What’s your favourite hill?
For everyday cycling, it’s pretty convenient that Toronto is a relatively flat city.
Nevertheless, everyone has that one steep street in their neighbourhood that is a thrill to ride down, but a pain to ride up. Those who live near one of the city’s ravines have an even longer list of hills to avoid (or to embrace, depending on your perspective).
This month, with temperatures cooling down and colourful fall foliage starting to appear, it seemed like the perfect time to experience some of the city’s topography. Cycle Toronto went to social media to ask our followers about their favourite hills. Forget about riding back up - we asked you for your favourite hills to ride down.
Some of the more astute geography students reading this may notice that several of the top picks are in the same couple of neighbourhoods. It’s no coincidence - Toronto’s hills are mostly clustered around the city’s extensive ravine system. These deep valleys were formed 12,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age and now act as some of Toronto’s most beautiful parks and nature reserves.
(A topographical map of Toronto. Most hills people mentioned as their favourite are located in the yellow regions of the map.)
Another notable Toronto topographical feature is that gentle upward slope northwards from Lake Ontario to around midtown. It’s a slope that every cyclist in the city is familiar with, but many may not be aware that they are riding on the ancient shoreline of a prehistoric lake called Glacial Lake Iroquois.
(A diagram of Glacial Lake Iroquois’ water levels 12,000 years ago. It’s why most streets connecting Davenport to St. Clair are so steep!)
Okay…back to our survey.
Among the over 100 responses, some patterns emerged that made it clear that some slopes are more popular than others. The top 8 responses, in no particular order, were:
- Brimley Road down to the Bluffs
- Russell Hill Road
- Bayview (towards Pottery Road)
- Rosedale Valley Road
- Beltline Trail (Mount Pleasant Cemetery to Brickworks)
- Colborne Lodge Drive (High Park)
- Pottery Road
- Shaw Street (Dupont to King)
With this list of finalists, we took the matter to a vote. We asked voters to consider the duration of the hill, scenery, safety, and steepness.
The southern end of Brimley Road was our first place hill. Perhaps it’s the beach and the lake waiting at the bottom, or the fond memories of summer days of yore, but about 20% of our voters chose this portal to the Scarborough Bluffs as their number one choice.
(Scarborough Bluffs in the fall.)
The winding stretch of Bayview southward into the Don Valley was our second place declivity. Our third place finisher was more of a dark horse pick, Shaw Street. Voters evidently enjoy riding the gentle downward slope of Toronto’s mini bike highway.
The Beltline Trail from the Mount Pleasant Cemetery to Brickworks, with its lush, leafy canopy, overwhelmingly won “Most Scenic Hill”. Rosedale Valley Road and Colborne Lodge Drive in High Park were our honourable mentions for that award.
(The Beltline Trail in fall.)
Is there a hill you love to ride that you’re surprised wasn’t a finalist? What’s another Toronto cycling debate that you’d like us to get a conclusive consensus on? Reach out to us on social media with your ideas, and of course subscribe to our newsletter, The Ring & Post. You'll be the first to read the next edition of Just for Fun, in addition to all kinds of updates on Toronto City Council, new cycling infrastructure, and community events.
Now that you’re finished reading, it’s time to get out and experience one of these exhilarating hills. After all, nothing encapsulates the feeling of freedom of riding a bike as much as letting gravity take over and enjoying the scenery on a beautiful day.