All the “Bear” roads were developed in 1989, Jarvis Way in 1991, and Shannon Circle in 1986. The Trust developed the trails, working with the developers and the town to preserve and extend existing paths. Look at the map and trace a line from Vose Road in the north, then along Polar Bear Drive, and to the trail that ends on Griffin Road just west of Jarvis Way. According to The Westford Gazetteer, these trails used to be a continuation of Vose Road, which ran all the way to present Griffin Road.
Koala Bear to Polar Bear
This trail has parking and a trailhead post at both ends. After skirting a low area, the trail becomes more obvious. Near the halfway point, it crosses a small bridge. To your left is the headwaters of Butter Brook, which flows right on its way to Nashoba Brook in Acton. Soon after, a side trail leads right to a backyard. Follow the blazes left up a small incline. The trail ends across a small open area that may be choked with weeds. Head for the trailhead post. In the reverse direction, veer left from the obvious trail, through the open area.
Polar Bear to Vose
This trail is flat and wide. That’s because it used to be an extension of Vose Road. Little Bear Hill rises to 331 feet on the right, more than 110 feet above the trail. About one third of the way, a trail leads left to the end of a peninsula, where a straight in the marsh can be crossed via two log bridges to the left of the more obvious ladder in the mud. Further on, three trails lead right, steeply up Little Bear Hill, and the trail passes the cul-de-sac of Black Bear Lane. It ends at Old Lowell Road, where Vose Road continues.
Little Bear to Jarvis
The southern end has three trailheads. Little Bear Hill Road has a trailhead post visible across a lawn. Griffin Road access is to the east of a tall electrical box, between two stone walls. This southern end of the old Vose Road is usually overgrown. Jarvis Way has a trailhead post and passes on a manicured lawn between a stone wall and a fence. The main loop runs north between Little Bear Hill Road and Jarvis Way. It is easy to follow until near the northern end, where a recent downed tree and subsequent cleanup has obliterated the trail. [Going clockwise, head north to the stone wall and turn right, looking for the small bridge. Going counterclockwise, cross the bridge, continue straight around the large tree, go uphill around the large stump, and left under the tree arch.] Soon a junction leads left to private property and right to continue the loop. A few steps prior to a jog in the trail, a trail leads left (see next section) to Shannon Circle. The loop ends at the northeast part of the Jarvis Way loop, where you’ll see the picture next to the map.
Jarvis to Shannon
This trail leads from the eastern part of the Jarvis Way loop trail to Shannon Circle. It has a jog at a stone wall near the western end, and is easy to follow.
Shannon to Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
This is by far the most “interesting” trail. To go end-to-end, bring your sense of adventure. And wear long pants and long sleeves. Still interested? Come on down! On Shannon Road, look for the blue blazes. In summer, you’ll start through high grasses. It’s not difficult to follow the trail until about 100 yards after crossing the stone wall. Then you enter a massive blowdown area, with large trees piled on each other. Look long and hard for blue blazes or silver hiker plates on the few remaining trees. Your best bet is to parallel the houses, keeping close to the blowdowns but not quite in them. Eventually you’ll pick up the trail, but there are still two large blowdowns that require straddling their trunks about three feet off the ground. Your work is done, as the trail continues normally to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, where cyclists and walkers will look at you like you just emerged from the Twilight Zone.
LocationThere is off-road parking at the ends of Koala Bear Lane and Polar Bear Drive. Each lot allows two cars, or four if you are comfortable blocking in two of them. Both Little Bear Hill Road and Shannon Circle are wide enough for on-street parking. The trails will be described in five parts.
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