Difficulty: Easy. The trails in the network are wide and relatively smooth, with only slight changes in elevation. Combined, they total a little less than 1.5 miles.
How to get there: Take Exit 48 off I-95 and a right onto Broadway. Drive about 0.6 mile and turn right onto Grandview Avenue. Drive about 0.2 mile and the parking area to Prentiss Woods Trail is on the left, just after the entrance to Bangor High School.
Information: The 25.5-acre Prentiss Woods is located beside Bangor High School and is a popular place for trail running, dog walking and cross-country skiing. A couple trailside benches are located throughout the network for visitors to rest on and observe wildlife.
Much of the tail network is in the shade, sheltered by a thick evergreen canopy high overhead. Located in the midst of a city, the forest is surprisingly mature. You’ll notice an abundance of tall white pines, eastern red cedar and eastern hemlock, as well as paper birch, American beech and balsam fir.
From the parking area on Grandview Avenue, three trails lead into Prentiss Woods. If you stand in the parking area and face the trail network kiosk, the left trail will lead along the west edge of the property to Bangor High School; the middle trail will lead straight into the center of Prentiss Woods, and the right trail will lead along the south edge of the property and then head north.
In general, the network is a big loop. If you start with the left trail, you can walk to Bangor High School, where there is another kiosk and trail map, then re-enter the woods to walk to the north end of the property, where the trail loops around and returns by traveling along the east and south edge of the property. However, when you’re in the woods, it doesn’t seem that simple. In the northwest corner of the property, a side trail leads out to a maintenance road. And the loop is bisected by two trails, so you will meet a few trail intersections along the way.
I recommend carrying a trail map during your first few times in the woods. The kiosks at the parking area and at the highschool both display trail maps, which you can copy or photograph, and there are trail maps available online at several locations, including www.bangorlandtrust.org/prentiss-woods.html.
Owned and maintained by the City of Bangor, Prentiss Woods is open to visitors year round. While use of the trails is free, the city asks that visitors stay on marked trails and clean up after their dogs, which are allowed on the trails only if under control of their owners. Signs at the parking area kiosk also specify that motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails, and trail users should not approach or feed wild animals living in the forest. For information about Bangor trails, visit www.bangormaine.gov or call the parks and recreation department at 992-4490.
The property was named in honor of Henry E. Prentiss, who served as mayor of Bangor in 1870. Born in Paris, Maine, in 1809, Prentiss was one of nine children. He served in the Army, practiced law in Orono and owned a lumber business. By the time he became mayor, his family represented the elite society of Bangor and lived in the McGaw House, at the corner of Kenduskeag Avenue and Division Street, according to “Bangor in Focus.”
Prentiss died of a heart attack in July of 1873, leaving the estate to his wife and four children. He was buried atop Cemetery Hill at Mount Hope Cemetery, with an elm tree planted behind the family monument.
Personal note: Holiday season is nuts. I love it, and I kind of hate it. The festivities and traditions and gifts are all great, but I often find myself stressing out with all the shopping, cooking, cleaning and being in three places at once. But no matter how busy I am around Christmas, I refuse to give up my outdoor time, a few peaceful hours in the woods. It’s tough to fit in, but fortunately, there are a lot of great trail networks where I live in the Bangor area.
On Saturday, between gift wrapping and spicing (and spiking) egg nog, I took a trip to Prentiss Woods with my boyfriend, Derek, and our dog, Oreo. (It was my idea that we wear Santa hats, and Derek kindly complied.) The temperature, hovering in the high 20s, felt mild after such severe cold the week before. Oreo, wearing a doggy fleece but no Santa hat, was actually warm enough to have fun leaping through the snow.
I kept falling behind, mesmerized by the variety of animal tracks in snow. And when I wasn’t looking down, I was looking up, surprised at the height of the trees. All the mature evergreens made the forest an especially beautiful winter wonderland.