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Bear Creek Trail winds across the northern half of Columbia, following Bear Creek for much of its nearly 5-mile route. Many portions of the trail traverse wooded areas, though the trail is never far from the surrounding neighborhoods. The trail has numerous access points at intersections, making it easy to ride some or all of the route, and it’s well marked with signage periodically noting the mileage. Sections of the trail are washed out or feature large stones and thick, loose gravel more suited for a mountain bike, but the majority of this crushed-stone trail is hard-packed and suitable for a hybrid bike.
Starting from the trailhead at Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area, commonly known as Cosmo Park, beginners should take care when riding the first 500 feet of the trail, which features a steep hill and thick gravel. Continuing on, the trail surface gradually changes to well-packed crushed stone as it passes by a quarry and through a wooded area.
At the 2.5-mile mark is the Garth Nature Area. To avoid a dangerous, unmarked road crossing ahead, turn right just before reaching the parking lot, restrooms, and water fountain. After taking the right, the trail loops down, passes under the road, and parallels Bear Creek.
Continuing on, the trail passes through a wooded area where tortoises, rabbits, birds, and other small wildlife are commonly seen. The trail passes under Rangeline Street and parallels the road for a short stretch. Follow the trail, which feels more like a sidewalk, as it bends to the right at Big Bear Boulevard. At the end of the road, the trail continues through woodlands.
Soon you’ll cross a long, wooden bridge that overlooks Bear Creek, providing a stunning view of the creek below. The trail continues through a wooded area with plenty of fauna. Follow the signs to reach the end of the trail at Albert-Oakland Park. The park also features about a mile-loop of fitness trails.
To reach the Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area trailhead from I-70, take Exit 124 and head north onto N. Stadium Blvd. At the next light, turn right onto Bus. I-70 W. Turn left at the sign for Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area and continue to go straight until you can go no farther. Turn into the adjacent parking lot and turn right again into the next parking lot, where the trail begins.
To reach the Albert-Oakland Park trailhead from US 63 N, take Exit B toward Hallsville and head south onto N. Route B. Turn right onto Brown Station Road and left onto Blue Ridge Road. A little less than a mile down the road, turn left into the park entrance.
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