Fall Guide

Fall Hikes

Skip the scenic drive and take a hike through the Ocean State’s autumn beauty

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The hot, sunny days of summer are slowly turning into the cool, breezy whispers of autumn. What better way to enjoy the change of season than to get out and hike our state? No matter where you live, there’s a trail close to you that is just begging you to take a walk on it.

For Water Views
Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge has 787 acres of federally protected coastal habitat and is an ideal place to go birding and see lots of native wildlife such as white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks, snapping turtles and ospreys, just to name a few. There are multiple trails to choose from, so you can hike anywhere from .5 to 4 miles depending on your capabilities. Take the Farm Field Loop Trail to the Osprey Point Trail to get the best view of Trustom Pond. And because this is a coastal pond, you’ll have stellar views of the Atlantic and even Block Island on a clear day.
1040 Matunuck School House Road, South Kingstown. 401-364-9124, www.fws.gov

One unmissable hiking area is Sachuest National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown. The 242 federally protected acres provide excellent habitat for migratory birds as well as stunning ocean views no matter the time of year. The 1.4-mile Flint Point Loop is complete with two observation platforms: one that looks onto Third Beach and the other that looks onto a rock formation where snowy owls are seen from the fall through spring.
769 Sachuest Point Road, Middletown. 401-847-5511, www.fws.gov

Napatree Point extends 1.5-miles into the ocean from Watch Hill. This stunning 60-acre peninsula is not only a great beach excursion, but also an excellent place to see a ton of wildlife. The polarizing piping plovers nest here in the summer, as well as numerous other shorebirds such as the occasional American oystercatcher and spotted sandpiper. Napatree also hosts a nesting osprey pair and is a fantastic place to view migratory bird species as they flock up to make their journey down south. Definitely bring a pair of binoculars to enjoy these species from a distance.
Park on Bay Street, Westerly. 401-315-5399, www.thewatchhillconservancy.org

For another beautiful seaside hike, head down to Charlestown to East Beach/Ninigret Conservation Area. This barrier beach is three miles long, one way, and is truly a protected oasis. The parking area is small, but doesn’t require a parking fee come Labor Day. Once you get there, prepare for unparalleled views of the ocean and the ability to see Block Island on a clear day. Watch out for the occasional seal that rests on the beach, and give it plenty of distance.
End of East Beach Road, Charlestown. 401-322-8910, www.riparks.com

Be One With the Foliage
Arcadia Management Area is the state’s largest recreational area topping off at 14,000 protected acres. Located across Exeter, Richmond, Hopkinton and West Greenwich, you will find lots of even terrain, some slightly elevated trails, lots of forested trails and opportunities to walk along streams, ponds, old stone walls, meadows and historic foundations. The 1.5-mile loop around Breakheart Pond is an easy hike and great way to get introduced to Arcadia Management Area. You can either stick to the trail or venture off on one of the many trails that connect to it.
Take Frosty Hollow Road to Hicks Trail, Exeter. 401-539-1052, www.rifamiliesinnature.org 

Are you citybound? No problem. Head to Lincoln Woods for the loop around Olney Pond. This paved trail is great for beginners, moms with strollers and those who want to run in nature. The just-over-3-mile trail has great views of the pond, some elevation to get your heart racing and connecting non-paved trails that lead further into the 627 protected forested acres.
2 Manchester Print Works Road, Lincoln. 401-723-7892, www.riparks.com

A must hike is Great Swamp Management Area where you’ll see everything from nesting ospreys to dragonflies and American woodcocks. The 3,349 state-protected acres are also chockfull of habitats including a large wetland, forested parcels and wide open fields. Hike the 4-mile large loop to get a glimpse of all these habitats and the wildlife that live in them. Just make sure to wear adequate amounts of orange during hunting season.
277 Great Neck Road, South Kingstown. 401-789-0281, www.demri.gov

The Nature Conservancy’s Tillinghast Pond Management Area has 2,054 acres of protected land across West Greenwich. Along with pristine habitat comes an array of hiking options. Four connected loop trails give you the choice of a short hike or a 10-mile trek. The 2.3-mile Pond Loop offers easy, flat terrain around Tillinghast Pond. There’s even an observation platform located roughly halfway around the pond to give you easy access to wildlife viewing or a serene rest.
Plain Road, West Greenwich. 401-529-1072, www.nature.org

Powder Mill ledges Wildlife Refuge in Smithfield is a great short hike. The 120-acre refuge is home to the Audubon Society of RI’s headquarters. Stop by the visitor’s center, grab a map and hike the 2.9-mile loop that makes up the entirety of the refuge. You’ll pass over a brook, near a pond and travel through pine stands. There are also plenty of stonewalls to add to this quiet retreat.
12 Sanderson Road, Smithfield. 401-949-5454, www.asri.org

Another gem is Snake Den State Park in Johnston. Check out the northern part of this 1,000-acre undeveloped parcel where you’ll find beautiful rock formations and an overlook boasting forested views into Johnston and Scituate. The just over 2-mile loop gives you a serene escape into a mostly wooded reserve that abuts Dame Farm.
Small parking lot on Brown Avenue, Johnston. 401-222-2632, www.dem.ri.gov

If you don’t get out to Tiverton much, now is the time. Weetamoo Woods has 750 protected acres that includes a coastal forest, wetlands and 12 acres of grasslands, which are home to a number of birds of prey and migratory birds in the fall. The preserve has very well marked trails that will take you on a 7-mile journey. Of course there are smaller loops, but why not just take the day and explore this hidden gem. The Pardon Gray Preserve is also attached to Weetamoo Woods, another 230 acres of land with well-marked trails.
East Road, Tiverton. 401-625-1300, www.tivertonlandtrust.org

Such Great Heights
The Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy in Providence proves that you can have a nature retreat in the city. It’s 88 preserved acres contains the highest hill in Providence (at a staggering 296 feet above sea level), is the largest forested area in Providence and provides breathtaking views of the city from its hilltop meadow. Throughout its various trails you’ll find historic stonewalls, brooks, geologic formations and woodland wildlife such as turkeys, deer and birds. Take the 1.5-mile Pinnacle Trail for the gorgeous city view.
675 Plainfield Street, Providence. 401-383-4711, www.nhill.org

Just because our state doesn’t have elevation above 1,000 feet, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any “strenous” hiking trails. Take long Pond Woods for example. The jointly-owned 268 acres consist of the red and yellow trail that snake around the pond. The beauty of this hike is in the contrast of habitats. Lush forested valleys surround rugged bedrock ridges. Once atop the ridge, expansive views of the ponds and the surrounding landscape abound. There are lots of ups and downs on this hike, but each view is worth every step.
North Road, Rockville. 401-949-5454, www.asri.org

Another challenging hike is Fort Barton in Tiverton. The 83 acres starts off with a steep hike from the parking area, followed by a tremendous view of the Sakonnet River atop a lookout tower. Continue along the 3-mile red trail for plenty of ups and downs, wood bridges over streams and chances to see lots of wildlife.
Intersection of Lawton Avenue and Highland Road, Tiverton. 401-625-6710, www.tiverton.ri.gov

Care for an ocean view with your hike? Head to Norman Bird Sanctuary. Their 7 miles of trails on 325 acres covers everything from steep cliffs, vernal pools (where amphibians lay their eggs), stonewalls, geologic formations, pond views and wildlife sightings. Hike along the Red Fox Trail to the Nelson Pond Trail for excellent birding and photographic opportunities. You’ll also get to view Hanging Rock, the highest point in the sanctuary, at a whopping 70 feet.
583 Third Beach Road, Middletown. 401-846-2577, www.normanbirdsanctuary.org