The Breakers and Cliff Walk aerial view. The Breakers is a Vanderbilt mansion with Italian Renaissance built in 1895 in Bellevue Avenue Historic District in Newport, RI.

Big Adventures in the Smallest State

Rhode Island doesn’t have as much hiking, climbing, or biking as other states (for obvious reasons), but what it does have packs a punch.

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: 

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:

Watchemoket Cove and Bay Bike Path at Providence River aerial view near Narragansett Bay in East Providence, Rhode Island RI, USA.

3. Boulder at Lincoln Woods

Lincoln Woods State Park, north of Providence and Pawtucket, is unassuming to an outsider. But the trees hide a wealth of quality granite boulders with plenty of problems across the difficulty spectrum. You’ll find lots of parking, simple access to the rock, and a network of boulders all in close proximity, making it easy to explore and graze from one to the next. The Ships Prow Traverse (V1) on the Ship’s Prow Boulder crosses nearly half the boulder, providing a long, fun connection for relative beginners. The Iron Cross (V4) is one of the Woods’ more notorious problems, demanding creativity to send. More info: 

4. Kayak at Block Island

With more than 400 miles of coastline, any adventurer would be missing out on a trip to the Ocean State without sampling its wealth of kayaking and paddling. Take the ferry out to Block Island (the large teardrop island roughly 9 miles off the state’s southern coast) to paddle around the Great Salt Pond. A large portion of the island, including much of the land surrounding the pond, is protected, so spend some time looking for shorebirds like egrets and plovers. Then on a calm day, head out of the bay to paddle under the island’s tall sandy bluffs, or near the lighthouses that mark the island’s north and southeast sides. Looking for even more of an open-ocean adventure? Skilled sea kayakers can make the crossing out to Block Island and always take the ferry back if conditions, or energy levels, deteriorate. More info:

5. Hike the Cliff Walk at Newport

Once home of the ultrarich, Newport and its spectacular Gilded Age mansions are best seen from along the 3.6-mile (one-way) Cliff Walk. Nestled directly between the coastline and the palatial “backyards” of homes once belonging to the Vandebilts and other early industry titans, the hike along this easy trail marked by such rugged, rocky coast offers 360-degree views into the historic past of those who built Newport—as well as the island’s true master: the ocean. More info:

6. Ride the East Bay Bike Path

Connecting Bristol and Providence, the 14.5-mile paved East Bay Bike path follows old rail beds through parks and wooded communities, passes quiet Brickyard Pond and traces the bay and Providence River, connecting historic waterfronts with views south to broadening Narragansett Bay. Morning and afternoon bike-commuting times see more usage of the trail that’s popular with riders heading into (and then out of) Providence. More info:

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.