High Park lets you escape into nature in the heart of the city.
Lucky us. In this city of concrete and towers, nature is miraculously generous with her gifts. And there's nothing like warm weather to send us out to commune with the birds, creatures, plants and trees that live among us.
Start with Rouge Park, the largest wild space in any North American metropolis at almost 50 square kilometres, and the hangout of First Nations for over 10,000 years. The Carolinian forest and meadow was snatched from developers' claws by a campaign led by now councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker and nurtures 762 kinds of plants, 225 bird species and 27 kinds of mammals, coyotes and deer among them.
Ramble through the diverse terrain by yourself - there are eight marked trails - or take one of the free Saturday and Sunday guided walks throughout July, focusing on topics like medicinal plants, reptiles and amphibians, wetland birds, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies, summer flowers and more. Go to rougepark.com for info.
If water birds are your thing, craggy Leslie Spit is home to many species of ducks and shorebirds as well as Caspian terns, snowy owls and the ever- wondrous mute swans, escapees from manicured estate ponds that now live free and mate for life. The Spit is open weekends in the summer from 9 am to 6 pm (friendsofthespit.ca), and the #83 Jones bus takes you to and from the entrance on Saturdays.
The Don Valley is an expressway for our wild co-habitants, and wandering the riverside will reveal its red-tailed hawks, herons, kingfishers, deer, coyotes, foxes, beaver and more. If you don't want to just follow your instincts along the Don or our other green swathes, check out the 12 self-led Discovery Walks that focus on northern ravines, the Humber River, Garrison Creek, the western ravines and Beaches and more. Get a map of the trails and sights at toronto.ca/parks.
High Park is a remarkable place, site of an ancient oak savannah, an endangered habitat zone between prairie and deciduous forest. It was formed from a sand plain left from the glacial Lake Iroquois 12,8000 years ago and is the love project of a team of hard-working restoration folk. On July 6 and August 17 from 10 am to 3 pm, naturalist Richard Aaron explores The Secret Lives Of Wildflowers in the park ($45 per session). Check highparknaturecentre.com for details.