Another year of extreme temperatures leaves us craving the warmth and makes us want to hibernate for the rest of the season. Opting for indoor activities can be an expensive experience and can get old fast. However, taking a picturesque hike outside is a lot more affordable and definitely worth your time.
All of the parks suggested below feature their own unique attractions. Spend the morning or an afternoon on a romantic stroll with your significant other or with your family. If you’re single, take your dog or grab a couple friends and plan a day trip.
As Canadians, most of us have the gear needed to protect us from frigid temperatures. So, instead of watching from inside, go brave the cold and allow yourself to experience these wild natural sights. I recommend you go there when the snow is still fresh (still snowing a bit or the snow just fell in the last few days) and when the temperature has just dropped below or around zero Celsius. Be careful not to stand on frozen bodies of water unless you are certain they are fully solid (I’ve made that mistake too many times). Also, the majority of parks welcome dogs as long as they are leashed, so bring your best four legged friend, too. Go out there and explore these dreamy winter backdrops. You won’t regret it.
Here are my current suggestions for the most diverse parks to visit during winter in the GTA:
Location: Woodbridge, Ontario
Price: Adults (15-59): $8.50 | Seniors (Ages 60+): $6.50 | Youth (Ages 5-14): $3.00 | Children (4 and under): Free
Located in a highly forested area, imagine yourself surrounded by white snow frosted trees, tons of trails blanketed in sparkly white just waiting for you to explore. If you are looking for a short trail with amazing views, the Lookout Trail is your best bet. Otherwise, make sure to take the Ridge Trail, which will give you the real feel of the entire park, even though it might take you a bit longer to complete.
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Cost: Free (Paid Parking)
My favourite park in Toronto is a must-see in all seasons, boasting tons of eco-friendly activities happening on a constant basis, endless hiking opportunities, stunning views of the CN Tower and a highly-rated cafe to sip a latte on colder days. With the park extending into other ravines in the city, its easy to discover new trails and get a decent workout.
Location: Halton Hills, Ontario
If you’re looking to find those incredible frozen falls you keep seeing on Instagram, this is the place to go. You’ll find less people than at most of the parks in Hamilton and still get those prime views. Take in all the unique features, from ice caves to frozen streams and ponds. There are a ton of trails to choose from depending on how much time you have. The well-maintained paths lead you on top of the escarpment where you can take in the sights of the rolling Halton Hills. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all.
Location: Milton, Ontario
Cost: Adults (15-64): $7.75 | Seniors (Ages 65+): $6.75 | Youth (Ages 5-14): $5.50 | Child (4 and under): Free
Once you pay the entry fee, you have free access to ALL Halton parks for the day. Check out the Iroquoian Village to educate yourself on First Nations history in an unique outdoor learning experience. Take a peek at the Deer Clan longhouse if you’d like to see current art exhibits, or just play a round of snowsnakes.
Head to the the Hide and Seek trail, where you will find unique wooden sculptures which stand out in the white snow. The frozen lake can create some interesting patterns when it’s freezing over, which is perfect for photographers. Enjoy a “Moonlight Guided Snowshoe Hike” under the stars, followed with a warm hot chocolate by the fire. If you are looking for something more extreme, try cross-country skiing or shoe shoeing on the Pine Ridge Trail. Since the pathway isn’t maintained in the winter, you’ll be able to get in some first tracks and be surrounded by frosted pine plantations. It’s a great winter workout!
Location: Richmond Hill, Ontario
Open all year-round and only a 45 minute drive from Toronto, this park is a must-see during the winter season. Walk through magical forests with over 120 kilometers of trail to explore. With so much land, it’s the perfect place for finding new landscapes every time you go. Spend your day wandering through multiple trails by mountain bike, snowshoes or cross-country skis. Most of the trails are relatively easy but offer you a different view at every angle. There is even an off-leash trail for dogs and their owners!
Location: Mono, Ontario
This park is technically closed for the season, but still makes it on my top winter picks. It’s likely you will find more peace and quiet this time of year than usual. With several trails, lookout points, icy caverns, and frozen lakes, Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is worth the effort getting outdoors. Plan to spend two to three hours there if you want the entire feel of the park. Choose between pathways that lead you through thick forests or areas with open fields. The lookout platform is a must-see for vistas over the escarpment of the countryside. Their main trails are easy to medium in difficulty, so you have choices.
Location: Brampton, Ontario
Although it’s a popular spot during other seasons (a must-see when the leaves are changing), winter at Heart Lake Conservation Area is extremely peaceful due to the lack of maintenance on the trails during this season. Don’t be fooled by the closed sign. It just means you won’t really have to worry about running into people this time of year. Make sure to proceed with caution and be certain to wear the proper footwear, as it can get really slippery. You will see snow frosted branches and interesting patterns forming on the frozen lake. Choose between pathways that lead you by the lake and through the forest, or boardwalk bridges that give you a view over the park. You can’t go wrong with either choice.
Location: Etobicoke, Ontario
Price: Free (Paid Parking)
Enjoy frozen winter landscapes at this waterfront park, located right on Lake Ontario. The natural ice sculptures that the arctic temperatures created, look like they are straight out of a picture. The well-maintained park features architectural gems, an amazing figure-8 skating trail, and is also one of the best spots to scope out birds in the area. It is a great place for dog owners as it has an off-leash dog park for your pup to socialize. You can get a nice long walk, if the wind chill isn’t too brutal.