Length: 3,455 ft. • Difficulty: 3 (steep grade, stones, roots)
Terrain: Peat moss, rocks, roots, moderate vegetation, thick tree cover
Trail map

Bear Trail offers a “warmer” hike through the middle of City Forest. The trail, which is not maintained or traveled heavily, is narrower than most trails and runs through one of the forest’s more densely wooded areas. The thick tree cover makes the trail ideal for hiking on a chilly and windy fall or winter day.

To reach Bear Trail, take Moose Trail to its intersection with Owl Trail. Head northwest onto Owl Trail. About 500 feet along Owl, there is a tall pine tree on the left. The tree has faint yellow paint markings around the trunk about five feet off the ground. If you find yourself at the bog, you have gone too far.

Take a sharp left-hand turn at the pine tree when heading northwest. You will almost be making a 180-degree turn. Around this corner are young spruce trees between 4 and 7 feet high on both sides of the trail.

Not long after heading down Bear Trail, you might notice another trail on the right. This secondary trail is not part of Bear and will take you back to Owl Trail.

You will encounter a brook bed after about 200 feet. This is Dixon Brook. You’ll recognize it by the mud, smoothed rocks, exposed roots of a tree on the edge of the bed and the bed’s path to a grassy area on the edge of a bog on the right. The ground in this area is soft but firm; fallen leaves and pine needles blanket the trail on the other side of the brook bed.

The trail then curves to the right for about 60 feet. It then takes a sharp turn to the left. A dying birch tree arches over the trail about six feet off the ground, so be aware of this obstacle if you’re riding your bike.

The trees become less dense after the birch tree. The decaying trunks of other birch trees litter the right side of the trail, with only a few on the left of the trail. The birch trees probably died because they didn’t get enough sunlight and were crowded out by the spruce trees that dominate the area. Adequate sunlight is hard to come by in this section of the forest, hence the absence of pine needles until about 15 feet above the ground.

By this point, Bear Trail is heading west. The farther you go, the sunlight becomes softer and takes on a golden hue as it filters through the trees.

The trail slowly ascends a slight incline before turning north and going downhill toward the bog. Dead trees are more prevalent the closer you get to the bog. Listen carefully through this section of the trail; you might hear the jackhammer sound of a hairy woodpecker drilling dead trees in search of insects. If you hear or see a woodpecker, slow down and move quietly for a better look. As long as you don’t try to get too close or make sudden movements, the woodpeckers will ignore you.

A short way down the hill, the trail turns 90 degrees to the left, taking you west. At the end of a moderate decline, the trail turns 90 degrees to the left again, taking you to the south. A large dead spruce tree that fell over from only a few feet off the ground serves as a landmark at this point along the trail.

From the dead tree, Bear Trail meanders through a thick cluster of spruce trees as it slowly turns farther to the south. It then hooks to the right, heading west again, toward a thinned area of the forest. Rocks and roots take over the path, which becomes increasingly bumpier as it slowly goes up a slight incline. Grass will soon appear off the trail to the right as the trail makes its way farther south. Pine needles are more abundant on the forest floor in this area.

As you continue along the trail, you will see Loop Road on the right. The trail eventually curves to the left – east – and merges with Moose Trail.

Wildlife sightings – aside from squirrels – on Bear Trail include a rabbit, garter snake, hairy woodpecker and what may have been a fisher. Hoof prints and droppings indicate the presence of deer.

2001-09, Ryan R. Robbins. All rights reserved.
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