Bear Mountain Reservation, not to be confused with the park in Salisbury, is located off of route 37, otherwise known as Padanaram Road. Driving up to the park and seeing the big bear sign was very reminiscent of Yellowstone Park. There is plenty of parking for eager hikers and their dogs.
Yes, the trails are dog friendly, and I encountered three dogs off-leash having a grand time. (The hiking trails are listed on BringFido.com.)
At the entrance of the trail is a kiosk with a large map of the park and next to it a list of rules. Hikers are urged to "Leave only footprints and take only photographs." A white box contains maps of the park, which should be returned at the end of the hike. I highly recommend printing a map of the reservation from online or stopping at the Danbury Parks and Recreation office, since only one map was left in the box.
Even on a cool, somewhat overcast and partially drizzly day, the trails and views were delightful. There are several courses to choose from, which range from moderate to easy. The opening trail leads uphill where some six-foot planks have been placed across the trail presumably to help in the rainy season. Further up is a culvert and beyond that a meadow where the three main trails of red, green and white split. From these trails splinter off the yellow, blue, orange and violet (listed as pink) trails.
The moderate, or red trail, is the most challenging and takes the longest time to complete. I decided to "blaze" my own trail and mix it up a bit and started with the red trail, then onto the white, went off the trail and found the green, which lead me to the yellow trail. The map definitely helped me navigate through all these areas and I eventually found the pinnacle to view Lake Candlewood. From the yellow trail, I came to the pink (or violet-colored) trail and descended the mountain.
The woods were quiet and serene, with an occasional sentinel crow squawking a warning of another two-legged creature within their domain. Perhaps the hardest obstacles this time of the year are the acorns covering the trails, making for a slippery base underfoot.
Interestingly, somewhere on Bear Mountain Reservation, three Letter Boxes have been planted or buried. I had never heard of this letter boxing hobby or of letter boxer hobbyists until now. More information on the art of letter boxing can be found on Wikipedia and letterboxer2002.tripod.com.
This is a great place to take the kids and dogs for a "getaway" kind of a hike and maybe even connecting to other hikers with some letterboxing.