Todmorden Mills to Chester Hill Lookout
Explore Toronto history by taking a hike through the Tordmorden Mills Heritage Site. If you've travelled on the DVP, you've likely noticed the iconic tower.
The route I recently discovered combines seeing the buildings of Todmorden Mills, hiking the trails on the site, as well as visiting the Chester Hill Lookout and a few places along the Lower Don Trail. This might seem ambitious, but we did all of this about 5 km.
At the bottom of Beechwood Drive off of O'Connor, there is a free parking area near the entrance of Toronto Police Dog Services.
The route I suggest begins on Beechwood Drive. Walk south on the Lower Don Trail to Pottery Road. After crossing the street, turn left on Pottery Road to the entrance of Todmorden Mills Heritage Site. Visit the historic buildings and hike the trails up to Broadlands. Walk to Chester Hill to the Lookout.
The trails are beautiful in September and October as the days get shorter and the foliage gets colourful. Here is a collection of photos I took walking from my car to Pottery Road.
Lower Don Trail
The Lower Don Trail is extensive, so visit often to explore it fully. A previous blog used this trail to connect Crothers Woods to Evergreen Brickworks.
After parking, use the paths through wildflowers to get to the Lower Don Trail. You may encounter a Police K9 dog on a break as we did on one visit.
You can stay on the paved trail or use the side trail along the river. We prefer the river trail as it allows dogs to be off-leash.
If you're lucky, you will see salmon in the river. The salmon migration occurs annually in September and October. The Don River is one of the rivers in Toronto where you can see the salmon run.
Be sure to stop at the Don River Fish Ladder. A seating and viewing area was recently installed so you can wait patiently to see a salmon jump over the weir.
Cross Pottery Road and turn left. On your right, you'll see the historic Pottery Road Bridge that was built in 1928.
There are several artistic signs at this junction, including the name sign, crossing signs, and murals on the underpass.
Todmorden Mills History
On the left-hand side of Pottery Road is the event venue, Fantasy Farms. In 1790, all this land was owned by the Isaiah Skinner family, who started a lumber mill. Fantasy Farms is the actual location of the Skinner home, which was torn down years ago. Fantasy Farms is private property, but you can see an ancient horse coach on display in front of the venue.
This area became a vibrant community with a brewery, lumber, paper, flour and sawmills, and a brick factory. Thomas Helliwell and John Eastwood opened the brewery in 1820, and the area was renamed Todmorden after the village in England, where John Eastwood was born.
The Skinner family operated the mills on the site until 1855 when the property was sold to the Taylor family, who also owned Don Valley Brickworks across the road. The mill remained in operation until 1920 when the mill was converted to riding stables. In 1940, the property was used as a German Prisoner of War camp.
In 1967 the area became a historic site and community museum.
The 9-hectare natural area around the mill is the Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve.
This preserve is maintained by a group of volunteers working to restore the land to the original vegetation before Europeans settled the area in 1790.
Chester Hill Lookout
One of the trails in the Todmorden Mills Preserve leads you up a steep hill.
Follow this trail to get to Broadview Avenue.
Turn right and walk along Broadview Ave until Chester Hill. At the end of Chester Hill is a lookout over the valley with great views.
A fence blocks the seldom-used trail from the lookout to the Todmorden trails, so instead, walk back the way you came to return to your starting point.
We heard bluejays and other birds, but only captured a photo of a red-tailed hawk.
Todmorden Mills Heritage Site: You can actually park on-site in a small parking area beyond the Todmorden Mills entrance. If you choose this parking area, your hike will be dramatically shorter.
Crothers Woods: There is plenty of parking at the Thomas Hauser Trailhead on Redway Road. See this blog entry Crothers Woods, Lower Don, and Evergreen Brickworks for details. The distance will be about the same if you start from Crothers Woods instead of Beechwood Drive.
Enjoy your hike! When you post photos to Instagram, tag us at @hikingtoronto or #hikingtorontowithlucy.
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