Cliff overlooking the lake.
Guest blog series by Alix Aylen
Ride to Pickering
The themes of this ride include beaches, filtration plants and cliff sides. I’ve done this ride several times in the middle of the day, but I’d love to try it out at dusk or early morning for the dramatic effect of softer light on the most epic landscapes that we have within Toronto. Toronto seems so flat sometimes, and lacking in dramatic vistas, but this route helps to remedy that.
Since I was starting my ride north of St. Clair, I opted to start the ride on the Lower Don Trail (LDT) that would almost seamlessly connect me to the east end by bike. I rode through Mount Pleasant Cemetery, transitioning onto the Mud Creek trail making my way south to the waterfront. I love this trail and this ravine, but I don’t usually use the Lower Don trail for commuting unless I treat it like a highway and need to get across the city, from Northwest to Southeast relatively quickly. Otherwise, it’s too cumbersome to exit with a bike if your destination falls somewhere in between the DVP and Queen St. But if you’re taking your time and headed to the water, it’s the best option.
Once I diverged from the portion of the LDT that runs parallel to the river, I followed the trail east along the Lakeshore. The junction of the three sections of the LDT is always a bit of a mess, with cyclists trying to decipher in which direction they should head next as directional signage along the trail is lacking. Like trying to choose which exit ramp you’d like to take off of a highway without any indication of the direction or destination. Trust in the trail, but you might end up on Cherry St. when you’d hoping to get to Sherbourne.
Riding along the Lakeshore continuation of the LDT is very pleasantly simple and straightforward. There are separate paths for pedestrians, cyclists and cars, so it feels safe, easy and efficient to get from A-B. Until it ends. It just ends. At Joseph Duggan Rd. exactly. No signage to indicate this, but you can cross the street like a pedestrian and find your way onto the Martin Goodman Trail to continue after a short detour of awkwardness. From then on you can ride along the beach on the bike path, mindful of the pedestrians and other vehicles recreating along the beach.
I found the signage along this next section of the trail to be very helpful and targeted towards cyclists riding amongst other cyclists, as opposed to signage for cyclists that usually just serves to guilt cyclists about riding, as a reminder that the roads aren’t made for them. The signs indicate things like to ring your bell when passing on the left, and to signal when turning. Not just get off your bike and “walk your wheels” because there’s nowhere for you here. It’s refreshing to see signage that attempts to aid in making people better cyclists and not to discourage people from riding by treating those on two wheels like delinquents.
The R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant (above.)
The trail along the beach also just ends, abruptly, and digresses into a trail of hard packed sand. I didn’t notice any signage telling me where to go next, so I just kept on riding until the sand was too soft and deep for my tires. I then agreed to walk up the stairs leading to the R.C. Harris filtration plant, and make my way up to the road. A nicely graded, winding road up a hill with a wide view of the lake. This is the end of the “beaches” section of the trail, with the next section being more of a guided route that eventually connects back with a waterfront trail again. The route meanders through the residential neighbourhoods of Birch Cliff, Cliffside, Cliffcrest and Scarborough Village until you reach Guildwood. For the most part, it’s pleasant and other times it’s Kingston Road. But in between bouts on Kingston Road and through cliffside neighbourhoods, you can swerve carefully into Guildwood and Bluffers Parks for dramatic views of the lake from above and the bluffs from below.
The Scarborough Bluffs (above).
Port Union greets cyclists with a return to a literal waterfront trail and a bit of relief. After zig-zagging through residential neighbourhoods for about an hour, you can ride easy and straight along the waterfront all the way to Pickering. The GO train runs parallel to this route, so can always skip part of the trail by taking the train to the Guildwood or Rouge station, or ride all the way out and head back into the city with a nap on the train. I chose the latter.
In spite of the lack of connectivity and a bit of a mish-mash of bike infrastructure, this is the best way to ride east out of the city. My ride ended in Pickering, but the Waterfront trail route will guide you as far as Quebec where you could hop on La Route Verte, and bike all the way to Gaspé.
Alix's series will be coming to a close soon, with a grand recap to follow. Thank you, Alix, for being dandy!
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