Difficulty: Moderate. The main trail and connecting side trails total a little less than two miles. Steep sections of trail and rocky areas add to the challenge.
How to get there: The trail has three access points. The largest parking area for the trail is at the end of Indian Trail Lane, which is off of Route 9, just northeast of North Brewer Shopping Center and before Parkway North. The lane is marked with a wooden sign (shaped like an arrowhead) for Indian Trail Park. The other two access points are located at the Penobscot County Conservation Alliance and Penobscot Salmon Club, but located off Route 9, northeast of Indian Trail Lane.
Information: A plaque at the end of Indian Trail Lane in Brewer reads: “Indian Trail. Trod by moccasined feet for centuries from the summer camping grounds to the salmon fishing grounds at the dam. A burying ground is located near the dam.”
Indian Trail Lane leads to the 4-acre Indian Trail Park, owned by the city of Brewer. The park, with its picnic tables, benches, sliding hill and grassy lawn, is a popular place for local residents to relax in the sun and walk their dogs. Dogs owners must have control of their pets by leash or voice commands at all times, and they must also pick up any pet waste.
The park is one of the main access points to Indian Trail, which snakes along the Penobscot River and loops through the forest for 1.8 miles, according to the Brewer Land Trust. Portions of the trail were cleared by Boy Scouts of America Troop 15.
To enter the trail network, leave the parking area and descend the hill on railroad-tie stairs. The trail then enters the forest and heads downhill to the riverbank. Through the woods, you’ll catch glimpses of the Penobscot River below.
The trail is a variety of packed earth, rocks and exposed roots. Watch your step. Children and pets should be watched closely as the trail travels along the steep embankment. Along the main trail, you’ll notice side trails that lead to viewpoints closer to the river. Many of the side trails descend steep slopes that can be slippery, especially in the winter. From these viewpoints, you’ll be able to see a number of buildings in Bangor, including Hollywood Casino, the Eastern Maine Medical Center and the historic brick buildings at the old Bangor Dam site.
After climbing a bit to a high ledge, the trail descends and reaches an intersection at a streambed. If you turn right at the streambed, you will climb up to the Indian Trail Park parking lot, completing a small loop. If you turn left at the streambed, the trail descends toward the river then crosses over the streambed on small boulders and continues northeast along the edge of the river.
After passing two storm drains painted neon green, the trail splits. Veer left to continue along the river. You’ll soon see Penobscot County Conservation Alliance buildings through the woods to the right.
The trail seems to end at the parking lot of the Penobscot Salmon Club, but it doesn’t. Cross the parking area, walking past picnic tables, the clubhouse and an information kiosk to where the trail re-enters the woods.
The trail continues to travel along the river for a short distance (with a short spur leading to the very edge of the water), then it turns away from the river and travels through the forest and across the road leading to the Penobscot Salmon Club.
The trail continues through the woods and across a small bridge, then travels along the side of a pond before crossing the road leading to the Penobscot County Conservation Alliance buildings. After crossing the road, the trail heads back toward the Penobscot River and reconnects with the riverside trail (the intersection after the green-painted storm drains). Veer left and you’ll be retracing your footsteps back to Indian Trail Park.
Personal note: I waited until the thermometer read 20 degrees Fahrenheit on Dec. 13 before pulling on long-johns and driving to Indian Trail Park with my dog Oreo, bundled in a doggy fleece. It was just past noon and while the sun was bright, it never seems too far from this horizon this time of year. Days are short and shadows are always reaching across the frozen ground.
Crazy enough, I chose the day for its “warmth.” The days preceding it had been even colder. Nevertheless, I knew I’d have to monitor both myself and Oreo throughout the walk to make sure neither of us became too cold. I couldn’t pause for long to film or photograph the surroundings because every time I stopped, Oreo would start to shiver and whine. As long as we kept moving, he was OK.
While the Indian Trail is probably more enjoyable on a warm summer day, there is one special thing about visiting the trail in the depth of winter — seeing and hearing the ice as it forms and moves in the river. As we walked, we listened to the ice crackle, groan and snap as the current moved beneath it.
More than an hour into the hike, as we walked along the frozen pond by the road leading to the Penobscot County Conservation Alliance, I noticed two plump robins snagging red berries from a bush. I paused to take photos with my 300-mm lens, and while I was successful in capturing images of the birds, it cost me some body heat. Cold started to creep into my skin as I watched the robins, and my ears started to burn with cold, even though they were fully covered with my winter hat. From there, I decided to jog back to Indian Trail Park. Oreo and I had both had enough of the cold.