Rouge Park is Canada’s first National Urban Park and the biggest Urban Park in North America! Located in Ontario, most of the park is in Toronto’s suburban district of Scarborough, and the rest of the park is bordering with Markham and Pickering city.
Location: Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
Official address: 1749 Meadowvale Rd, Scarborough, ON M1B 5W8
Telephone number: 416-264-2020
Official e-mail: pc.punrouge-rougenup.pc(at)canada.ca
Area: 79.1 km2
Created: May 15, 2015
National Park in the backyard
Rouge National Urban Park is the hidden treasure of Canada’s largest metropolitan hub. Unlike other National Parks, it is easily accessible as it’s sitting in the backyard of Toronto. It takes approximately an hour drive with a car from central Toronto to the park using a highway 401, but you can reach it easily by using public transportation. Since the Park is overlapping a large area of three cities and a Township of Uxbridge you can reach it by train, bus, bike, electric scooter, foot, or even with a canoe. The Park is open year-around and everyone is welcomed to explore it in their own way, but there are definitely rules to follow in order to preserve beautiful nature and protect wildlife. There are marked roads for bikes, paths for the hikers only, camping sites, and many other locations for specific activities. Make sure you have appropriate clothes, enough food, and refreshments, don’t feed the animals, and don’t leave any garbage behind you-it must go out of the Park!
Perfect city getaway
If you are looking for a city getaway then Rouge Park is a perfect choice, and facts about the Park speak for themselves! You get to enjoy 79.1 km2 of green space with a variety of landscapes, including beaches, marshes, and forests. There are 1000 plant species that presents almost 25% of plant species found in entire Ontario. According to Parks Canada, there are 1700 species of wildlife and countless bird species. Not only that Park is home to this amazing biodiversity it is also a home of the last remaining working farms in the Greater Toronto Area. Human history in the Park dates back for over 10 000 years and it is including some of the oldest known Indigenous sites in Canada. The offer of every day and seasonal activities are making a list of things to do in Rouge Park quite big, and we will go through the best ones further in the blog. Once you learn about what this Park has to offer you will schedule a weekend field trip, pack your hiking gear, polish camera lenses or even bring a small long-range drone and capture moments of the purest joy in the perfect nature.
Rouge National Urban Park is a highly biologically diverse location despite being within the urban surroundings. It is a delicate ecosystem and it provides key habitat for some endangered species like butternut tree, broad branched forest tree that can grow up to 30 m in height, and other rare and endangered species. There is a number of invasive plant species imported accidentally or not, but they are a true threat for native vegetation. What makes this Park special and rich when it comes to biodiversity is his location on the northern edge of the Carolinian Life Zone. That type of forest ecosystem supports a rich diversity of life, and with its many variations in topography, microclimate, and soil type creates many types of habitat; so we have forests, meadows, wetlands, thickets, rivers, beaches, and agricultural fields.
Having such a biodiverse ecosystem means that there are extraordinary animal species living in the Park. There are 44 species of mammals, 73 species of fish, 247 bird species, 27 amphibian and reptile species, and several threatened or enlarged species. If you are looking for large mammals in the park you will most likely spot white-tailed deer, if you are lucky enough you won’t spot a coyote or a skunk. Other most common mammals are opossum, raccoon, beaver, red fox, groundhog, chipmunk, red squirrel, otter, and cottontail rabbit. For those who like fishing, the best place to go is near the mouth of the Rouge River. Fishing is excellent through the year and most common species are bass, northern pike, black crappies and pan-fish. In the fall you can see Chinook salmon, brown and rainbow trout migrating up the river and it is a perfect moment to do an amazing video by using a drone. In case you need help with picking up your new drone, take a look at this drones under $200 buying guide. Among the amphibians and reptiles, most notable are two endangered turtle species, they are Blading turtle and Wood turtle. Last but definitely not least are lovely birds that are making Rouge Park birder’s paradise. The park is the last resort for Toronto’s bluebirds, and besides them, there are many species of songbirds, hawks, owls, herons, and egrets.
There is evidence of the human presence in the Park that dates back for over 10 000 years, the presents some of the oldest known Indigenous sites in Canada. It all started when continental ice sheets started to retreat in the prehistoric period. The climate started to warm up and farming became possible around 700 CE. The main crops that were cultivated in the rich dark soil were corn, beans, and squash. Farming includes evidence of permanent villages in this area, and Iroquoian villages remains were found in the Park. The Rouge River branch was a portage route along the Rouge River to the Holland River, and it was a link from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe, that route was used by First Nation people and later by European fur traders, explorers, and settlers. Seneca Village 17th century archaeological site is designated as a National Historic Site in 1991.
THINGS TO DO IN ROUGE NATIONAL URBAN PARK
Rouge Park truly has a lot to offer for 20% of Canada’s population that is living in the surrounding metropolitan area, but it also attracts numerous tourists and other visitors. In addition to the Park’s many access points, there are two welcoming areas where you can gather information about the Park. Parks Canada staff offers service from spring to fall and the location of these areas is in the southern part of the Park near the Toronto Zoo, and the northern sector is in the city of Markham. The Park has many natural, cultural, educational, and historical spots that offer activities throughout the year. This Park is a perfect fit for any type of activity and offers something for every generation. Here is the list of some of the best things to do in Rouge Park.
Glen Rouge Campground is the only campground located in the city of Toronto. The location of the campground is at the junction of the Rouge River and Little Rouge Creek. You can enjoy camping with your own tent, RV, or use Parks Canada’s signature oTENTik accommodations. oTENTik offer an alternative to traditional camping with their cross between a tent and cabin. To book an oTENTik accommodation or to inform about their offer you can do by visit the Glen Rouge Campground official website.
Location: 7450 Kingston Road, Toronto
Parking: Free, extremely limited
Washrooms: Seasonally available at Glen Rouge Campground
Yes, fishing is allowed in the Park with one condition only! You need to have a valid Ontario fishing license. Most popular fishing spots are at the mouth of Rouge River and nearby marshes. Fishing zones have different open seasons and catch limits, and the area within the Rouge is the part of zone FMZ16. Make sure to check up regulations before you head for your fishing spot!
Canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding are the most popular water activities. If you don’t feel like doing much of the work you can always relax on the Rouge sandy beach. Water is frequently tested by Toronto Public Health for the safety of the visitors; there are lifeguards and washrooms.
Lace-up your hiking shoes and pack your gear because Rouge Park has 25 km of hiking trails, with 75 additional kilometers planned. Once finished, an expanded trail system will connect the Park to the surrounding communities, from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine. Hiking trails travel through a variety of landscapes, like mature forests, wetlands, farmlands, and meadows.
If you are looking for a relaxed ride than multi-use Waterfront Trail at Rouge Beach is a perfect fit not only for the adults but for the kids as well. This route runs both east and west along the shore of Lake Ontario. In the total opposite of this route, there are unexplored country roads in the northeast corner of the park and they offer a more remote and quiet experience. Reesor Road runs through the park, from the Toronto Zoo area to the north end of the park. These north-south routes can be connected by east-west roads such as Plug Hat Road, and Old Finch Avenue.
Guided walks are perfect if you want to experience the best that Park can offer. Parks Canada staff will take you to wildlife sighting spots, quiet walks in nature, and to many other signature parts of the Park. This year-around activity offers something for everyone.
Rouge Park is a great place to go bird watching since there are 247 species of birds. Some of them are more active by in the morning, birds of prey are more often spotted in the middle of the day, and vise owls appear in the evening. Some birds are permanent residents, and some of them are only spending summers here and migrate for the rest of the year. Each season, each time of the day and each part of the park offer something new and something else for the bird enthusiast. If you are a beginner in bird watching all you need is a pair of binoculars and a convenient bird guide app that will help you identify different bird species.