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Green in The City: York Beltline Trail

Toronto is home to over 1,500 green spaces, ranging from large destinations like High Park and Trinity Bellwoods, to hundreds of tiny parkettes and over 600 km of trails. The city’s Midtown is no stranger to the green thumb, with dozens of parks, trails, ravines, and green space to explore. It’s difficult to know what’s out there given the sheer scale of green in the city, so today we take an in-depth look at the York Beltline Trail, which is only a short five-minute walk from our Midtown community.

The York Beltline Trail is the first of three sections of the Beltline Trail, which stretches 9 km from Eglinton and Caledonia, to the Moore Park Ravine at Bayview Avenue. The trail is based on the path of an old railway that used to circle the city. Originally founded in 1892, the Belt Line Railway was constructed as a commuter railway to help service the new neighbourhoods that were sprouting just north of the city limits at that time. It looped from Union Station, along Don Valley to the northern edge of Mount Pleasant cemetery, until circling back to Union via the GO Barrie line at Eglinton and Caledonia.

Unfortunately, the Railway did not receive the passenger base to be financially viable and failed after only two years. From 1910 to 1970, the railway served as freight service until Canadian National Railways (CN) put the railway and its surrounding land up for sale. This set the stage for one of the very first public battles for biking trails in Toronto. York Mayor Phil White wanted to convert the trail into bike paths, whereas the City of Toronto wanted to expand roads and existing parks. Safe to say that the bike path plan won, and today the Beltline Trail has become a go-to destination for runners and cyclists looking to escape the city.

So how do you get to it?

Today, the Beltline Trail is a 9km walking and cycling path. The trail has numerous entrance points across the northern part of the city, and residents of Empire Midtown will be a short five-minute walk to the western-side of the trail. From the Empire Midtown entrance, you can make it all the way to the Evergreen Brickworks, although you’ll have to cross a few roads in your trek there. At certain points on the trail, tall trees form a full canopy overhead, which is a pleasant treat for Torontonians that are used to city streets. An added bonus with the Beltline Trail is that it is easily accessible by the TTC, and will be even more accessible when the Eglinton LRT is completed.

For cyclists, the best part of the trail comes at the southeast corner of Mount Pleasant Cemetery – the hard packed dirt and downward slope makes riding through the Moore Park Ravine an effortless and beautiful way to take in an afternoon.