Bluffers Beach in Summer
Canadians love their summers. Short and hot, we like to get outdoors and find ways to stay cool, active, and enjoy nature. This is also true of those living in Toronto.
For those who cannot leave the city to enjoy cottage country or other fabulous nature areas in Ontario, the beaches along Lake Ontario are the next best thing.
Toronto has many great beaches along the shores of the great lake where temperatures are usually cooler. This has proven to be a bit of a problem during the opening phases of Covid-19 lockdown. News headlines are calling out those enjoying the beach for risking the spread of the virus. As a result, the beaches are patrolled to ensure social distancing is maintained.
Bluffers Beach is a jewel in the city of Toronto. With spectacular views of the cliffs and a vast beach, you'll instantly see why this park is so popular.
There are plenty of places to visit in Bluffers Park, but this post focuses on the beach part of the park. We'll follow the same 5-km loop that was documented in an earlier blog about hikes in Bluffers Beach outside of the summer months.
The first step is to get to the right parking lot. Drive south on Brimley Road until it ends, then stay to the left until you see the parking lot for the Bluffers Beach as shown in the map:
The parking lot nearest the beach was nearly full at 11 am on a Monday in June. Although this is normal for summer weekends and holidays, the city is experiencing high heat, so those not working visit the beach while it's less crowded.
Parking is free during weekdays until 5 pm, but you must pay on weekends, holidays and evenings.
Once you've parked, you'll see a forked path: left goes through a forest, right goes to the beach. Let's start with the beach as your dog is likely already excited about the water.
Off-Leash OpportunitiesThere isn't an official off-leash area in the park, so I have a few suggestions. First, come as early as possible. On a hot day, the mornings are a bit cooler, and your dog will thank you!
Secondly, bring a Flexi-leash or a long leash. This gives you control while allowing your dog to swim in the lake. I've heard it through the grape-vine that it is acceptable to let your dog swim while wearing a short leash.
Thirdly, go to the furthest point on the beach. There are fewer people in this area, and it's covered with rocks and natural debris.
At the end of the trail, you'll be able to see the edges of the Doris McCarthy Trail. Visit the Doris McCarthy trail to hike trails on the top of the bluffs as well as along the water's edge.
There are trails between the beach and the bluffs that you can explore. Part of the path is covered with pea-gravel, and it is easy to walk along.
The trails further from the parking lot are muddy at times. Springs are flowing down the cliffs, so be sure to wear the appropriate footwear. My shoes look like water shoes, but they are made for hiking.
Along the trails, you'll see wildflowers, birds, and great views of the bluffs.
There are several access points between the trail and the beach.
There are times when the mosquitos and other insects are plentiful and active. I encountered sand fleas at the far end of the beach, but since it was the middle of the day, no other pests. Be prepared by bringing bug spray with you in case you are being bothered.
BirdwatchingThis is red-winged blackbird territory. You'll see plenty of these in the summer and hear them warning you to stay away.
Although I've never been attacked by these birds, they occasionally dive-bomb people who get too close to their nests.
Of course, you can picnic on the beach. People who spend the day at the beach often bring shelters, beach mats, and coolers full of food and drink. If you want to barbeque, there are picnic tables and fire pits near the parking lot. You may wish to come early to grab a shady spot.
Take your garbage with you
Bluffers Beach Park has many recycling and garbage bins conveniently placed wherever people are typically gathered.
There should be no excuse to leave your garbage behind when you leave. Sadly, many people find it easier to carry their food and drinks to the beach than to take the packaging away when they go.
During the pandemic lockdown, many of the city public washrooms were closed. This forced park visitors to relieve themselves in the bushes. As a result, there have been many negative encounters with human waste. If you must go, be respectful of the people who will use the park after you. Pick up or bury your waste.
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Watch for future posts to extend your hike in this fabulous park.