Rhode Island isn’t as well known as other states for bigtime outdoor adventure. Hiding in the shadow of the Appalachians, it holds far more coastline than alpine terrain. And as one of the country’s most densely populated states, there’s not much room for wide-open forest or wilderness spaces, anyway. But if you know where to look, the Ocean State is a surprising hub of hiking and backpacking, bouldering and climbing, paddling and even biking. Better yet, its reputation has a way of keeping the crowds at bay, making Rhody’s outdoor adventure outlets some of the most off-the-beaten-path and surprising options in the Northeast.
1. Hike and Camp in the Arcadia Management Area
Arcadia holds one of the largest swaths of forest in the state, a 14,000-acre park of wooded hollows, rambling brooks, and quiet ponds. It’s also one of the only places you can do much real backpacking in the state (spend the night at the designated spots near Stepstone Falls). The 3.9-mile Sandy Brook loop encircles a hill in the park through pine forests. Want to keep going? The North-South Trail, which travels 77 miles from the border with Massachusetts to the Atlantic Ocean, cuts through Arcadia as well. Look for the remains of 19th-century stone walls that crisscross the park, signs of the area’s past life as an agricultural hub. More info: riparks.com
2. Bike the Big River Management Area
Northeast of Arcadia, the Big River Management Area is a labyrinth of moderate mountain bike trails. The 10-mile Big River Loop winds its way throughout the area, cutting through pine forests and meadows as it gradually undulates. Mostly flowy, rolling, and smooth, the trails at Big River are ideal for beginners and advanced beginners comfortable riding along singletrack and sandy fire roads. Best of all, smack in the middle of the state, it’s little more than 45 minutes from almost anywhere in Rhody. More info: wrb.ri.gov