Altona Forest

Altona is a beautiful mature forest in Pickering near the Rouge National Urban Parks. Besides the dense forest, there is a beaver pond and extensive wetlands.

Lucy standing on a bench in Altona Forest

There are two trails in Altona Forest for a total distance of 5 km. The trails were established in the 1980s with four access points, clear trail markings, along detailed maps and signage.

Lacey's Pond

The section most frequented in Altona Forest is Lacey's Pond. Although smaller than it was originally, it has been restored and is now protected. 

Sign for Lacey's Pond in Altona Forest

You can explore the pond's activity from a safe distance by standing on the bridge or the deck built into the pond. You'll stay dry, and the life in the pond will not be damaged.


For me, Altona Forest's highlight is the beaver habitat with the chance to see a beaver or two. The beavers seem accustomed to having people watch them while they swim, eat, or do chores. We've been told that there are three beavers in Lacey's Pond, but we've only seen one at a time. 

Beaver in Altona Forest

Dogs may get very excited seeing and smelling a beaver, so have a firm hold on their leash.

This was the first beaver we saw while hiking in Toronto. We've since had several encounters and have learned a great deal. You'd actually be surprised to learn how many beavers actually reside in the city. The most obvious sign that beavers are in the area is chewed trees.

Tree chewed by a beaver

Beavers have been seen dragging trees across roads when preparing for winter. They are primarily nocturnal but are often seen during the day in autumn and winter.  We haven't yet seen a beaver this spring, so keep that in mind if you hope to see one.


There are four access points to the Altona Forest Trail, including Altona Road with a small parking lot: 1883 Altona Road, Pickering.

There are signs with park information and maps at each access point.

Sign and map in Altona Forest

There are two trails: White and Blue.

White Trail in Altona ForestBlue Trail in Altona Forest

The trail is marked with blazes as well as numbered posts. 

Map of Altona Forest Trail

Trail Conditions

The trail markings were likely obvious when they were first installed. Unfortunately, time and weather have deteriorated the markings. You'll still see blazes on some trees and posts with numbers, but the boardwalk areas are closed and marked as hazardous. I walked through the closed areas to look and found that it would be pretty easy to trip or step on a nail. 

Broken boardwalk in Altona Forest

I heard that there had been some vandalism to the boardwalk as well. You can still hike the area, but be careful to avoid dangerous places for you and your dog.

Our actual hike on April 10 looks like this:

Actual 4.5 km hike in Altona Forest

To see how much of the trail is unusable because of the damaged boardwalk, the map below was created while hiking the trail in the winter when we could access all the trails.

Forest variety

Even if you don't know the types of trees, you'll notice the difference from one section of the hike to the next. Some sections are very dense with evergreen trees so, it feels like you are in a deep forest. 

Deep forest of Altona Forest


Spring seems to be the best season to see Piliated Woodpeckers. These are very large and loud woodpeckers that the cartoon Woody Woodpecker is based on. I did get a photo of one while in this forest, but my photo did not turn out well. Look for the large holes in the trees that are made by Piliated Woodpeckers.

Hole in a tree made by piliated woodpecker

The park's official material says there are more than 100 different birds, so there are many opportunities for a sighting during your visit.


Altona Forest is 53 hectares or 102 acres in size and is located in Pickering, just over Toronto's border. When the area was being developed in the 1980s, "The Friends of Altona Forest" lobbied to save as much of the forest as possible because of the biodiversity of the area. Dr. J. Murray Speirs donated a large portion of his land to be used as an ecological reserve. You can see this area marked on the map, but you cannot access it during your hike.

A staircase in the Altona Forest

School Visits

School kids from the area come here for outdoor education. The many learning opportunities make this hike ideal for a family outing.

Outdoor education in Altona Forest

Off-Leash Opportunities

Signs in the park ask that you keep your dog on a leash while in Altona Forest. There may be a few places where you feel it is safe to let your dog off, especially when no one else is around and if your dog has excellent recall.

Running through the Altona Forest

For official information about Altona Forest, visit or


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


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