Let’s face it: Green space is a premium in Toronto. With so many in the city living in condos and apartments, it can sometimes feel like any semblance of nature is a world away. Plus, when you do find a patch of grass to throw down your picnic blanket, it’s likely already swarming with hundreds of others who've had the same idea (we’re looking at you, Bellwoods).
If you’re one of many Torontonians starved of high-quality green space, you need to visit Rouge National Urban Park — an enormous, under-the-radar protected area that’s largely accessible via the TTC and GO Transit. With several access points within the city and beyond, it's easy to enter the 75-square-kilometre park by foot, car, train, bus, subway and bike year-round. From history-packed hikes to kayaking and canoeing, you'll find a range of land and water activities for everyone to enjoy. Rouge National Urban Park is a superb day excursion for urbanites and nature lovers alike.
Planning a trip to Rouge National Urban Park soon? The park is still in its establishment phase, which will sometimes affect access. As these changes can happen quickly, make sure you check out their website for the most up to date information.
Rouge National Urban Park: Where is it?
Rouge National Urban Park is enormous — it covers Toronto, Markham, Pickering, Uxbridge and Whitchurch-Stouffville. Once fully established, Rouge National Urban Park will be the largest urban protected area in Canada. In the City of Toronto, check out one of its main visitor areas:
A tranquil beach known to many Torontonians, Rouge Beach and Marsh is an incredible spot for bird watching, paddling and swimming. Bring your canoe to drift through the marsh and appreciate the complex ecosystems on display.
GET THERE: Take the GO Train Lakeshore East to Rouge Hill GO Station (five stops from Union Station). From Rouge Hill GO Station, walk 10—15 minutes east along the Waterfront Trail to arrive at Rouge Beach.
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The only campground in Toronto, Glen Rouge Campground is the perfect place to get away from the city for a weekend — even if you don’t have a car to load up with camping gear. It’s currently closed for infrastructure updates, but will reopen soon.
GET THERE: Take the Line 2 subway eastbound to Kennedy Station. Transfer to GO Transit Bus 92 and get off at Sheppard Avenue East at Kingston Road North Side.
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A great place to start a day full of park exploration, Twyn Rivers Day Use Area is the start of three Rouge hikes and the location of Glen Eagles vista, which offers breathtaking views of the Rouge river.
GET THERE: From Union Station, ride the Line 2 subway eastbound to Kennedy Station. Connect to Bus 86A Scarborough towards the Toronto Zoo. Walk from Meadowvale Road at Sheppard Avenue to 7 Twyn Rivers Drive and the Glen Eagles vista (about 10 minutes). To Reach Twyn Rivers Day-Use Area, walk for about a kilometre (about 15 minutes) along Twyn Rivers Drive.
Close to the Toronto Zoo, this area of Rouge National Urban Park provides access to three trails for hiking, vistas and wildlife viewing and photography.
GET THERE: From Union Station, take the Line 2 subway to Kennedy Station. Connect to Bus 86A Scarborough towards the Toronto Zoo. Get off at the intersection of Meadowvale Road and Zoo Road, then walk 100 metres to the Zoo Road Day Use Area.
A little meander through nature is a cure-all for any woes, and that’s exactly what this area offers. Its trail follows a bend along the Rouge river, providing a quiet and peaceful hiking experience.
GET THERE: From Union Station, ride the Line 2 subway to Kennedy Station. Take Bus 131A East, Nugget Express Towards Old Finch/Morningside Via Scarborough Centre. Walk from Morningview Trail at Old Finch Avenue about 10 minutes to Finch Meander.
Rouge National Urban Park: Hiking
Already know High Park’s trails like the back of your hand? Rouge National Urban Park's gorgeous hikes range from easy to difficult, and are an excellent opportunity to test your fitness, reconnect with nature and recharge your batteries. Lace up your shoes and learn about the fascinating history of the area, stroll by active farms and snap pics of the views. The best part? Many of their incredible hikes are accessible via the TTC.
Take a stroll through the largest remaining wetland in Toronto on the Rouge Marsh Trail, discover abandoned early European settler buildings on the Orchard Trail, and witness rare Carolinian ecosystems on a 200-year-old logging route on the Mast Trail. For a full list of available hikes in Rouge National Urban Park, click here.
Rouge National Urban Park: Wildlife
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There are hundreds of species living in Rouge National Urban Park, including mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. Wildlife sightings are common — on quiet walks, you might spot beavers, birds, coyotes, groundhogs, porcupines, foxes, deer or snapping turtles.
Working with Indigenous partners, conservation groups and park farmers, Parks Canada has been working to reintroduce endangered turtles, making it easier for wildlife to cross park roads, and enhancing the health of agricultural wetlands.
Rouge National Urban Park: Parkbus
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We love that Rouge National Urban Park is accessible by TTC, but we’ll take a direct shuttle over the subway any day. Parkbus has partnered with Parks Canada and MEC to offer the TD Rouge Express — a FREE shuttle bus from downtown Toronto to Rouge National Urban Parks Zoo Road Day Use Area. It’s currently being offered between July and October 2022.
To sign up for your free shuttle to Rouge National Urban Park, click here.