Another year of COVID and the typical winter temperatures leave us craving for next season. Taking a picturesque hike outside is easy and will definitely brighten up your day.
All of the parks suggested here feature their own unique attractions. Also, they are no more than an hour’s drive from the city. 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 of friends and plan a day trip. Here are my current suggestions for the most magical parks to visit during winter that aren’t located too far from Toronto (or IN Toronto):
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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 National Geographic. 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.
Location: Milton, Ontario
Head to 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 by 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: Woodbridge, Ontario
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: 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 fewer 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: Rockwood, Ontario
Rockwood Conservation Area in the wintertime transforms into a completely different landscape. Check out the ruins covered in snow (which are still magical even with the renovations happening right now) or the small waterfall freezing over, situated right near it. Make sure you visit the limestone cliffs at the beach, which becomes an even more stunning sight in the winter. The entire lake freezes over and – at your own risk – you can hike to the lookout point which gives insane views over the entire park.
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. Walkthrough magical forests with over 120 kilometres of trail to explore. With so much land, it’s the perfect place for finding new landscapes each 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 people walk the trails at their own risk. 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 of 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 time. 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 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: Fergus, Ontario
Belwood Lake Conservation Area is a peaceful and underrated park to visit. Walk along the dam which will give you stunning views over the flowing Grand River and valley far below. There are 3.3 kilometres of winter trails to choose from or snowmobiling and ice fishing when the lake is completely frozen. It’s also a great place to bring your dog.
Location: Markham, Ontario
Rouge Valley Park is huge and features a ton of different trails you can take. One of my favourites is the Mast Trail which only takes about an hour and a half. Walk through forest filled trails, past meadows, and scenic lookouts over the water.
Location: Toronto, Ontario
If you live in Toronto, you don’t even need a car for this one! Did you know you could take a shuttle bus to the Evergreen Brickworks? 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, it’s easy to discover new trails and get a decent workout.
Location: Halton Hills, Ontario
Feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale at this gorgeous park, located in the Credit Valley. Make sure to check out the “hole in the wall” where you will find natural caves you can walk between. Don’t miss the wooden boardwalk that takes you past the small waterfall. This park features massive thick mossy rocks that are known to the area and even has preserved historical limestone kilns.
Disclaimer: All information and prices are accurate as of the time of the posting. All opinions expressed are completely my own. This post is not sponsored.
*All images are copyrighted by Julia Melcher (@adventureontario) or credited to their owners. Please do not use or re-post without written consent and provide credit where applicable