Top of the Bluffs - Scarborough Heights Park

I've met several people looking for trails from the Bluffer's Beach to the top of the bluffs. There are very few trails available that take you from the bottom to the top and vice versa.

The Doris McCarthy Trail is one such trail. The trail is very steep, especially during a summer heatwave. This blog describes a path that can be considered "Doris McCarthy Lite": Scarborough Heights Park.

Suggested Route

Scarborough Heights Park is located next to Rosetta McLean Gardens near the bottom of Birchmount. The park is behind the Scarborough Pumping station and has an off-leash dog park, a parking lot, and a meadow along the cliff. The trail, as shown, is 4 km in length.

Map for hike in Scarborough Heights Park

Dog Park

Start your walk at the Scarborough Heights Dog Park on Fishleigh Drive. It's a relatively sizeable off-leash park with woodchips covering the ground and a few trees for shade.

Off-leash dog park in Scarborough Heights Park

Off-leash dog park in Scarborough Heights Park

The Views

After leaving the dog park, walk along the treeline for glimpses of the lake. It's dangerous to stand on the edge of the cliffs, so there are fences in place.

Top of bluffs in Scarborough Heights Park

Admittedly, the fences will not stop you or your dog from getting to the cliff edge, so be careful and wise. The vegetation along the edge is very thick, so it's difficult to see much. We went past the fence and cautiously went close to the cliff for a better view.

Top of bluffs in Scarborough Heights Park

Cross the large grassy field behind the Scarborough Pumping Station.

Water pumping station in Scarborough Heights Park

Between the community garden and forest is the trail to Lake Ontario.

Community Garden near Scarborough Heights ParkTrail to Lake Ontario from Scarborough Heights Park

Going down the hill is easy, and it doesn't seem steep until you come up, of course. The distance from the top of the trail to the beach and back is about 1 km. 

East or West?

The rock at the bottom of the hill is where you must choose between going east or west.

Lake Ontario below Scarborough Heights Park

The trails go in both directions, but for this hike, go to the left (east).

Trail next to Lake Ontario below Scarborough Heights Park

The trail is wide, and you'll get great views of the Cathedral Bluffs. In fact, you'll be a short distance from Bluffer's Park Beach and Lookout, as described in blog entry Bluffers Park and Marina.

Breakers along Lake Ontario below Scarborough Heights Park

Along the 1 km walk to the end of the trail, you'll pass breakers made of large rocks. Only a few small sandy beach areas can be found.

Dog on Rocks along Lake Ontario below Scarborough Heights Park

Dogs on beach along Lake Ontario below Scarborough Heights Park

Trail End

The trail ends just before Bluffer's Beach. There are no trails to Bluffer's Beach, so unless you have a boat or are a strong swimmer, turn back at this point. 

Lake Ontario below Scarborough Heights Park

Off-Leash Opportunities

If there are not many people in the park, it is safe to let a trained dog off-leash. There are many swimming opportunities despite the large rocks.

Dogs playing in Lake Ontario below Scarborough Heights Park

Alternative Routes

To extend your walk, you can walk west from the starting point at the bottom of the hill. It's conceivable to hike all the way to the Toronto Beaches next to the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant. We turned back long before we were able to find out for sure. There are several secluded sandy beaches when hiking in this direction, but the trail is not as well established. 

Secluded beaches on Lake Ontario below Scarborough Heights Park

Rosetta McLean Gardens

Rosetta Gardens is quite beautiful, but unfortunately, dogs are not allowed. You will have a better chance of seeing a view of the lakeshore without risking your life.

Rosetta McLean Gardens next to Scarborough Heights Park.View of Lake Ontario from Rosetta McLean Gardens

Harrison Properties

West of the Rosetta McLean Gardens is the Harrison Properties. This is a large forested park on top of the Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario near Kingston Road and close to Birchmount Road. The City is installing a Scarborough sign in the park.

Scarborough sign in Harrison Properties Park

Waterfront Trail

The Waterfront Trail as a gift to cyclists. Pedestrians are welcome to use the path, but it's unlikely you'll take your dog on much of this trail unless you have a way to carry your dog on a bicycle. In Europe, dogs of all sizes are carried in baskets or trailers attached to bicycles. Perhaps one day, I'll attach a trailer to my bike and take Lucy for a long-distance ride on the Waterfront Trail. For more information see

Map for Waterfront Trail


This park is excellent for birdwatching. Besides woodpeckers, cedar waxwings, and blue jays, you'll see the normal variety of robins, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, and starlings. 

Woodpecker in Scarborough Heights Park

Cedar Waxwing in Scarborough Heights Park

Blue Jay in Rosetta McLean Gardens


Enjoy your hike! When you post photos to Instagram, tag us at @hikingtoronto or #hikingtorontowithlucy.


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