East Don River Trail - Sheppard to Finch

Enjoy a hike along the northeast section of the Don River that flows between Sheppard Ave and Finch Ave. The park is popular and gives you an opportunity to see wildlife, birds, and wildflowers.

The trails along the Don River north of Sheppard Ave are paved and except for the first km, primarily flat. The river through this section is tame and quite shallow in places, especially in the summer. 

Sign for East Don Park for hiking trail

This blog entry gives directions for a hike along the river from Sheppard Ave and Leslie Street to Finch Ave. The starting point is near the North York General Hospital and is reachable from the Betty Sutherland Trail.

Suggested Route

The route I suggest is a 7.5 km loop that can be modified in several ways to make it either shorter or longer depending on your situation.

Map showing loop trail for East Don River Trail

For the 7.5 km loop: follow the paved path for 3 km until you reach Finch Ave. Walk west along Finch Ave for 1 km. Turn left onto the trail into the ravine just past the condo building and before you get to Bayview Ave. Follow that path, which is unpaved in parts for 2.5 km until you reach the main trail. Turn right, and you'll be 1 km from the parking lot.


The parking lot is located on Old Leslie Street near the Sheppard and Leslie Street intersection. 

Parking Lot for East Don Park trail

There are washrooms in the parking lot, with new COVID usage rules. 

Sign with COVID-19 rules of using washroom

Picnic Area

Just past the parking lot is a picnic area with a few tables so you can have a snack or prepare for your hike. 

Picnic area at the East Don River Park

Off-leash Opportunities

This trail is very heavily populated with cyclists who travel fast on the paved trails. Do not allow your dog off-leash when walking on the paved trail. Instead, follow the unpaved paths to the river, and you'll find trails or sandbanks where off-leash play is feasible.

Dog playing in sand along Don River in East Don River Park

My daredevil prefers walking across trees that have fallen over the river to swimming. 

Dog walking across a fallen tree in the East Don River Park


From the parking lot walking north, you'll cross three bridges in the first kilometer. In the fall, you might be able to see salmon jumping in the river. In the summer, you'll likely see ducks and geese.

Dog looking over bridge over Don River in the East Don River Park

Geese in Don River in East Don River Park

Fork in the Path

After walking for 1 km, you'll reach a fork in the path. Follow the right-hand route. You'll return to this spot at the end of the walk.

Fork in trail in the East Don River Park

Alamosa Tennis Courts

The path takes you to the Alamosa Tennis Courts, where there are seating areas for a rest or water refill if necessary. We spotted rabbits, so it's a place Lucy loves to visit.

Rest area near Alamosa Tennis Courts in East Don River Park

Rabbit in the East Don River Park

At this junction, turn left to continue the hike. Going straight will take you to Alamosa Ave.

Path choice between Alamosa and East Don Trail

This part of the trail has been under construction for the past year. I've come here often, hoping that the construction finished. The "road closed" sign is still up, but the fence has been removed. The notice says construction will be completed by July 2. 

On my latest walk, the path still needed to be paved, but the machines were in the area, so I'm confident the work will be done soon. 

Construction sign on East Don Trail

Extensive work was done on the sewer system in the area, and invasive trees have been removed from the park. 

Marsh and Meadow

This section is flat, and if you were to see deer, this is likely the place. 

Meadow along trail in the East Don Park

Finch Ave

I try to avoid walking along busy streets, but this is the best way to make a loop between these trails. This part of the hike is 1 km in length, and you walk along Finch Ave overlooking a very thick section of the ravine where there are no trails. 

Looking over bridge on Finch Ave overlooking thick ravine

It was from this spot that I saw a Grey Catbird.

Grey Catbird in a tree in the East Don River Park

Unpaved trail

The trail back to your car is along a tributary of the Don River called the Newtonbrook Creek. Much of the trail is unpaved and gives you great views of the creek.

Dog looking at river in Don River park

In the winter, I've allowed Lucy to run off-leash to chase squirrels, but during the summer, it is too crowded with other hikers.

About halfway along this path, you'll cross Forest Grove Drive.

Sign for Newtonbrook Creek along East Don River Trail

A thirsty dog might have an opportunity for a drink in the creek.

Dog playing in Newtonbrook Creek in East Don River Park

After 2.5 km, you'll once again be at the juncture we passed earlier on the walk.

Trail choice: north to Finch, south to Sheppard in East Don River Park

Turn right to get back to the parking lot.

Inspirational Messages

As a long time hiker of the Toronto trails, I noticed the addition of inspirational messages popping up during the COVID Lockdown. In Brookbanks Park, there were painted stones throughout the forest. In this park, we came across inspirational messages carved in wood attached to a fallen tree. These messages were in several languages and seem to say: "This Too Shall Pass".

Inspirational messages found in the East Don River Park

See a collection of items we've found on our hikes: Things You See When Hiking.

Alternate routes

1. Instead of staying on the paved path, explore the many side trails that take you into the marsh or to the riverbank. These trails will be less populated and will give you a better chance of seeing wildlife, flowers, and birds that can't be seen from the main trail. Wear insect repellent and long pants if you plan to leave the paved trail. The plants are thick, and you may encounter poisonous plants like poison ivy.

Map showing additional trails in East Don River Park

2. 3. Instead of walking along Finch Ave, take either of the paths at the fork and turn back once you reach Finch Ave.

4. Use the path at Finch Ave that continues along the river north to Steeles. This will end up being a long walk if you parked at Sheppard. For one hike, I was dropped off at the Bestview Trail at Steeles Ave and walked south on the trail to York Mills. 

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