The Exhaust-Free, Self-Propelled Foliage Tour

Rhode Island: Traversing the State

    Photo: PhotoDisc

A challenging multiday trail for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking in Rhode Island? Sure, it seems like the start of yet another joke ragging on New England's smallest, flattest, and most green-space-challenged state. But in western Rhode Island's rural and, yes, hilly farm country, the North South Trail parallels the Connecticut state line while linking up eight wildlife management areas over the course of 70 miles, making it possible to hike the entire state in a long weekend.

The trail was officially unveiled in 1998 and runs from Quonochontaug (try saying that fast three times—or even once) in Charlestown to Wallum Lake in Burrilville. Parking is available in most of the state parks that the trail crosses, including Burlingame, Carolina, Arcadia, George Washington, and Buck Hill. But for those who don't want to hoof across every mile, there are a few stretches that offer a solid sampling of what the North South has to offer.
A good taste of the North South's first stretch starts in the state's northwest corner, near Burrillville, with a rigorous five-mile hiking-only section in the Buck Hill Management Area. Park at the reserve's main lot off Rhode Island 100 and pick up the Follett Trail, which winds past Wallum Lake en route to the Massachusetts state line. Just four miles south of Buck Hill you can also explore the route's second section, the eight-mile Walkabout Trail in the George Washington Management Area, which also has a convenient 45-site campground perched near the trailhead off Rhode Island 44 ($12 per night; 401-568-2013).

Another good 18-mile stretch lies further south, bisecting the 14,000-acre Arcadia Management Area, a reserve known throughout New England for its superb 40-plus-mile network of mountain-bike trails. More advanced single-track riders favor the 12-mile perimeter loop, pedaling counterclockwise from the John B. Hudson trailhead off Rhode Island 165, through stands of mountain laurel, up to the shores of Breakheart Pond. For the area's best biking map and information on other routes, call the Eastern Fat Tire Association at 401-364-0786.

Another draw in Arcadia is the Wood River, which boasts the best flatwater paddling in the state. Hope Valley Bait & Tackle (401-539-2757) rents passable canoes ($22 per day) and can provide advice on fishing the river, as well as the required permits ($26). The Wood is heavily stocked: It recently received a drop of rainbow, brown, and brook trout from the Perryville hatchery, and for the last three Octobers the state Department of Fish and Game has also stocked the river with landlocked salmon, some weighing upward of 20 pounds.

For maps, route descriptions, and information about the North South Trail, call the Department of Environmental Management at 401-277-2776. The Division of Forest Environment (401-539-2356) handles reservations for Arcadia's popular backcountry shelter ($15 per night).

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