Bear Mountain in Danbury, CT. (not to be confused with Connecticut's tallest peak, Bear Mountain in Salisbury, CT) was set aside and dedicated by the Mayor of Danbury for people of all ages to enjoy.
The reservation property is nestled between suburban neighborhoods, Candlewood Lake shoreline, and the FCI women's prison (a medium security prison that used to house male prisoners but was changed to female inmates a fews years ago. The women here are mostly white collar criminals (tax invasion, stock fraud) but there are some women who have committed drug offenses but there are no violent criminals here so there's no reason to be concerned about your safety...years ago Reverand Moon and G. Gordon Liddy were inmates.)
John F. Kennedy Trial system offers several choices but the red trail is the largest and probably the most logical one to explore.
It loops around the Bear Mountain property and goes through open fields, narrow walkways, quiet forest, and over small hills.
As I noted, there are several side trails you can explore and all of them link back up with the red trail eventually.
Bear Mountain in Danbury is one of those places nobody ever seems to think of when taking a hike, but it's a really nice place to check out, especially if you include the orange trail with its spectacular lake views.
The orange trail dips down to the shores of Candlewood Lake and offers a great view of the lake.
If you do the red trail and add the orange you'll be sure to get a nice workout.
The trail leading down to the lake's edge is a little steep and very rocky so you need to watch your step.
Once at water's edge you'll really appreciate the views and soon find a nice spot to chill out in.
This area is a great spot to catch your breath or have a snack before heading back.
Along the shore you'll notice side trails going to the left and right that seem to go offer other areas to explore.
However, I wouldn't go down either trail more than 100 ft.
The one to the left is private property and the one to the right is owned by the prison...and I don't think they'd appreciate an uninvited guest.
The lakefront spot though quiet and peaceful also has the feel of a teenage hangout but this could be attributed to the boats that pull up here in the summer.
There's a rope swing that's very well known and plenty of people swim over to the shore from their boats and swing off for a few Tarzan impressions.
There are some broken bottles with a few beer/sodas strewn around at times so careful where you step.
It's a minor eyesoar though and shouldn't dissuade anyone from hiking down to the lake.
All in all, Bear Mountain Reservation is worth checking out. If you're a solo hiker or have kids this is a safe "getaway from it all" place.
It's easy to get to, well maintained, and the hiking is very straightforward with pleasant surroundings.
If I had a complaint, it would be that the yellow/violet trails lead you up a hill to an apparent overview but instead take you into more forest terrain without offering the hiker anything of much interest.
It seems a little more effort and planning by the trailblazers could have produced a spectacular view overlooking the lake.
A side note: sometimes loud voices can be heard in the distance and can be a little disconcerting if you're hiking alone.
Just remember that you're near the women's prison and a loudspeaker barks out instructions to inmates or is used to contact prison staff. I took a criminal justice course at WestConn years ago and our teacher worked at the prison. He took our class on a tour and back then it was male inmates. Reverend Moon happened to be there for tax evasion. His huge white limo sat in the parking lot all day, everday he was there, and this allowed him to run his empire through his "driver" who actually was his executive secretary. The limo had big cell phone antenaes (this was before the small cell phones we all have now) and the driver would take calls and then "visit" Mr. Moon and then he would send his "driver" back to the limo to communicate with business associates. The reverand didn't seem to be doing too much hard time as I recall so this should give you some peace of mind as to whether you should worry about one of the female inmates escaping into Bear Mt. and giving you a hard time.
Directions: In order to get to Bear Mountain (it seems there are many Bear Mountains in New England) take exit 6 off I-84 and proceed north on Rt. 37 passed all the shopping centers.
(From Exit 6 to Bear Mountain Rd is about 2.8 miles)
Go past the commercialized district and eventualy passed the federal prison which begins the more rural part of northern Danbury.
About a 1/4 mile past the prison entrance is Bear Mountain Rd...you'll see a sign for Bear Mt. and JFK Trail.
1/2 mile up Bear Mountain Rd is the entrance to Bear Mountain Reservation.
There is a nice paved lot with picnic benches and plenty of parking.
Printable version of the Bear Mountain page
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