Personally, I find fall the perfect time to go for a long walk, aka, a “hike,” if you will. I hate to sweat, so summer is pretty much out for me, and walking with a heavy coat and freezing fingers doesn’t appeal to me either. But autumn, with its cool temps, low humidity and pretty foliage everywhere is ideal, especially when it means you can warm up with a seasonal beverage afterward. While most people think of our area as primarily a beach town, there are actually some of the best hiking spots around right here in our backyard. Below are a few I’m looking forward to checking out this year while the leaves are still crispy and before winter’s deep freeze sets in.
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Dr. John Champlin Glacier Park
Did you know there was a glacier park right here in Rhode Island? I sure didn’t! This 134-acre preserve offers more than two miles of trails with scenic overlooks of Winnapaug Pond, Block Island Sound, Misquamicut, and glimpses of Block Island and Long Island. You’ll find lots of interesting topography along your way, including kettle ponds, glacial moraines and sandy shorelines. It’s also a good place to see the effects of climate change firsthand, as the entire area was the result of the last ice age.
The Napatree Point Conservation Area
Come September, the summer crowds have gone home, and this shoreline preserve is a beautiful spot for a stroll and some birdwatching. Depending on how far you venture, you’ll walk along the sand, marshland and some rocky terrain, so be sure to wear the appropriate footwear. If you walk the full trail, you’ll get to see the remains of Fort Mansfield nestled away in the dense bushes.
Adjacent to the Woody Hill Management Area sits this extensive network of nicely blazed trails, run by the Westerly Land Trust. Formerly a Girl Scout Camp, the lodge and other small remnants like an old stone fireplace still remain. The preserve consists of two parts; the main property and a newly acquired 11-acre wooded parcel on South Woody Hill Road. There is plenty to explore from meadows to streams, wildflowers and birds. Just a note of caution, hunting is allowed here, and hikers, bikers and riders are required to wear orange during hunting season.
Fisherville Brook Wildlife Refuge (Exeter, RI)
A few people have told me about this spot, which is actually the Audubon Society’s largest public property. Its scenic trails lead visitors over bridges, past ponds and streams and even a waterfall and historic cemetery. Popular for birdwatching as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, this spot may be worth bundling up for and checking out on a sunny post-snowstorm winter’s day.
Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge (South Kingstown, RI)
Just beyond the fields of Matunuck lies the only undeveloped coastal salt pond in Rhode Island. This refuge is a great family-friendly spot to introduce your kids to hiking, as they’ll likely spot some cool wildlife along the way. It’s home to approximately 300 bird species, more than 40 mammal species, and 20 species of reptiles and amphibians and a quick check at the information center will let you know what’s been recently spotted and what to look for. There are also benches and scenic overlooks for taking breaks along the way.