Winter Walking Nature Paths in the City

The long winter months can really augment a restricted house-bound feeling.

Even with the commute to work and/or change of scenery for lunch breaks, we can still find ourselves continuously in small, oppressive rooms that look out onto grey parking lots, grey buildings and grey skies.  This contrasts drastically to the open vast reaches of being outdoors that can nourish our spirits.

The good news is that there are more opportunities to get outdoors in urban landscapes than many of us may realize.  Even without equipment (read: snowshoes, x-c skis), paths abound in parks, along nature corridors and in urban conservation areas. And those in the know about these paths are the local dog-walkers!

When I started exploring the wilder corners of urban areas, I would bring snowshoes, thinking I'd need to break my own path, but the more I explored, the more obvious it became that paths were being made all over the city by daily dog walkers, offering well-trodden winter desire lines.

desire line (dəˈzī(ə)r līn) - a planning term referring to a path made by walkers or cyclists (worn down by repeated traffic through foliage, grass - generally used as a shortcut (link)) as opposed to one that is officially planned (link)

There were paths broken through the snow following familiar recreational pathways, others around the periphery of large urban parks (creating great walking loops) and many more through wilder green spaces, carving informal routes through natural areas not officially "sanctioned" (or maintained) by the municipality.

We've found many of these unsanctioned desire paths (both in the summer (as dirt paths) and winter) veering off of formal walking paths along creek sides and shores of rivers and depending on their elevation and orientation these paths can offer lovely vistas of both citylines and nature views.  Some even include great front row "seats" to beautiful sunsets and busy river activity.

Consider this option, the next time there is a pleasant winter weather day and visit the closest natural area in your neighbourhood.

Or ask friends who have a pet dog, where their favorite walking location is - find out where they typically go.

Even in winter, the city offers many informal recreational opportunities in nature!

What's been your greatest discovery when exploring these desire paths into natural areas that are found within the city?


  1. I like this concept of desire lines, thanks for sharing it! There are plenty of them around Britannia Beach where I live. But if you step off the path prepare to sink to your knees in snow!

  2. So true Laura! We've had a lot of snow this year! : )