Greenbelt – It’s In My Backyard: Facts & Stats on Getting Active in the Greenbelt
With the warm weather upon us it’s time to get outside and active. What many residents living in the Greater Golden Horseshoe may not realize is that there are over a million acres of green space, hiking trails and recreational areas all within an hour of their backyards.
With one of the largest growing populations in North America, the Greater Golden Horseshoe is fortunate to have the Greenbelt, a protected area of land that spans 1.8 million acres from Niagara to Rice Lake and north along the Bruce Trail. Year round, the Greenbelt offers a wide variety of activities for the whole family.
Why should you get out and active?
Physical activity is one of the best prescriptions for disease prevention, but according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, we aren’t getting enough of it.
- Getting 150 minutes of moderate- to-vigorous intensity activity per week reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes by 30%[i]
- Physical inactivity is the most important behavioural risk in Ontario, resulting in a reduction of 4.6 years in individual life expectancy[ii]
- Only 7% of Canadian children and youth are meeting the recommended levels of physical activity (at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day)[iii]
- Only half of Canadian’s ages 12 and over are physically active[iv]
Ontario’s Greenbelt: The Prescription for Prevention
The old saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away doesn’t carry the same meaning it once did. According to Dr. Michael Evans, adding a dose of activity in the Greenbelt every couple of weeks can help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, the progression of diabetes, anxiety and depression. Dr. Evans' YouTube video 23 and ½ Hours has recieved over 2.5 million views since December. The video highlights how physical activity works to help reduce the risk of many diseases and conditions.
There are over 10,000 km of these trails are in the Greenbelt. Ontario’s Greenbelt is easily accessible by car or transit and there are over 220 Greenbelt road and trail signs to help guide visitors.
The following is a selection of the trails and conservation areas in the Greenbelt (most are within an hour from urban areas across the region):
Durham Region & Northumberland County
- The Oak Ridges Trail offers more than 250 km of hiking along the beautiful Oak Ridges Moraine; cycling and horseback riding is permitted in some sections
- Look for Greenbelt Walks trail signs for the Ganaraska Forest section of the trail on Boundary Road, and at Bloomington Road in York Region
- On the banks of the Humber River, Albion Hills Conservation Area is ideal for hiking, swimming, fishing and biking; overnight camping is also available
- In the City of Vaughan, The Kortright Centre for Conservation has 16 km of hiking trails and is known for its bird-of-prey watching, including peregrine falcons, hawks and owls
- Connecting the Greenbelt communities of Newmarket, Aurora and East Gwillimbury, the Nokiidaa Trail has 20 km of multi-use trails passing through green spaces, wetlands and historic cultural sites; many trails are paved making it accessible for everyone
- Mount Nemo has one of the best cliff ecosystems in the Niagara Escarpment; crevice caves and ancient cedars can be seen all along the meandering cliff edge trail - look for Greenbelt Walks trail signs along Guelph Line
- Crawford Lake Conservation Area is an environmentally and historically significant region of the Niagara Escarpment; tour the reconstructed 15th century Iroquoian village or hike around Crawford Lake, down through the Nassagaweya Canyon, and over to the adjacent Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area, famous for its outdoor rock climbing
- Cootes Paradise is a wildlife sanctuary for migratory waterfowl and fish; launch a canoe at Princess Point or access 18 km of trail with ten lookouts, five boardwalks and 12 creek crossings
- Valens Lake Conservation Area is open for camping and hiking year-round; it offers 10km of trails, a 300-metre wetland boardwalk, sandy beaches and some of the best fishing in the region
- Hamilton is known for its waterfalls and Tiffany Falls is likely the best known in the Dundas Valley, a hike along this section of the Bruce Trail also crosses Sherman Falls and Little Falls
Greater Toronto Area
- Rouge Park is soon to be Canada’s first urban national park, located just east of Toronto it offers 12 km of rustic hiking trails
- Rouge Park staff host guided hikes all-year round, from gentle strolls to energetic fitness hikes; swimming, fishing, canoeing and camping is also available
- The Forks of the Credit Provincial Park in Caledon features a 6.2 km walk through a river valley and pastCataract Falls, the steep hills are remnants of gravel deposits left behind by glaciers more than 10,000 years ago - look for Greenbelt Walks trail signs on Olde Baseline Road.
- The Caledon Trailway follows the path of an abandoned railway line, this 35 km trail is perfect for dog-walking, cycling, hiking and running
Dufferin & Wellington
- The Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail travels 6 km around the Island Lake Conservation Area near Orangeville, hike past a long series of vibrant wetlands which play an important ecological role in protecting the headwaters of the Credit and Nottawasaga Rivers
- The Village of Erin’s walking trails traverse for 15 km in and around the small town, walk or cycle through history passing some of Erin’s original industrial mills
- Ball's Falls Conservation Area in Jordan features 10 km of spectacular scenery, unique geography and deep history, the Twenty Mile Creek gorge is the second largest cut in the Niagara Escarpment - Look for Greenbelt Walks trail signs on the QEW
- Beamer Memorial Conservation Area in Grimsby provides some of the most breathtaking and panoramic views of the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario from its 10 km Lookout Trail
- The Bruce Trail is Canada’s longest and oldest footpath and the Niagara section of this famous trail will take hikers on a journey starting at the historic site of Queenston Heights, a key battlefield of the War of 1812
Bruce Grey (for those looking to travel a bit further)
- Bruce’s Caves Conservation Area is located northeast of Wiarton and features wooded swamps and caves created by post-glacial waves 7,000 to 8,000 years ago
- Indian Falls Conservation Area has a 15-metre high horseshoe waterfall, named after the Nawash Indian tribe who lived in this area at one time; the short but rigorous trail to the waterfall follows the Indian River
To book an interview with Dr. Michael Evans or for more information please contact:
416-960-0001, ext. 311
416-960-0001, ext. 306
[i] Warburton DE, Charlesworth S, Ivey A, Nettlefold L, Bredin SS (2010), A systematic review of the evidence for Canada's Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults, Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 7:39
[ii] Seven more Years: The impact of smoking, diet, physical activity and stress on health and life expectancy in Ontario. ICES, PHO, April 2012
[iii] Colley R, Garriguet D, Janssen I, et al., Physical activity of Canadian children and youth: accelerometer results from the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, Health Rep 2011; 22:15–21
[iv] Public Health Agency of Canada, 2009