Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that you have to spend all of your time indoors. Some of the best excuses for South County residents to get outside are the variety of winter hikes organized by Westerly Land Trust.
These walks take place every Thursday morning and on select weekends throughout January and February, and provide an excellent opportunity to get out and navigate some wooded trails throughout the area. In some cases, they even offer access to spaces not open to the general public, providing you with an exclusive chance to explore.
Although the hikes generally cater to seniors, they remain open to all ages. If you're free on any Thursday at 10:00 AM, take one of these nature walks to get some exercise, meet new people, and see some great scenery in South County’s most beautiful natural areas.
What You Need to Know
There is some essential information that you should know before heading out for these hikes. For starters, each hike lasts between 90 minutes and three hours, so make sure you can handle walking for that long. Keep in mind that since the trails are unpaved and through the woods, you will encounter rocks, roots, and stumps along the way. As a result, it's critical to wear proper footwear.
Depending on the weather, you could end up walking through ice or snow. If this is a concern, bring a stabilizer or something else you can use for traction on the trail. Whenever Rhode Island gets a dump of snow, it will cover the trails. In these situations, it's a good idea to bring snowshoes, as they make it far easier to walk. Storm-like or freezing conditions will lead to cancellations, so check with the leader if you have any questions.
Finally, the hikes are inside of State Management areas, so you must wear at least 200-square-inches of daylight fluorescent orange. This requirement is in place because of hunting season, as you wouldn't want a hunter mistaking you for some wild game.
Upcoming Thursday Hikes
This year's January and February hikes cover a lot of ground and allow you to see some great parts of South County.
On January 24, there will be a hike at the Wahaneeta Preserve in Westerly, which is part of the Woody Hill Management Area. To get there, turn onto Moorehouse Road by the Trombino Sports Complex and follow it until you reach the preserve. There is a parking area off the main road, and that is where you'll meet the group.
The following Thursday brings a hike to Trustom Pond in South Kingstown. This hike is always a favorite because Trustom Pond is Rhode Island's only undeveloped salt pond and, therefore, offers plenty of opportunities to see birds and waterfowl, as long as the weather cooperates. The walk is also relatively flat and clear. You'll meet at the well-marked Trustom Pond parking lot on Matunuck School House Road.
February 7 features a unique hike through Dr. John Champlin Glacier Park in Westerly. The walk itself features some rocky sections and small hills, but the main attractions are the geological features left behind by glacial activity about 20,000 years ago. The meeting place for this hike is a trailhead off Tom Harvey Road near Winnapaug Cottages. Make sure you park outside the gate because the cottages are on private property.
If you're up for a hike on February 14, head to Black Point in Narragansett for a walk along the coastline. The trailhead is on Ocean Road, just north of Scarborough State Beach, and has a parking lot where you'll meet the rest of the group. From there, you'll get to experience breathtaking views of one of the more rugged parts of Rhode Island's coast.
The Westerly Land Trust hiking experience heads back to its namesake on February 21 with a walk through Crandall Family Preserve in Westerly. The trail heads through an Atlantic white cedar swamp, which is recognizable because of its wetlands and dense, evergreen canopy, along with an open, peated area. To reach the gates, you'll have to turn off Westerly Bradford Road onto Pound Road and then drive to the end. You can park at the end of the road, but make sure you don't block the gate. Keep in mind that you can only hike Crandall Family Preserve when on an official guided tour.
The final winter hike will be on February 28 at Grills Preserve in Bradford, Rhode Island, which is a historic district in Westerly. This hike starts in the cul-de-sac at the end of Bowling Lane, where you can park, before crossing the Pawcatuck River, over the Polly Coon Bridge, into the neighboring town of Hopkinton.
Weekend Hike List
The coming weeks also feature a couple of weekend hikes, so if you're unable to skip a day of work to do some exploring, you can still get involved.
The first hike will occur on Sunday, January 27, 2019, and is called the "Souper Bowl" because some fresh, homemade soup will be available for everyone who participates. This trek will also take place at Crandall Family Preserve, so if you want to check it out, this is your chance. You are asked to RSVP to ensure that there's enough soup to go around and bring a mug. Please note that despite the name of the event, it does not take place on Super Bowl Sunday, so you won't have to worry about missing the big game.
There's also a weekend hike on Sunday, February 24 at Riverwood Preserve in Westerly at 2:30 PM. This event is geared toward families and will head into a 148-acre wooded area with wetlands, woodlands, and rocky ridges. The park has outstanding views of the Pawcatuck River, and there are places where you can climb some rocks for a better look. To reach the trailhead, park on Old Hopkins Road and then walk along Boy Scout Road until you get to a gate.
Enjoying Everything South County Has to Offer
You probably recognize by now that South County, Rhode Island is full of great outdoor activities, but it’s nice to know that you can still get out there and experience its beauty during the winter.
Most of these hiking areas are also available for public use, so even if you aren’t able to join one of these organized winter excursions, you can still get out there and check out the trails with friends or family at any time of the year.