Bear Ridge Trail is one of several horse trails of historical significance to the Maple Ridge community. In February 2019, Bear Ridge Trail was awarded Heritage Status in the category of Heritage Landscape/Natural Heritage Resource by the Maple Ridge Community Heritage Commission.
Bear Ridge Trail was created in the 1970s by George Fulton and his family. The Ridge Riders (aka “Haney Horsemen Association” after 1980) were among some of the first users of this new trail. Bear Ridge is one of several trails that the HHA registered with the District beginning in 1982.
The trail’s name, as the story goes, acknowledges the old Boar Bear that lived in the area and was often seen sunning himself near the trail. Not surprisingly, this trail was used as a training ground for many horses to get them used to the sight and smell of bears.
Dave Smith emerged as a formidable leader in the stewardship of Bear Ridge Trail, complementing his efforts for the neighbouring Tower Trail that climbed up the north side of Thornhill Mountain to the peak. In the 1990s, the property changed ownership and Bear Ridge Trail became a logging road allowing trucks to remove the trees. Dave Smith recalls the relocation of the trail to the south, closer to the 104 Avenue Road Allowance, due to the logging work going on. Always a leader in organizing trail-building work bees, he tells of cutting out logs, grub-hoeing switchbacks and persevering against cold and wet weather.
Equestrians and hikers alike have been traversing Bear Ridge Trail over the last four decades as their primary west-east connection from the horse trails near 248 Street (Westview and Erskine trails) through the southern section of the forested urban reserve on Thornhill Mountain to 256 Street.
Two east trailheads for Bear Ridge Trail were “twinned” across 256 Street with the corresponding west trailheads of the George’s Way network (Lower George’s Way for summer season riding and Upper George’s Way for winter season riding). Anecdotally, Bill Archibald would refer to the branch for Bear Ridge trail directly west of Upper George’s Way as the “cross cut trail”; the northeast trailhead for Bear Ridge meets the west trailhead of Upper George’s Way at 256 Street, about 450m north of 104 Avenue. This branch provided a continuous winter season route for both hikers and equestrians from Upper George’s Way (aka “George’s Highway”) to the main section of Bear Ridge Trail.
Bear Ridge Trail is a narrow trail, shaded by the tall coniferous forest canopy, that gently parts the evergreen glade of ferns as it winds along the southwest base of Thornhill Mountain. Equestrians and hikers cherish the trail’s natural forest-floor of duff – that blend of fine woody debris, conifer needles and leaves – for its comfort under foot, as well as the interest and traction provided by the clusters of exposed river rock and tree roots on the small hills.
Moss and lichens hang in drifts off the lower branches of the oldest trees and fungi sprout in many unexpected places, in a wide variety of unique, photo-worthy shapes. The western end of the trail is brighter due to more recent logging of the neighbouring properties; there, huckleberry, thimbleberry and salmonberry thrive in spring and summer, providing opportunities to those riders and hikers whose pace and reach are both “just right” to sample the sweet, tangy delights of the trail.