The beginner’s guide to Ontario’s Greenbelt
Eager to get outside this Family Day Weekend? Check out Ontario’s Greenbelt right at your doorstep
With Family Day Weekend quickly approaching, why not plan a safe day trip to Ontario’s Greenbelt? With its majestic conservation areas and beautiful rural communities, it’s the perfect locale for outdoor activities and exploration. From hiking and snowshoeing, to cross-country skiing and exploring, there are plenty of COVID-friendly activities for you and your family to enjoy now or later down the line.
Not familiar with Ontario’s Greenbelt? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the Greenbelt?
Created in 2005, the Greenbelt protects over two million acres of Ontario’s most vulnerable greenspace and agricultural land from urban sprawl. The Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), which includes the cities of Toronto, Hamilton and Oshawa, is one of the fastest-growing regions in North America. With up to 15 million people projected to live there by 2051, it’s now more important than ever to protect the vital farmland and sensitive natural ecosystems surrounding the GGH. The Greenbelt is also home to many of Ontario’s vibrant rural communities and natural heritage attractions and provides 177,700 full-time jobs and $9.6 billion in economic impact every year.
By protecting these resources and communities, the Greenbelt safeguards our air and water, reduces our flood risks, provides a home for wildlife, and ensures Ontarians have greenspace to visit and enjoy.
Where is the Greenbelt?
The Greenbelt stretches north to south from the Bruce Peninsula to Niagara and west to east from Halton Region to Northumberland County. Its major protected areas include the Niagara Escarpment, which boasts the sweeping scenic views of Niagara Falls, and the Oak Ridges Moraine, which contains the picturesque and productive farmland of Holland Marsh. These key regions filter and replenish Ontario’s groundwater, and feed into the many river systems that flow through the GGH. The Greenbelt also features the 80-square-kilometre Rouge National Urban Park, the largest urban park in North America, as well as rural communities in regional municipalities like Durham, Niagara, Peel, York, and more. In 2017, the Greenbelt was even expanded to include 21 urban river valleys (like the Humber, Credit and Rouge Rivers) and seven coastal wetlands, connecting its suburban and rural lands to Lake Ontario.
What activities can you do in the Greenbelt in Winter?
Ontario’s Greenbelt has beautiful hiking and snowshoeing trails, cross-country skiing routes and conservation areas for you to safely explore while maintaining social distancing. It’s also home to countless unique restaurants, wineries and breweries—many within an hour’s drive from Toronto—that you can support with takeout orders and indoor dining, when appropriate. For directions to all of the Greenbelt’s curated Discovery Routes, visit this interactive map.
Eager to visit? Here are some popular COVID-friendly activities you can do this winter and beyond:
Darlington Provincial Park
Located in Bowmanville along the beautiful shore of Lake Ontario, Darlington Provincial Park is a popular destination for winter activities and hiking trails.
Snacks Along the Scugog
A scenic 28-kilometre drive that starts and ends in the town of Port Perry. Pass through quaint towns, idyllic farmland, lush forests and marshland, and snack on freshly baked pies, butter tarts and local delicacies.
Home to the last remnants of the Carolinian Forest, Short Hills Provincial Park is the highest point in Niagara Region. This 6.2-kiometre trail features rare flora and fauna including sassafras, black oak, and brown and brook trout.
Wine and Dine in Short Hills
Drive along serene Carolinian forests, winding streams, and rare flora and fauna with plenty of St. Catharines vineyards, farms and markets en route.
Forks of the Credit
During this 5.9-kilometre trek through Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, you can enjoy the scenic views of Cataract Falls and see a diversity of wildlife. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities in the park.
Savour the Forks
This 85-kilometre drive through Peel Region includes stops at a cidery, a microbrewery and several organic farms.
City of Toronto
Rouge National Urban Park
Located in eastern Scarborough just off the 401, Rouge has abundant trails for snowshoeing and hiking and is open year-round. It’s also easily reachable by public transit.
Whitchurch – Robinson Tract
Grab your snowshoes or hiking boots to trek along this 6.1-kilometre trail through Whitchurch Conservation Area’s mixed-wood forest. Keep your ears and eyes open to spot woodpeckers, chipmunks, deer and fox!
Holland Loop Taste Ride
This impressive 68-kilometre drive will take you through Holland Marsh’s rich agricultural land and picture-postcard villages, with stops at artisanal bakeries and wineries along the way.
If you plan on visiting any of these exploration spots, please maintain social distancing so everyone can enjoy them in a safe and responsible way, follow posted signage and marked trails, and treat our natural spaces with respect by not littering or disturbing the natural environment. Please also remember to wear weather-appropriate attire and footwear. To learn more about the Greenbelt and how you can support the Greenbelt Foundation, visit greenbelt.ca.