Get off the streets and hit the woods with this trail running loop at Bear Brook State Park!
Trail running is a chance to escape the concrete jungle and breathe fresh forest air while pushing your body in new ways. Dodging rocks/roots and ducking under branches forces you to be light on your feet and concentrate on what’s right in front of you. It works out entirely different muscle groups than an average road route and provides the relaxing benefits of nature.
When you bring a running buddy, the spacious double-track trails can also provide a chance to really bond. Running in the woods is conducive to free-flowing conversation and light-hearted spirits that will leave you both satisfied with your workout and happy for sharing the experience!
At Bear Brook you’ll find and an endless opportunity to create your own trail running loops; mixing up your runs and exploring new terrain. With about 40 miles of trails, you can easily create runs that range from full marathon to casual 5k depending on your fitness level.
The route described below is about 6.7 miles long and is a combination of long, flat double-track, parks roads and winding single-track. It includes some rocky uphill climbs, open sunny forest, shady groves and 2 of the parks most beautiful streams.
Bear Brook Trail Running Loop Info:
Parking: For this loop, park off of Deerfield Road at the Catamount Pond day-use area (across from the toll-booth). The park hasn’t opened for the season full time yet but parking spots are available outside the gate. (Park opens weekends only on 5/6 and full-time on 6/11)
Distance: 6.7 miles
Trails: One Mile Trail, Sentinel Pine, Cascade, Carr Ridge, Hayes Farm, Podunk Road, Bear Brook, Lower Bear Brook and back to Lane/One Mile.
Difficulty: Moderate – there are a few rocky climbs (beginning of Sentinel Pine and parts of Carr Ridge) and narrow downhills (along Catamount Brook) but otherwise it’s fairly smooth and manageable.
Maps: Bear Brook State Park Trails Map (pdf) | See also – enlarged, highlighted view of this loop. This map from NortheastCycling.com is also pretty helpful: click here to view.
From the parking area off of Deerfield Road massive white pines will tower over you. On a sunny day the highlights gleaming off the side of these trees help lift your spirit and put a smile on your face. To set out on this loop – cross the street, run past the toll booth and head down One Mile Trail. The first mile of this run is flat/open double-track so you’ll feel the sun on your back as you warmup and get loose. Bear left at the first junction to stay on One Mile Trail.
After about a mile look for signs pointing to Sentinel Pine Trail on your right (it’s a small plastic diamond marker). Turn right here and head upwards. Once you enter the woods, you immediately climb up a fairly steep, rocky section of the trail. This is where your workout will start to crank up. At the top of this climb your lungs will be pumping and legs feeling the burn.
After about a quarter mile you’ll reach the junction and signs for Cascade Trail. Turn left here and continue through open hardwood forest. Cascade is more narrow and you’ll have to run single-file. The winding single track will take you downhill and towards Catamount Brook.
At the bottom of the hill you’ll cross a bridge over the brook and enter dense, shaded forest where hemlock trees prevail. The trail continues along the beautiful Catamount Brook on a narrow ledge cut into the side of the hill. This section is quite impressive and serene but passes quickly as the downhill pushes you to run faster along the way.
Towards the bottom of the hill, the trail veers right and goes up a short/steep hill away from the brook. It quickly comes to another junction (and signs) for Carr Ridge. Bear right onto Carr Ridge and follow it up the hill. Carr Ridge is also singletrack and passes through mostly hardwood forest with some scattered pines. On this spring day there was plenty of sunlight poking through the leafless forest. The trail has some ups and downs, straight sections and curves and some rocky/rooty areas as well. You’ll pass a few massive glacial erratics along the way too.
Take Carr Ridge all the way to Hayes Farm. Turn left on Hayes Farm Trail and follow it all the way to Podunk Road. Hayes Farm is a wide/smooth double track trail and you can spread out next to your running buddy again and run side by side for more quality conversation.
Once you reach Podunk Road turn left and head down the hill. Use caution here as Podunk is one of the main park roads and you may see a car or two coming up or down as you run. (Podunk Road provides access to the parking area at Hayes Marsh)
Podunk is a nice downhill for most of the way. Towards the bottom of the hill you’ll see a toll booth, ranger station and the campground road. Just before the toll booth, bear left on the cut-through trail leading down to the hiker/biker parking lot. Pass through the hiker/biker lot and continue on down the trail to the left towards the Bear Brook Trail.
At the next junction continue onto Bear Brook Trail. The singletrack enters shaded woods and traverses along the edge of Bear Brook. This is another really scenic part of the run as the trail is cut into the side of a steep hill with views down into the brook. It passes through dense hemlock grove and then closely parallels the stream for the last quarter mile. Keep following Bear Brook trail until you get back out to Lane Trail/One Mile Trail.
Turn right on Lane/One Mile and you’ll be back on flat double track for half mile. Take the next right onto Lower Bear Brook Trail to follow singletrack back into the woods. You’ll end up coming out by the brook again and see a bridge crossing over to the group-use and pavilion area off of Deerfield Road. Bear left here and you end up coming back out onto One Mile Trail. The next right turn will bring you back to the day-use area at Catamount Pond.
This loop is just the tip of the iceberg…there are so many trails to explore and opportunities for trail running and biking within Bear Brook State Park. The more you come and get to know this park the more you’ll fall in love with it.
Share this link with your running buddy and come give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did.