There’s an old expression that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. So it follows that people often are lured outside Bangor’s city limits in all four seasons to hike and bike Maine’s extensive park and trail systems.
But did you know that some of the choicest destinations are located in the Queen City, just minutes from residents’ front doors? The good news is they’re safe, well-maintained, and free.
The Bangor Parks and Recreation Department maintains 30 parks and specialized facilities throughout the city. Two popular walks are the scenic Penobscot River path near Front and Railroad streets, and the 2.5-mile Kenduskeag Stream Park that begins on Franklin Street and passes old mill and dam sites, as well as bird-nesting areas and wild flowers. Illustrated trailhead signs, beginning closer to the river near the origin of the 1911 Bangor Fire, guide visitors along the route.
Venturing a bit farther from downtown, outdoor enthusiasts will discover often overlooked gems that are well worth the short drive.
Saxl Park is located at the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center on State Street. The 3-mile Fred Boyce Trail system is favored by hikers, birders, and cross-country skiers. Visitors can park near the Pooler Pavilion behind the hospital, accessed from Mount Hope Avenue. Some trails connect with Grotto Cascade Park on State Street, a nice place to picnic by the manmade waterfalls.
Essex Woods’ rugged terrain is popular with mountain bikers who like the 70-acre park’s narrow trails. Drive out Essex Street beyond Interstate 95 to Watchmaker Street and walk or bike the trails, which border reforested areas and a bog, home to thousands of frogs. The Essex Street Recreation Area also is popular with sledders and has a basketball court and Police Athletic League building.
Prentiss Woods, situated a mile away on Grandview Avenue, offers 7,290 feet of wooded trails and scattered benches for walking and dog-walking. The 35-acre treasure is adjacent to the City of Bangor nursery, which contains many trees, shrubs, and perennial flowers.
Brown Woods, located 10 minutes away on Ohio Street, is a 28-acre wooded park containing a picnic area and 4,000 feet of trails designed for people and their dogs. Visitors lose them-selves in the tranquil setting, often forgetting how close they are to Bangor International Airport and Union Street’s hustle and bustle.
The Rolland F. Perry City Forest is a sparkling jewel in Bangor’s park system. Extending beyond Stillwater Avenue’s tangle of fast food and retail outlets, the forest is open year round to visitors of all ages wishing to enjoy its more than 680 acres and 13 miles of trails designed for hikers and bikers. The working forest, accessible from Kittredge Road and Tripp Drive, features wildlife habitats.
A popular city forest attraction is the Orono Bog Board-walk. Designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service, the 1-mile wooden boardwalk straddles the Bangor-Orono line while passing changing vegetation over a raised peat bog. Volunteers maintain the boardwalk and help guide students and adults past a full array of northern bog plants.
Other hiking trails, while not city-owned, are worth visiting. Trails behind Husson University’s Hart Hall are scenic as are the paved roadways of Mount Hope Cemetery, located between State Street and Mount Hope Avenue, and Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Ohio Street.
Also worth a visit is Walden-Parke Preserve, a large tract of public trails located between the Penjajawoc Marsh and the Caribou Bog. From outer Essex Street, turn into Walden Parke Way, then right onto Tamarack Trail. The preserve is sponsored by the Bangor Land Trust and is a gift of Fritz and Caro-line Oldenburg and Dennis and Jane Shubert. All the trails on the former Veazie Railroad bed are open to bikers, hikers, cross-country skiers, and others.
Visitors to all of these parks are advised to read the signs for safety and rules before they venture onto the trails. Remember to bring a camera, along with bug spray and water. Enjoy your visit!