Have you ever noticed that taking a stroll through the woods leaves you feeling, well, pretty damn good?
Well it turns out you aren’t just getting sucked in by the beauty of the trees around you. According to new research out of the University of Illinois, walking through a wooded area can boost your health in all sorts of ways you’d never expect. But it’s not just the tranquility of a forest that’s boosting your health, these things are actually tangible. For example:
“Many plants give off phytoncides — antimicrobial volatile organic compounds — which reduce blood pressure, alter autonomic activity, and boost immune functioning, among other effects,” the study begins. “The air in forested and mountainous areas, and near moving water, contains high concentrations of negative air ions, which reduce depression, among other effects. These environments also contain mycobacterium vaccae, a microorganism that appears to boost immune functioning.”
The authors also found that the vegetation filters out pollutants from the air and even appears to reduce overall rates of violence.
Not bad for a 20-minute hike, amirite?
With fall starting to kick into high gear, we thought there’s no better time to hit some of Toronto’s greatest wooded trails than right now. After all, a beautiful cascade of yellows, reds and oranges await you in all 10 of the walks we’ve rounded up, which you can get to within one hour from Toronto’s downtown core.
Check them out, your body will thank you:
10 gorgeous walks in the woods within an hour of Toronto
Tommy Thompson ParkAlso known as the Leslie St. Spit, Tommy Thompson Park encompasses 500 hectares of parkland. It started out as a disposal site for materials from development sites within Toronto. But it has since become a haven of plant life, and is a go-to destination for bird watching. The trail system, which features different kinds of paths, spans 23.2 kilometers. If you can make it to the end, a lonely lighthouse awaits. Getty
Evergreen BrickworksMilkman's Run is probably the most popular trail around the Evergreen Brickworks. When you cross this bridge, you will begin a gradual, 30-minute descent into the beautiful Don Valley. It's just a short walk away from Castle Frank subway station.Flickr/Ahmad Nassri
Rouge ParkLocated in the same tract of parkland that houses the Toronto Zoo, Rouge Park is an absolute treasure. Arguably one of the nicest parks in the city, you can find historic farms, a sandy beach and peaceful meadows here. Heck, you can even camp if you want to. The Rouge Park Cedar trail, in particular, is one we would strongly recommend. Flickr/Yankech gary
Don ValleyThe Don Valley is practically Toronto's playground. It's loaded with all sorts of trails, from secret mountain bike paths to lush walkways that stretch on forever. While there's no end-to-end trail in the valley, the best one is probably the Lower Don Recreation Trail, which runs from Lakeshore Blvd. and Cherry St. to Don Mills Rd. and Overlea Blvd. It's about 13.8 km and suitable for all ages and fitness levels.Getty
High ParkHigh Park is basically Toronto's version of Central Park in New York. It has something for everyone. It's loaded with trails and also features sporting facilities, an outdoor ampitheatre, gardens, a zoo and probably the coolest playground for kids the city has to offer (Castle Playground). You can find it just steps away from the subway station that shares its name. Getty
Taylor CreekRare plants, mature forests and a marsh habitat all await you within the densely wooded areas of Taylor Creek. The trail is suitable for hiking, biking and even showshoeing in the winter. Getting here is as simple as a five-minute walk from Victoria Park subway station.Getty
Lambton WoodsThere is no better time to hike the trails of Lambton Woods. Boardwalk and dirt paths take you deep into the beautiful wooded areas, while trains on elevated tracks rumble overhead. You can also find some of the best views of the Humber River over here. Plus, if you want to make the experience extra scenic, access the trails through James Gardens. Flickr/Peter
Toronto IslandsWhen you get off the ferry and step onto the Toronto Islands, you feel like you've taken a 3-hour train ride. The absolutely stunning beauty of this place feels like it can't be right next to a city, but Torontonians are lucky enough to have this little gem sitting right in their own backyard. Renting a bike will give you more freedom, as you can check out the trails and the many other things the islands have to offer, including the William Meany Maze and the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse.Flickr/wonkanerd
Martin Goodman TrailThe Martin Goodman Trail is 56km of gorgeous scenery. It's also the perfect option if you don't want to stray too far from the downtown core. It runs from beautiful Woodbine beach, through Cherry Beach, and clings to the waterfront as it weaves you past Ontario Place and eventually merges with the Humber Bay Park Trail.Getty
Boyd Conservation AreaWhile closed now until next spring, Boyd Conservation Area is a great option to consider for next year. Some of the nearby wooded trails include the Granger Greenway Trail and the Area Red Trail, which take you through some of the most beautiful areas of the Humber River. Just keep in mind there's an admission fee to get inside. The Canadian Press