun-dappled main path in Marie Curtis Park.

How accessible is it?

Marie Curtis Park is quite accessible for wheelchair users. The two sections of the park are divided by the Etobicoke Creek, however, and the one bridge connecting the two parts is roughly a five minute walk from the lake. Because of current seawall restoration, the nicer beach on the east side of the creek isn’t very easy to get to; but on the day I visited, lots of people were enjoying a rougher beach area on the west side of the creek. There are two – count ’em two! – washroom areas in the east side of the park.

A paved path from the west part of the park leads north, below Lake Shore and enters a series of parks that includes Maurice J. Breen Park, Enfield Park and eventually Etobicoke Valley Park and Orchard Heights Park. It’s all gently-sloped and wheelchair-accessible.

Glenn Sumi

Don’t go chasing waterfalls, unless they’re nice and small like this one.

What will you see, and who’s there?

The two piers on either side of Etobicoke Creek offer stunning, unbroken views of Lake Ontario. But because of their position, they don’t offer a view of the Toronto skyline (if you squint, you’ll just make out the top of the CN Tower). For that, you’ll have to head further east to Humber Bay Park East. But who cares? You’ve probably come here to forget about the city. Take up residence at a picnic table or spread a towel on the beach or grass and enjoy the lake. Kids will enjoy the full playground with splash pad in the park.

The western park of Marie Curtis Park is more interesting; it’s got an off-leash dog area, plus trails that take you into a forest, full of lively birdsong. Don’t worry about getting lost in the forest; just remember that the lake is to the south and the busy Lake Shore is to the north.

What makes this walk so pleasant is you merely have to follow Etobicoke Creek to get north. You’ll pass a waterfall, with plenty of boulders on which to sit and take in some sun and enjoy the restorative sound of burbling water. To the west, obscured by lots of trees, is the Toronto Golf Club, but it’s currently closed so there’s no chance of having your reverie broken by wayward balls.

Glenn Sumi

This path beside Etobicoke Creek is popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists.

A little further north, the creek’s edge is reinforced by masses of piled up stones, which may have been added to prevent flooding. It adds a touch of drama. And once you reach Etobicoke Valley Park, you’ll find some ball diamonds. Throughout, there are plenty of off-trail sections for privacy and more challenging hikes.

One section of the path is bordered with a wooden fence that adds old-fashioned charm to the walk.

Glenn Sumi

A rustic wooden fence adds old-fashioned charm to your walk.

On a weekday afternoon, I encountered lots of parents with strollers, some young families and many older people getting some fresh air. There were a few cyclists, but not as many as on the Humber or Don trails. I’m sure it’s busier during weekends.

End: 3:45 pm, Etobicoke Valley Creek Parking lot

Just past the baseball diamonds is a staircase leading up to a parking lot. From there, I walked about 15-20 minutes north and east until I got to Evans, where I caught a bus heading east and then north to Kipling Station. Across the busy, loud QEW I could see Sherway Gardens Mall. Not the most restful way to end the walk, but I didn’t have the energy to retrace my steps back to the lake. Another time.

See more Pandemic Walks here


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