Bangor's trails offer a variety of terrain and solitude

In addition to 13 miles of access roads and hiking trails, City Forest is also home to the mile-long Orono Bog boardwalk, which is open May through November.
Depending on where you go in Bangor, the city may take on the persona of an aspiring "big" city, it may come across as a small town, or it may appear to be a shopping mecca. But tucked away among the city's busy shopping centers, quiet neighborhoods and downtown weekday traffic you can find quiet getaways to walk or bike through open fields, along a country stream or marvel in the silence of a natural forest -- all within 10 minutes of almost anywhere within the city.

Holding on to its strong relationship with the natural environment that stayed relatively free from the big-city influences of Boston and New York during its infancy, Bangor has some of the finest walking and biking trails that will appeal to all nature lovers or those who just want to take a break. If you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a deer or moose at Essex Woods, or a muskrat at one of Mount Hope Cemetery's ponds.

Essex Woods provides a modest view of Bangor's east side from atop Essex Street Hill. Accessible from Watchmaker Street (off Essex Street), the park offers hikers two trails that border a bog. Combined, the trails are about 2 miles long. Mountain bikers will like the terrain especially, as the trails have been host to several championship races, with narrow trails forged through the park's 70 acres specifically for bikers.

The trail begins atop Essex Street Hill and winds to the left down the hill for about 1/4 of a mile before branching to the left and right. The left branch is the most peaceful of the two trails and follows a straight path until a wooded area, which the trail winds its way through before coming out in a residential neighborhood.

The trail to the right is the noisest because it takes hikers toward Interstate 95 before sending them away from the busy highway and to a residential neighborhood.

Although surrounded mostly by residential areas, the Essex Woods trails are relatively remote. They are not lighted. The trails are near a moose crossing on the interstate and the bog is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of frogs. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a moose or a deer. If you take your dog on these trails, walk it with a leash and check for burdocks afterward, especially if your dog has long fur.

The Kenduskeag Stream Trail begins in downtown Bangor and ends on Valley Avenue.
Saxl Park, on the grounds of the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center (formerly Bangor Mental Health Institute), offers the Fred Boyce Trail system, which has about 3 miles of trails through mostly open fields. The trails provide a comforting view of the distant mountains and hills that define the east edge of the Penobscot River Valley. The trail system is ideal for walking dogs and may be of particular interest to bird watchers, as there is an abundance of finches, chickadees, crows and other species in the area. The main trail, marked with crushed stone, begins off the parking lot to the Pooler Pavilion, behind the hospital and off Mount Hope Avenue. It cuts across the park and follows a dilapidated barbed wire fence before cutting back through the park and leading hikers out near the Maine Warden Service's office building.

The secondary trails, marked by mowed areas, break away from the main trail and take hikers along the perimeter of two other fields. One of the secondary trails leads to the back of Cascade Park and overlooks the Penobscot River.

Saxl Park's fields offer prime cross country skiing terrain.

The Rolland F. Perry City Forest, accessible at the end of the Kittredge Road (at the junction of Stillwater Avenue and Hogan Road) and Tripp Drive, (1.6 miles north of the Stillwater-Hogan junction) offers nature enthusiasts more than 680 acres and more than 13 miles of trails for hiking or biking. It is a working forest owned and maintained by the city of Bangor and offers designated wildlife habitats. A main, dirt, road goes through the middle of the forest while secondary roads loop around the forest's perimeter. Relatively virgin trails -- with names such as Grouse, Lynx, Moose and Skunk -- offer shortcuts through mostly untouched areas. Mountain bikers will find these trails most appealing.

Parking is available at the Kittredge Road gate or inside the area in a small dirt lot before the forest's official start, and at the Tripp Drive entrance. The gate for vehicles to drive in at Kittredge Road opens at 7 a.m. and closes at sunset, although the city has been known to close it as much as an hour before sunset.

Visit the City Forest page for suggestions on trails and wildlife sightings and to download a color map or to view a printable map.

Mount Hope Cemetery's 264 acres provide plenty of peace and quiet amid well-kempt lawns, ponds, and shade.
Prentiss Woods, on Grandview Avenue, provides about 40 acres and 2 miles of trails through woods behind Bangor High School. The trails are wide and appear to be a favorite place of dogs to walk their owners. The ground off the trails is soft with a thin layer of pine needles and moss. All of the park's trails are shaded, making the park an ideal destination during a hot summer day. The trails are especially quiet late in the afternoon.

Brown Woods, on Ohio Street just after the John T. Cyr Bus yard when heading away from the city, provides 4,000 feet of wooded trails that meander under tall pines, spruce, birch and other species. Benches along the way invite hikers to take a break and take a little while to look around and perhaps catch sight of squirrels, birds, deer or maybe even moose. An "unofficial" trail near the back of the woods leads to a large rock formation on the edge of an abandoned gravel pit that beavers have flooded.

Kenduskeag Stream Trail, which follows the stream from downtown Bangor to the outer city limits, offers walkers and bikers a surprisingly tranquil outlet despite bisecting the city and winding through the city's business district and passing under Interstate 95.

The 2 -mile trail can be appreciated most by walking it. It begins downtown at the Franklin Street bridge on the west bank of the stream. From there, the trail goes through a lightly wooded area through moderately hill terrain before crossing the stream after about mile on a wood and steel footbridge. Upon reaching the east bank of the stream, the trail goes about 1/4 of a mile before emerging from the trees and cutting across the Harlow Street bridge.

At the end of the Harlow Street bridge, the trail joins Fourteenth Street Extension and continues along the west bank of the stream through Kenduskeag Stream Park. At the junction of Fourteenth Street Extension and Valley Avenue, the trail then follows Valley Avenue. Lovers Leap, a 150-foot cliff on the east bank where legend has it that an American Indian couple forbidden to be together leapt to their deaths, rises sharply from the shallow depths of the Kenduskeag. A lookout extends about 15 feet over the stream.

Less than 1/4 mile after the lookout, the trail crosses the stream for the final time, sending hikers and bikers to the east bank. The last half-mile stretch of the trail leading from the Valley Avenue bridge to the trail's end provides the most solitude. A second lookout provides another unique view of the stream just beyond the I-95 bridge. Picnic tables with canopies sit close to the stream, providing an ideal place for a small picnic lunch, a place to read a book or write a letter amid the trickling water.

Essex Woods passes by a freshwater marsh that is home to many species of birds and small wildlife.
Mount Hope Cemetery, the second-oldest garden cemetery in the United States -- with entrances on State Street and Mount Hope Avenue -- offers hikers and bikers more than 260 acres of solitude and miles of paved roads that wind around and through immaculately manicured lawns where some of Bangor's most famous and influential residents are buried, including Abraham Lincoln's first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin.

The cemetery also features ponds, stately trees and some of the finest monuments to be found anywhere. Among the most notable monuments are the Luther Peirce 2nd Maine Civil War Memorial, at the cemetery's State Street entrance; Soldier's Monument, which may be the oldest U.S. Civil War monument; the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Memorial; the Maine Korean War Memorial; the Rufus Dwinel monument; the Hill family mausoleum; the Samuel Veazie tomb and countless others.

You can visit Mount Hope's main attractions by yourself or you can take a guided tour for $10 in the summer and learn about the history of the cemetery and those who now call it home. Check the Events page for tour dates.

Cemetery Hill, which overlooks Office Pond and the Penobscot River to the east, provides a widesweeping vista to the west. Here you will find the cemetery's oldest graves.

Mount Hope's front gate closes at 7:30 p.m. Dogs are not allowed.

Downtown Bangor and its early 20th century granite and brick buildings will provide a change of pace from meandering through the woods in search of foliage and wildlife. You can see the city's old and new aspects along lower Main and State streets. Notable sections in the downtown business district are West Market Square and the Wheelwright Block, Bangor Savings Bank, the Penobscot County Superior Courthouse, Bangor Public Library, the Universalist Church, Norumbega Parkway and Kenduskeag Mall and the Bangor House, among others. Most of the downtown's architecture owes itself to reconstruction after the Great Fire of 1911, which destroyed most of the business district east of the Kenduskeag Stream.

The Bangor Historical Society offers maps of a more complete walking tour throughout the city. The Society is at 159 Union St., telephone number (207) 942-5766.

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