There’s nothing better than a bike ride on a warm spring day. Here’s a guide to the Ocean State’s many bike paths.
Blackstone River Bikeway
The mighty Blackstone River helped power the birth of the American Industrial Revolution, and remnants of this great economic upheaval are all around you as you travel the 12 miles of the Blackstone River Bikeway. Once a wasteland, the river gets cleaner with each passing year, with now-silent mills converted to condos, and canoes and kayaks plying the waters where canal boats once brought goods to market.
A cruise down the Blackstone Bikeway from Woonsocket to Cumberland will be rewarded with:
• Passing through the four mill villages built by the Lonsdale Company in the 19th century: Lonsdale Old Village (1834), Lonsdale New Village (1860), Ashton (1867) and Berkeley (1871).
• Staring up at the towering span of the Ashton Viaduct Bridge as you ride on the path below.
• The occasional thrill of a Providence and Worcester Railroad freight train passing on this still-important transportation corridor.
• A stop at the Captain Wilbur Kelly House in Lincoln, a former mill owner’s home that now serves as a visitor center and transportation museum.
• Glimpses of the 1828-48 Blackstone Canal paralleling the river.
• Crossing the Pratt Dam over the Blackstone River.
• A pedal through a peaceful meadow that was once the Lonsdale Drive-In Theater.
• A boardwalk over a section of the Lonsdale Marsh, the largest in Rhode Island.
• The Valley Falls Heritage Park, built on the ruins of the Valley Falls Company mill.
Want to keep riding? Follow the street signs to connect to the East Bay Bike Path via Blackstone Boulevard.
East Bay Bike Path
Rhode Island’s oldest bike path runs 14.5 miles from India Point Park in Providence to Independence Park in Bristol, hewing close to the banks of the Providence River and the east coast of Narragansett Bay most of the way. Riding north to south, other highlights include:
• A steep plunge down historic Fort Hill, the site of military battlements during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
• A breezy ride across a narrow causeway following the right-of-way of the former
Providence and Bristol Railroad, ending at the entrance to the beautiful and historic Squantum Association with its white Colonial Revival mansion overlooking the river.
• Riverside, once the home of the beloved Crescent Point amusement park and still a great stop for ice cream at the path-side Dari-Bee. (The Crescent Park Carousel is a short detour down Bullock’s Point Avenue.)
• Haines Memorial Park, where riders can take a brief beach break before continuing on into Barrington.
• Barrington’s Brickyard Pond, a flooded former clay pit that’s now a popular fishing spot.
• The bridges connecting Barrington and Warren, near Massasoit’s Sowams camp where Rhode Island founder Roger Williams sought sanctuary with the Wampanoag tribe while fleeing from Massachusetts in 1636.
• Historic downtown Warren, where the path slips behind historic Main Street with its shops and restaurants.
• Bristol, where bikers cross over the marsh boardwalk at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s Environmental Education Center before entering Colt State Park, a popular
detour with biking paths of its own.
The end of the East Bay Bike Path is in Bristol’s Independence Park, where you can reward yourself with clam cakes at Quito’s or grab a cold one at Aidan’s. More adventurous riders can catch the ferry to Prudence Island, a mostly undeveloped sliver of old New England in Narragansett Bay.
Washington Secondary Bike Path
Running 19 miles from Cranston Street in Cranston to Log Bridge Road in western Coventry, the Washington Secondary Bike Path offers riders a gradual transition from urban to suburban to rural Rhode Island. Beginning in Cranston near the site of the original Narragansett Brewery, the path passes historic mills and other industrial sites before rising gradually into the cool woodlands of Coventry, including the latest, 4.8-mile Trestle Trail segment added to the path in late 2014.
Ride from northeast to southwest and you’ll experience:
• Tongue Pond, with a 1/2-mile loop trail around an often-overlooked pond right near the start of the bike path.
• Kids flocking to Sundae’s on Oaklawn Avenue for ice cream.
• Crossing the old truss-style railroad bridge over the Pawtuxet River.
• Taking in the sights and smells at the Bradford Soap Works from the bridge that passes above the factory and its old millrace and waterfall.
• Taking a side jaunt to the riverside home of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Nathaniel Greene in Anthony Village (just past the Soap Works).
• Views of the Pawtuxet River, which in some western sections more resembles a fjord than the narrow waterway you see running through Warwick.
• Riding along the beautiful Flat River Reservoir in Coventry.
• Spotting the old railroad switches, tracks and platforms alongside the trail.
Reach the end of the line near the historic Summit General Store and and you’ll be looking forward to the next extension of the path (it will eventually run 24 miles and reach the Connecticut border). Meanwhile, if you are on foot or have a mountain bike you can continue to follow the unpaved Trestle Trail westward.
South County Bike Path
It feels pretty far from the sea when you’re at Kingston Station (near the University of Rhode Island) and looking at the trailhead of the South County Bike Path, but it’s actually less than 8 miles to Narragansett Bay, following the course of the old Narragansett Pier Railroad. After skirting some farmers’ fields, the bike path edges alongside the Great Swamp Management Area before cutting through the woods and mill villages of South Kingstown and ending near the beach.
An outing on the South County Bike Path features:
• A pair of small bridges looking out over swamplands populated by waterfowl, turtles and freshwater fish.
• Long stretches through quiet woodlands.
• Dismounting to explore the trails to South Kingstown’s Tri-Pond Park.
• Taking the challenging switchback where the path crosses Kingstown Road, site of a former railroad bridge (Kingston Pizza, with its streamside picnic tables, is a popular lunch spot).
• Spotting the chickens and goats wandering through quiet Riverside Cemetery.
• Pausing to admire the Saugatucket River running behind Main Street in Wakefield.
• Stopping for lunch at Rhody Joe’s before plunging into the tunnel under Route 1 and down the steep hill into the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge.
The path ends rather unceremoniously at South Kingstown High School, but press on for a few Narragansett streets and you’ll be at the beach and pier in minutes.