Sure, you can leaf peep from inside a car, or sip hot cider at a farm. But to really experience the beauty of nature in autumn, you need to get out into it. Take some time for a weekend excursion, whether it’s a scenic walk, a hike or a bike ride.
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. Download trail maps from their website, and details on scavenger hunts for kids. The Land Trust also offers guided kayak/canoe paddles every Thursday. They leave at 9:30am and last between 90 minutes and three hours, depending on which trail your guide chooses.
In Jamestown, Beavertail State Park is some of the most scenic, unspoiled land in the state. It’s so pristine, in fact, that filmmaker Wes Anderson chose Beavertail to film several scenes from Moonrise Kingdom there. The park is home to rocky coastlines perfect for saltwater fishing, as well as miles of hiking trails. Beavertail’s naturalist program includes an environmental interpretive program, as well as marine biology tidal excursions, aquarium activities and geology. Beavertail Road, Jamestown. 423-9941.
Just off the Blackstone River Bikeway in Lincoln, Blackstone Valley Outfitters is an outdoor store specializing in boating, fishing and hiking gear. But, the store’s real mission is to foster a love of the outdoors. For daytrippers, BVO offers bike rentals and information about attractions along the bike path. For sailors at heart, boat rentals are available, as well as guided kayak tours and beginner level kayak and canoe instruction courses. For aspiring campers, BVO has hiking classes and more intensive backpacking instruction in three sessions: planning your trip, a day hike with a full pack and a weekend overnight. For group adventures, BVO owners Mark and Don lead guided kayak and hiking tours, to places like Mount Monadnock, the Wood River, the North South Trail and Mount Wachusett. 25 Carrington Street, Lincoln. 312-0369.
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 Audubon Society’s Kimball Wildlife Sanctuary, and trails lead from Burlingame into the 29 acres of pristine natural habitat that surrounds 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-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 10am. The sanctuary also hosts frequent special events, like wildflower hikes, birding excursions and beach cleanups. 583 3rd Beach Road, Middletown. 846-2577.
Spanning across Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton and West Greenwich, Arcadia Management Area (pictured right) offers up 14,000 acres of adventure. Fish on Breakheart Pond, or hunt in designated wooded areas. Miles of hiking and biking trails are marked, and there is horseback riding at the park, also. 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.
While almost 12 miles of the Blackstone River Bikeway are open to riders, the currently under construction project will total nearly 50 miles, dotted with visitors centers and amenities. For now, tour paths in Central Falls, Lincoln, Woonsocket and Cumberland.
Take a Leisurely Bike Tour with Cycle Blackstone. These tours take riders of all ages on scenic bike rides. September 13 and 27, take a tour of Pawtucket. Those begin at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center in Pawtucket, and winds past historic sites in the city like Slater Mill, the Kelly House Museum and the oldest brick mill in America before ending in Lincoln. The October 11 tour starts in Lincoln at the Blackstone River State Park Welcome Center and winds in a loop by the Blackstone Canal and Blackstone River, up to Woonsocket, to the Museum of Work and Culture, and back to Lincoln.
When four concerned citizens wanted to stop the sale of one of Tiverton’s last remaining large farm spaces to a developer, they banded together to form the Tiverton Land Trust. With the help of Pete Seeger, they raised the money to purchase what has become the Pardon Gray Preserve, which is 230 acres of land containing colonial artifacts and the Gray family cemetery. The preserve abuts Weetamoo Woods, which has a 6.2 mile walking trail. The Land Trust now owns several other properties, all with scenic walks.
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 (pictured left). The path starts in Providence at India Point Park, passes through East Providence, Barrington, Warren and Bristol, and ends at Riverside Square. Along the way, there are gorgeous water views of Narragansett Bay, and plenty of places to drop your kickstand and take a rest – like the Crescent Park Carousel in East Providence, lunch at Blount Clam Shack in Warren, or some
birdwatching at the Audubon Center in Bristol.
To get on your bike and do something good for someone else at the same time, join the Woony River Ride on September 20. The fundraiser for the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council brought nearly 300 people together last year to raise $21,000 to preserve green space and waterways in Providence. Choose one of five trails – ranging from 5 to 62 miles – and celebrate your money-raising ride at a party in Providence’s Waterplace Park afterwards, that has live music, entertainment and prizes.
While many of us hold on to summer for as long as possible, some people can’t wait for winter to start. The people at Alpine Ski and Snowboard are among them. Starting in November, Alpine and New England Action Sports offer bus trips up north to skiing destinations like Killington, Sunday River, Stowe, Okemo and Loon Mountain. In addition to ski and snow gear, Alpine offers incentives, like free lift tickets with specific purchases, like snowboards and boots. 105 Chestnut Street, Warwick. 781-4444.
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