Snowshoeing is undoubtedly a great way to relax, connect with nature and find peace in a hectic world. It is a great way to stay active during the long winter months and a great way to make activity part of your family routine. Humber Arboretum provides access to all of this right in Toronto, Canada’s largest urban centre.
The Arboretum is located behind Humber College’s north campus and includes more than six kilometers of walking trails, botanical gardens and natural areas along the Humber River. The area encompasses roughly 250 acres of the West Humber River Valley. http://www.humberarboretum.on.ca/sites/pages/index1.html
An initiative of Humber College’s horticulture students in 1977, this joint venture between the City of Toronto, Humber College, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority was formed to “facilitate research and education, establish and maintain living plant collections, promote conservation and restoration practices, and provide a quality visitor experience.”
A popular summer destination for hikers and school programs, the Arboretum also offers winter programming and easy access for those who enjoy year-round activity.
Located on the grounds is the Centre for Urban Ecology, a LEED Gold certified building that is the source of programming and information for the Arboretum.
Jimmy Vincent, coordinator of the Centre for Urban Ecology, says the Arboretum is always accessible for those who have their own snowshoes and wish to wander and explore on their own. New way-finding materials are being developed to make it easier for people to get around and to know where they are along the trails.
“The Arboretum was developed to act as a living class room for the horticulture students. From my understanding the amount of land designated to this outdoor classroom was huge and so the living classroom portion was scaled back and the remaining tract of land was left to its natural state. This then became natural park land with a variety of trails that pass through a diverse set of ecosystems located on site,” Vincent said.
The Arboretum also has a large selection of snowshoes available to rent and, especially important for families with new snowshoers, a large selection of children’s shoes. “For kids, especially as they get used to snowshoes, the right fit is important. A snowshoe should be lightweight and feel simply like an extension of the foot, rather than being heavy and bulky.”
He says a good binding is equally important. Some of the Arboretum’s shoes are a mere 12 inches in length and use a binding similar to that of the old Fisher Price roller skates to ensure they are comfortable and secure.
Both traditional and modern adult showshoes are also available to rent. Vincent recommends groups heading out together use the same style of shoe to ensure everyone is on an equal footing.
The Arboretum hosts regular community activity days – some for adults only and some for families. These programs are ideal for new snowshoers because they come with an educational component focused on the history of snowshoeing, the advances in technology, and then a guided walk of the grounds which can include an ‘off-trail’ stroll into deeper snow for the experience.
The Arboretum is also open to group bookings which can be customized to suit the audience. Get a group of friends together for an afternoon outing or bring a few families together for a fun ‘amazing animals’ exploration that can include searching for owls or feeding chickadees. Birthday parties are another great way to get kids out and active while providing a fun adventure experience.
Whether you’re exploring on your own or part of a group the centre provides a place to warm up after with a hot chocolate.
Youth Oriented Programming
The Arboretum offers programming for schools for children in junior kindergarten and up, PD day camps, programs for Scout and Guide groups, and youth team building experiences.
For younger children, Vincent says part of the experience is having fun so kids’ shoes are colorful. Guides take time to explain to the kids how the shoes work, and use a Powerpoint presentation to illustrate the history and craftsmanship of snowshoes.
Half day and full day programs are available to suit the age and interest level of the participants and outdoor time can be variable depending on the temperature and weather conditions to ensure the participants have a positive experience.
The Arboretum is accessible by all major transportation methods in the Greater Toronto Area and sits between Highways 27 and 427. There is ample on-site parking.