Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on how many trails you choose to explore. The forest features more than 9 miles of intersecting trails, as well as about 4 miles of gravel roads that are closed to public vehicle traffic. The roads and many of the trails are smooth and wide with minimal changes in elevation. Some of the trails are narrow with slightly rougher surfaces, but for the most part, trails are free of rocks and roots. After it rains, expect patches of mud in some areas.
Information: The Bangor City Forest — formally called the Rolland F. Perry City Forest — encompasses more than 680 acres in the northeast corner of Bangor. Owned and maintained by the city, this considerable chunk of conserved land is a popular place for local residents to exercise and enjoy the wilderness year round.
The forest features a large network of intersecting trails and gravel roads that are open to running, hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The forest is also a great place to go geocaching, an activity in which people search for hidden containers or “caches” using a GPS device and written clues. Within the boundaries of the forest, there are more than 30 caches to find.
To help people navigate the trail network, the city recently upgraded signage throughout the forest. Large detailed trail maps are posted at both parking lots and at major trail intersections.
One of the most popular destinations of the Bangor City Forest is the Orono Bog Boardwalk, a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk that travels through a forested wetland, then splits into a loop that explores an open bog. Along the way, the boardwalk crosses the town line into Orono and enters property owned by the University of Maine. The boardwalk is closed during the winter. For more information about it, visit oronobogwalk.org.
Though the Bangor City Forest is located at the edge of a shopping mecca, the property gives visitors a true taste of Maine wilderness. Surrounded by other parcels of conserved land, it’s an important place for local wildlife. Black bears, white-tailed deer, porcupines, snowshoe hares, moose and a variety of other creatures have been spotted in the forest by recreationists. Many of the trails are named after these animals.
The forest is also a great place to go birding. In its stands of mature trees, visitors can spot a variety of warblers, thrushes and other woodland birds, according to “Maine Birding Trail: The Official Guide to More Than 260 Accessible Sites,” a book by BDN columnist Bob Duchesne. In addition, a number of less common species can be found by walking the Orono Bog Boardwalk during certain times of year.
Dogs are permitted in the forest but must be kept under control at all times. Furthermore, dogs must be kept on leash on Main Road, Shannon Road, Tripp Drive and East Trail. Dogs are not permitted on the Orono Bog Boardwalk.
Access is free. Hunting is prohibited, as is the use of ATVs and other motorized vehicles. For more information visit bangormaine.gov/trails or call the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department at 207-992-4490.
Personal note: The Bangor City Forest is a place that I’ve visited many times. It’s not too far from where I grew up, attended college and now work. (Aside from all the hiking I do, I generally tend to stay put.) Walking the trails of the forest, I’ve searched for warblers and counted frogs. I’ve celebrated the spring opening of the boardwalk, and i ntroduced my young niece to the many flowers and carnivorous plants that can be found in the Orono Bog.
“This is brilliant,” my then-4-year-old niece had told me during the hike. A sterling review.
On Monday, Nov. 4, I returned to the forest for another reason — to find some geocaches. But first, I visited the Rock and Art Shop in Bangor to purchase a few polished rocks, small treasures to place in the caches I found. The geocaching rule is: you can trade for items of equal or lesser value. But I just wanted to add items to the caches. It’s fun thinking of fellow geocachers finding the rocks I left and carrying them home.
That day in the forest, I found two geocaches and searched for a third but was unable to locate it. I also replaced a geocache that I hid out there in 2013. The forest appears to have swallowed it up. So I carried out a new container, log book, pencil and treasures, and I hid a new cache in a nearby spot. I’ve submitted it for review through geocaching.com, the site and mobile app I use to find caches. Hopefully it will be re-activated soon. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.
By the time I’d prepared and placed my geocache, the sun was starting to disappear behind the tall evergreens that towered above me. It was only 3:30 p.m., but the days are incredibly short in November — something to remember when planning outdoor adventures. I suggest carrying a headlamp.
During my short hike that day, I was surprised at the number of birds I saw, it being such a visibly bleak and lifeless time of year. As I walked, I came across several bold chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches, which were feasting on pine cones as they clung to the tips of branches. I also spotted a couple hairy woodpeckers and a group of dark-eyed juncos. Also, in one section of forest, crows were making quite a racket. And as I sped out of the forest, I stopped for just a moment to enjoy the antics of two red squirrels that were chasing each other up and down trees.
One last thought: I may try to find a jacket or T-shirt that says “I’m geocaching” on the back, just to let fellow trail users know what I’m doing when I’m searching under logs and behind rocks beside trails. In addition, I appear to be talking to myself much of the time because I explain things on camera for my videos. So if anyone came across me during my recent adventure, I apologize if I gave you a fright. I may have ducked behind a tree a few times to avoid explaining myself.
How to get there: The forest has two main parking lots. To get to both, use I-95 Exit 187 and drive north on Hogan Road about 0.5 mile until you reach a traffic light where it intersects with Stillwater Avenue. Turn right onto Stillwater Avenue, heading toward Orono.
To reach the west trailhead of the forest, drive about 0.1 mile on Stillwater Avenue, then turn left onto Kittredge Road. Drive about 1 mile to the end of Kittredge Road, where the parking area is located.
To reach the east trailhead of the forest (which is much closer to the Orono Bog Boardwalk), drive about 1.5 mile on Stillwater Avenue, then turn left onto Tripp Drive. Drive about 0.3 mile to the parking lot at the end of the road.
For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit bangordailynews.com/act-out. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.