Lower Highland Creek Park

Take a 2 km hike along the Highland Creek River from the Colonel Danforth Park to Lake Ontario. This river attracts many birds and wildlife. The reward at the end of the hike is a beach on the lake. 

Dog playing on Highland Creek River

I wasn't able to make a loop of this hike, but I encourage you to visit some of the side trails that I point out in the blog.

Suggested Route

Starting at the southernmost parking lot in the Colonel Danforth Park, walk on the paved path for 2 km. You can either turn straight back to make the hike 4 km, but I suggest you walk for a kilometer on the beach to make the hike 5 km in total.
Map for trail through Lower Highland Creek Park


Park at the Colonel Danforth Park. The parking lot is large and has a public washroom and many picnic tables. Bike Share Toronto has a rack of bicycles available for a fee.
Park in the lot in Colonel Danforth park to start hike.

The River

It's called Highland Creek, but it's actually a river. It's very shallow and rocky. I suggest you take every opportunity to use a side trail to visit the river with your dog and/or a camera. 

Highland Creek River

The Trail

The path is paved and attracts many cyclists. At the lake, the trail joins the extensive Waterfront Trail. We didn't find any painted rocks on this route, but we found a painted tree stump.

Painted stump in Lower Highland Creek Park


Wildlife is plentiful. We've seen rabbits, squirrels, deer, turtles, and mink while on this hike. Some wildlife can be seen from the trail, but many can only be seen from a side trail.

Painted turtle in Lower Highland Creek Park

Deer seen in Lower Highland Creek Park
Mink seen in Lower Highland Creek Park


I'm relatively new at birdwatching and bird photography, but I still managed to see great blue herons, belted kingfishers, ducks, geese, robins, and possibly egrets.

One of the great blue herons we saw put on a great show. Extending his wings on the top of a tree, the heron did a bit of a dance and then flew away.

Great Blue Heron seen in Lower Highland Creek Park

Belted kingfishers look similar to blue jays from a distance, but up close, you see they are quite distinctive and bigger. I've found it hard to get a great photo of one as they are shy and are good at hiding. 

Belted kingfisher in Lower Highland Creek Park

I usually see belted kingfishers flying at top speed over the river, hence the blurry photo.

Blurry belted kingfisher flying over river

The Lake

The first thing you'll see when you approach the lake are several footbridges. The bridges appear new and provide lookouts over the lake, the beach, and the mouth of the river. 
Bridge from Lower Highland Creek Park to Lake Ontario
Lower Highland Creek Park bridges


People were swimming in the lake when we visited during a heatwave. Dogs will like to run on the shore or fetch sticks from the lake.

Dogs running on the shores of Lake Ontario  

Side Trails

The side trails are not marked, but you should be able to see them from the main path if you look in the direction of the river. There may be trails on the forest side as well, but we haven't explored them yet. 

Side trail to the Highland Creek River

Some of the side trails are well established, some are paved but in need of repair, and some are thick with vegetation. If you choose to explore the trails that are thick with plants, be sure to have bug spray.

The Beach

There are a few shady spots on the beach for you to set up and have a rest or picnic. There are also a few spots that appear secluded where an off-leash dog will less likely bother anyone.
Semi secluded beach near footbridges on Lake Ontario
The beach continues in both directions with a paved trail alongside. To extend your walk, follow the trails as far as you like. Read my blog about East Point Park if you choose to follow the path to the west.

Off-Leash Opportunities

Keep your dog on a leash when on the paved path. Cyclists, families, and joggers also share the trail. If you leave the trail to explore the river, you'll find sandbanks and shallow river beds where your dog can play off-leash. Lucy was so excited about one of the sandbanks that she had the zoomies.
Dog zooming on a sandbank in Highland Creek River

The Waterfront Trail

Several of my blogs have mentioned the Waterfront Trail. A large map on the beach shows the details of the trail which you can also find on their website: waterfronttrail.org
Map of Waterfront Trail
This is the fourth of my blog entries to mention this initiative, which is also known as the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. Check out the other posts:


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


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