Earl Bales Park

North of the 401 at Yonge Street

A dog park, river, forest, ski hill, and a golf course crammed into one great hike!

Winter might be the best season to visit this park. I visited twice during the winter of 2020 and have met incredible people and dogs. Where else can you go downhill skiing in Toronto? You may not be able to play golf in the winter, but you can spend hours walking the course, which is next to the Don River.

Fence around off-leash dog park in Earl Bales park, Toronto.

Recommended route

The route I recommend is around 4 km. Like most parks in the city, there are many entry points. I don't live walking distance to the park, so I will give directions from the parking lot on Don River Blvd.

Map to the Don River Blvd parking lot for the Earl Bales off-leash dog park.

Map of a 5 km dog-friendly hiking loop in Earl Bales Park, Toronto.

Dog Park

Start your visit at the off-leash dog park. This is one of the better dog parks I've seen as it is large and has a run in the forest for dogs to chase each other. 

Dogs playing in the Earl Bales Off-leash dog park.

Dogs socializing in the Earl Bales off-leash dog park in Toronto.

Ski Hill

After you leave the fenced-in dog area, follow the forest path to the right. You'll go past the Earl Bales Ski and Snowboard Centre. The ski season is scheduled to begin January 1 and ends mid-March, but it is weather and snowfall dependent. It's a pretty small hill, but perfect for beginners.

Earl Bales ski and snowboard center.

Walk along established trails through the forest beside the East Don River. In the winter, there are typically only dog walkers, so you may feel comfortable letting your dog run free for a bit. 

Hiking trails along the East Don River in the Earl Bales park in Toronto.

Several trails lead to the same place, so choose the path you like best.

Stuff you'll see near the Earl Bales ski and snowboard centre.

Wide hiking trails in a forest in the Earl Bales Park.

Stormwater Management System

The place all the paths lead to is an impressive stormwater management system. Here you'll find one of the largest stormwater ponds in Canada. The water is used to irrigate the golf course, snow-making for the ski hill, and prevents erosion.

Stormwater Pond in Earl Bales Park, Toronto

Stormwater management facilities gather rain and snowmelt to reduce the possibility of flooding. A structure is built into the hill to slow and filter runoff during wet weather. The water that accumulates in stormwater ponds is gradually released back into nature, which helps avoid erosion and downstream flooding.

Stormwater management facility in Earl Bales Park, Toronto.

When you get a bit closer, you'll see that a mural was painted on the concrete. 

Mural painted on the stormwater facility in Earl Bales Park.

There is a bench where you can have a rest or a picnic when the weather is warmer.

Enjoy the view of the lake in the Earl Bales Park.

The pond is not safe at any time. Many signs warn against walking on the ice in the winter. Nor should you let your dogs play in the water as it can be quite deep.

Warning signs of the dangers of playing on ice or water in the stormwater facilities in Earl Bales Park, Toronto.

A large stormwater pond to prevent flooding after winter or rain in the Earl Bales Park, Toronto.

Westgate Blvd


Walk around the park to the fence. This is the bottom of Westgate Blvd, which is a popular entry point into the park.

Westgate Blvd fence in Earl Bales Park.

The golf course starts on the other side of the fence, so carefully walk between the water and the fence.

Go through the fence to get to the trails in the golf course.

Storm grate in Earl Bales Park.

Walk on the path between the forest and lake, and you'll be amazed at the beautiful golf course once you turn the corner.

Path to golf course from Earl Bales Park.

Don Valley Golf Course

The views on a golf course are truly amazing, especially when they are in the Don Valley. Even the dogs seem mesmerized by the wide-open spaces next to the forest and river.

Dogs enjoying the beauty of the Don Valley Golf Course, Toronto.

Half of the golf course is south of the 401, so you could extend your hike by going under the highway bridge.

Dogs chasing each other in the Don Valley Golf Course.

Snow covered sand trap in the Don Valley Golf Course.

Dogs running in the snow on the golf course.

For a 5 km loop, walk across the course to the river, cross the river and turn left. This will take you on an unpaved trail all the way back to your car.

Bridge over the East Don River on the Don Valley Golf Course.

River Walk

This section of the walk is not part of the golf course, so you'll be able to walk this trail all year long. Along this stretch, I noticed many birds. Jays, hawks, woodpeckers, and lots of robins. 

Trail along the East Don River that takes you back to Earl Bales park from the Don Valley Golf Course.

Our dogs were able to run free and take a dip into the river in places.

Playing off leash on the trails on the river banks of the East Don River.

Sheppard Underpass


Don't get confused when you come to the underpass. You'll be directly across the canal from the parking lot, so simply go under the bridge, follow the channel, and then you'll see the parking lot just past the bridge.

Sheppard Ave West bridge over the East Don River in Earl Bales Park.

Underpass

Follow the canal under Sheppard Ave West bridge to get to the parking lot of East Bales Park.

Extensions


There are many extensions to this trail that I'll explore in future posts.

Enjoy!

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