Since 1987, the Westerly Land Trust has been a private conservation organization devoted to preserving Westerly’s gorgeous green spaces. The Trust has several different preserves, all with walking/hiking trails. From the easy 0.6-mile paved walking loop at Avondale to the more rugged trails through Grills and Riverwood preserves, there’s something for every level of activity, and the views are some of the best around.
Beavertail State Park in Jamestown has some of the most scenic, unspoiled land in the state. The park is home to rocky coastlines perfect for saltwater fishing, as well as miles of hiking trails. After you explore the trails, be sure to check out the iconic Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, which is open on weekends from September 9 through October 8.
For a picnic excursion in a beautiful natural setting, visit Charlestown’s Burlingame State Park. The 3,100 acres offers 50 fireplace sites, as well as a swimming beach and a boat launch. The park is next to the Kimball Wildlife Sanctuary, and trails lead from Burlingame into the 29 acres of pristine natural habitat that surround Watchaug Pond.
In Middletown, the Norman Bird Sanctuary offers 375 acres of natural habitat to observe our flying friends. Seven miles of hiking trails wind through the property, which also houses a Barn Museum of Rhode Island’s natural history, with wildlife and natural habitats. The sanctuary is open every day from 9am to 5pm, and requires a small fee that goes towards preserving the property. For casual birders – you know, those of you who can’t tell a yellow warbler from a red-tailed hawk – there are free guided birding tours every other
Sunday morning at 8am.
Spanning across Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton and West Greenwich, Arcadia Management Area offers up 14,000 acres of adventure, with miles of marked hiking and biking trails. Fish on Breakheart Pond, hunt in designated wooded areas or ride horses at the park. Kids under 14 can fish in Frosty Hollow Pond, which is stocked with trout. The Wood River, also stocked with trout, is widely known as one of the best freshwater fishing experiences in the state.
Take a leisurely bike tour through the Blackstone River Valley with Cycle Blackstone. These tours take riders of all ages on scenic bike rides every other Saturday from 9am to 1pm. Beginning at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center in Pawtucket, the tour winds past historic sites in the city like Slater Mill, the Kelly House Museum and the oldest brick mill in the country before ending in Lincoln.
Pardon Gray Preserve and Weetamoo Woods in Tiverton combine to protect 780 acres of land. The trails pass through level grasslands, gently sloping forests and seasonally wet lowlands. The Pardon Gray Preserve is located right off of Main Road, which leads to a dirt road and parking area. The trailhead is surrounded by active farmland, original stone walls and a stone kiosk that covers an old well house. The Cemetery Trail (purple trail) begins at this parking area and connects to the yellow trail, the western boundary of Weetamoo Woods. Heading south on the yellow trail eventually leads to the red, orange, blue and green trails of Weetamoo.
For a scenic ride that’s both challenging and fun for the whole family, spend a sunny fall day on the East Bay Bike Path. The path starts in Providence at India Point Park, passes through East Providence, Barrington, Warren and ends in Bristol. Along the way, there are gorgeous water views of Narragansett Bay, and plenty of places to drop your kickstand and take a rest – for example, you can hang out at the Crescent Park Carousel in East Providence, lunch at Blount Clam Shack in Warren, or do some birdwatching at the Audubon Center in Bristol.
If you want to bike while doing good for someone else, join the 8th Annual Woony River Ride Bike-A-Thon on September 16. The fundraiser for the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council aims to support youth programs and bike path expansion. Choose one of five different rides – ranging from 5 to 60 miles – and celebrate in Providence’s Waterplace Park afterwards with live music, entertainment and prizes.
Dundery Brook Trail in Little Compton is located within the John C. Whitehead Preserve, which is managed by The Nature Conservancy. The Boardwalk Trail, which includes 0.6 miles of an ADA accessible path, is ideal for people with physical limitations. It also provides optimal viewing of the intact forested and wetland areas without damaging any habitat, meaning wildlife can go about their usual routine without being disturbed. As far as wildlife sightings, painted turtles can be found in the pond, while snapping turtles are often seen along the brook.
Located right off of Metacom Avenue in Bristol is Mount Hope Farm, whose paved trails are perfect for total hiking newbies, families with young ones in strollers or folks looking for a leisurely stroll with their leashed dogs. As you mosey along you’ll see a variety of habitats (ponds and hay fields) and historic structures (Cove Cabin, Governor Bradford House, North Pasture Guest House and South Pasture Guest House).
Caratunk Wildlife Refuge in Seekonk is an easy first foray into the great outdoors. It’s managed by the Audubon Society of RI, which is responsible for the preservation of roughly 9,500 acres across RI and MA. The red trail is short and sweet, taking about 20 minutes to complete. It runs along field edges and peeks into forested areas. Both the blue and yellow trails take a bit longer, an hour each, and give you an opportunity to fully explore the forested and wetland habitats. Open sunrise to sunset, the trails are well marked and relatively level. And there are even guided walks throughout the year.
The Sakonnet Greenway Trail in Portsmouth is the longest nature trail on Aquidneck Island. Here you’ll pass through active farmlands, vineyards, wetlands, forests and recreational areas like the Newport Polo fields. There are many loops to explore as well as long treks. There’s easy access at the Wyatt Road Soccer Complex to the Middletown Southern Loop (yellow trail) at the southern end of the Greenway. The trail is a fun hike on its own and even passes by Newport Vineyards, a perfect place to stop for lunch. For a more challenging excursion, continue on to the Middletown Northern Loop (green trail) to tack on a few more miles.