Length: 2,845 ft. • Difficulty: 2 (rocks and some roots)
Terrain: Light to heavy tree cover, a few rocks, a few roots
Beginner mountain bikers looking to get away from the boring routine of taking the access roads and East, West, Rabbit, and Deer trails will find Bobcat Trail a good fit and way to branch out to more serious off-road biking without having to worry about getting mired in mud, having to dodge rocks and roots, jumping off obstacles, or trudging through knee-deep water.
The trail, which measures about a half mile, begins off the left side of West Trail just before you reach the breach in the stone wall bordering the arboretum. While heading north, it meanders between tall pines on a forest floor of fallen pine needles that carpet the peat forest floor. The forest canopy of pines and spruces in this stretch of the trail provide a high ceiling of shade from a beating sun on the hottest of summer days. Rocks and roots are almost non-existent.
Debris from thinning is scattered lightly on both sides of the trail.
The first obstacles you’ll encounter are two pools of mud and a vernal pool about 370 feet along the ride. Technically, the trail goes straight through the vernal pool, but bikers in recent years have worn a slight detour that hooks to the right around a young maple tree before inevitably tracking through the mud. A small opening in the canopy on the left allows just enough sunlight to the ground to enable hardy wetland grasses to flourish here.
Another 145 feet farther the trail branches off to the left and to the right. Keep to the right, where there’s a pine tree with the trail sign on it, as going to the left will just take you to Grouse Trail and then to West Trail.
The forest floor then slopes upward slightly as you gain a mere 18 feet in elevation on the way to the southern end of Loop Road. To the left, where there is more exposure to sunlight, ferns dot the ground. On the right, small saplings are beginning to flourish to replace the thinned trees that were cut. As you approach Grouse Trail, young spruce trees, many of which aren’t much taller than the few ferns in this area, become more numerous and the forest floor becomes pocked here and there with an occasional rock or root.
Upon crossing Grouse Trail, the trail narrows as spruce and then pine trees come closer to the trail, which through this point since the mud pools is an easy, smooth ride. This second stretch of the trail runs parallel to Main Road, which you’ll see through the trees on the right.
A short path from Main Road then merges with the main trail as the trail widens as it runs through a patch of pitch pines and an increasing number of ferns, most of which are to the right.
The next landmark you’ll encounter is the southern end of Loop Road, 462 feet slightly northwest from the Main Road connector. The roadside features oxeye daisies, queen Anne’s lace, and cow vetch.
To continue on Bobcat Trail, turn left onto Loop Road for about 70 feet, at which point you’ll see the trail continue through a thicker section of pine trees. Look for the trail sign.
A small cropping of manageable rocks will greet you as you descend back into the woods before the trail undulates for a short stretch while passing by ferns and bunchberries and an increasingly mossy forest floor. The moss does not cover the trail.
A small break in the canopy exposes the trail to sunlight as the trail begins to curve to the right. Before reaching the break you’ll go over a 20-foot stretch of increasingly gnarly roots. If you maintain a decent speed up to, and through, this area, you should be able to ride over them with relative ease.
After the curve, a trio of birch trees will come into view a little more than a hundred feet away. The trail ends after the birches while intersecting with Moose Trail. If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably want to turn around because Moose Trail, although appearing only a bit more difficult in this area, can be challenging in spots because of mud and rocks.
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