Are you ready to see some of the most beautiful views in Toronto? The Scarborough Bluffs are a hidden gem in the city offering spectacular scenery of Lake Ontario and towering, rugged cliffs. It’s possible to take a Scarborough Bluffs hiking trip. However, it’s primarily a walk in the park at the base of the cliffs. Then, you can drive up to the top of the bluffs for scenes that look more like somewhere in Europe or the Caribbean than Toronto.
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Back in the day when the French and English arrived in Canada, the French called the cliffs, Les grands Ecores, or “tall points on the shore”. In 1793, they were known as the Scarborough Highlands, named after Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Elizabeth Simcoe, the wife of John Graves Simcoe (the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada), chose the name because it reminded her of the cliffs in her hometown. Over time, the cliffs simply became known as The Bluffs, or the Scarborough Bluffs.
Walk the Scarborough Bluffs Trail
The Scarborough Bluffs Trail is an easy loop trail that connects Bluffer’s Beach and Bluffer’s Park. If you’re looking for some more intense Scarborough Bluffs hiking, you might be a little disappointed. But, if you love gorgeous scenery of white cliffs, the waterfront, and the beach, you’ll surely love this walking trail.
While the Scarborough Bluffs themselves stretch across 14km along Lake Ontario, the hike itself is about 5km in total from start to finish. At their highest point, the Bluffs rise 90 metres (300 feet) above the waterfront. While the cliffs were formed by erosion of clay soil (and they continue to erode at a rapid pace), you’ll be able to view some interesting rock formations and shapes.
Scarborough Bluffs Hiking: Wildlife Viewings
A number of birds and animals live at the Scarborough Bluffs, and you might lucky enough to see some of them while you’re exploring the area. Birds are the easiest creatures to see, and I saw plenty of birds when I visited. There are a variety of small birds, ducks, geese, egrets, and lots of seagulls. Lots of deer and coyotes also live at the Scarborough Bluffs, although it’s not likely that you will spot them during the day.
Swimming at Bluffer’s Beach
Pack your walking shoes and your swimsuit if you’re visiting the Scarborough Bluffs in the summer. Bluffer’s Beach is a beautiful sandy beach, and it’s probably the best beach in Toronto. There’s a long stretch of sandy beach, picnic areas, a restroom facility, and an outdoor shower. Bluffer’s Beach is a Blue Flag Beach, meaning that it meets the strict standards for water quality, safety, services, and environmental management. You’ll be perfectly safe going for a dip in the waters here at Lake Ontario.
How to Get to the Scarborough Bluffs Lookout
You’ll have to drive from the base of the cliffs up to the top at Scarborough Crescent Park. There are also options to take public transit on the TTC. There is no direct walking or hiking connection between Bluffer’s Park and the Scarborough Bluffs lookout. I can’t say that it’s never been done as people hike up the cliffs every year. But, here’s why you shouldn’t.
Why You Shouldn’t Hike to the Top
You shouldn’t try to do any rogue Scarborough Bluffs hiking on the cliffs themselves to get to the top. In fact, it’s illegal. For anyone caught trying to forge their own path from the bottom to the top, you could get a $5000 fine.
It’s also very costly. There have been deaths from people trying to scramble up the cliffs to get to the top. And there have been very pricey rescue missions. In 2018, there were 16 rescue missions at the Scarborough Bluffs. These involved 382 hours of staff time, 123 fire service vehicles, and risking the lives of 413 firefighters to save the trapped individuals.
If you see anything that looks like a small path or trail through the forests below the cliffs, these are used primarily by deer and other wildlife. The cliffs can give way at any time, and you could become a statistic by hiking on them.
Scarborough Bluffs Parking
Looking for Scarborough Bluffs parking? You’ll need to drive your car to two different spots in order to view the Bluffs from the top and the bottom. These areas are two different parks: Scarborough Bluffs Park is the main space to go hiking in Scarborough at the base of the cliffs. Scarborough Crescent Park is the small green space at the top of the cliffs where you’ll see the best views overlooking Lake Ontario.
Parking at Scarborough Bluffs Park
There are two parking lots at Bluffers Park and one parking lot at Bluffer’s Beach. It costs $1.50/half hour to park at any of the parking lots.
Parking at Scarborough Crescent Park
There isn’t a parking lot for Scarborough Crescent Park. You’ll be able to park for free anywhere on the streets in the residential neighbourhood surrounding the park, provided there aren’t any “no parking” signs. Try parking on Cecil Crescent or Undercliff Drive.
Map of Scarborough Bluffs
Here is a map of the Scarborough Bluffs detailing how to get to the top and the bottom of the park (Scarborough Bluff’s Park and Scarborough Crescent Park) and the three parking lots.
It’s easy to spend at least a couple of hours doing some Scarborough Bluffs hiking, taking lots of pictures, and checking out the scenery at the top. Once you add in a trip to the beach, you’re looking at a half day to a full day outing. Check out even more hikes in the GTA or the best places to hike in Hamilton if you’d like to take a journey down the QEW.
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