Rouge National Urban Park is the first of its kind in Canada. When completed, it will be the largest urban park in North America, protecting a space roughly 22 times the size of Central Park in New York.
Located 30 km outside Toronto, the park borders Scarborough, Markham, and Pickering. It's divided into two distinct areas: one with an entrance near the Toronto Zoo and the other next to Lake Ontario. Parks Canada regularly schedules guided hikes and other activities at Rouge, including the Learn-to-Camp program.
I visited for the first time last month and there are lots of places to hike, bike, fish, and swim. Some of the most popular include Rouge Marsh (the largest wetlands in Toronto), Vista Trail, and Rouge Beach.
The park is accessible by car, train, and a free shuttle service known as the Rouge Express. More information about the shuttle, including departure times and locations, can be found on the Parkbus website.
Since Rouge is still in development, signage is lacking and there's not much in terms of amenities. That will change next summer when Parks Canada finishes constructing two welcome areas with fire pits, picnic shelters, washrooms, bike repair stations, and other facilities for visitors.
Rouge is quite different from the rest of Canada's national parks and there's no mistaking its distinctly urban feel. With such close proximity to Toronto, however, the park has the potential to help millions of people connect with a little piece of nature in their own backyards.