Right in the heart of Scarborough, on the east side of Toronto, the Birkdale Trail follows the West Highland Creek for 5 km. Though a short cycle, it has two other routes that intersect to add 12 more kilometres to your journey if you’re so inclined.
Explore a collection of the parklands and natural ravines typical of this area, somewhat connected together by a path that is certainly better paved than it was a few years ago.
The route starts from the north end at Ellesmere Ave. Down into a small ravine valley we meandered on a wide, paved trail. It offered a quick escape from the concrete of the big city as we traversed bridges and cruised along the banks of the treed creek.
At Brimley Rd., the only road crossing, we entered the large Thomson Memorial Park grounds. Here you could consider looping around to explore the park or branching off onto the 11+ km Gatineau Hydro Corridor. It runs 3 km east or ver west and cycle for 8km to reach the end. Not the prettiest trek but it gets you places.
We also tried another short (2 km) ride from Knob Hill Park, which starts off heading east on a paved path. Then it turns into dirt. We had to ride over boulders lining the edge of the creek bank. Mountain bikers can do it if you have the nerve, but many may walk this section. It’s a quiet, natural, and narrow side trail more adventurous types may opt for.
Staying on the main path eventually takes you east to Markham Rd., Cedarbrae Collegiate, and a large mall north of there where you are assured of finding refreshments (and ice cream).
The trail system is a little short on directional signs; we had to refer to our GPS phone map more than once at a few three- and four-way junctures. Defaulting to take the trail that stays low by the water usually works for me.
So the Birkdale Trail is not outstanding, but it’s a pleasant outing. There are a few playgrounds for the kids to stop at and a tiny Heritage Museum en route, but nothing else is noteworthy. Still, it’s good enough for most cyclists looking for new byways to ramble on.