As COVID-19 continues to push many social activities outdoors, and fall continues to bring blustery temperatures and beautiful foliage, there has never been a more perfect time to go for a hike. No, Providence is not located near any wildly high peaks or mountains fit for strictly “experienced” hikers. However, for the average person, and even those like me who aren’t inclined to be outdoorsy, there are many places within close proximity that offer not only a fun chance to be with friends in a COVID safe way, but also an opportunity to enjoy a breathtaking New England fall. Here are a few hiking spots nearby!
Lincoln Woods State Park – Lincoln, RI. Just 15 minutes from campus, this park is definitely a hidden gem. Many of the trails surround a central lake, so the views are beautiful. This is a great place to explore in the fall, when the foliage is at its peak, due to the wooded nature of the trails. While this is less of a hike, and more like a nature walk of sorts, the close proximity to campus and the beautiful views (and instagrammable backdrops) are perfect for a fun day with friends. Also, the trail is heavily trafficked on weekends, which is a good sign for those worried about being alone in the woods but a reminder to always bring a mask and wear it when not socially-distant. For an added activity, pack a picnic and enjoy lunch at the many picnic tables scattered throughout the park!
Cliff Walk – Newport, RI. If you’re uninterested in wilderness, but searching for a fun outdoor activity, Newport’s Cliff Walk is for you. This path along the coast yields amazing, panoramic views of the ocean and is just 50 minutes from Brown’s campus. The path is less of a hike, but does have areas where it is necessary to navigate rocks and boulders tactfully. This walk allows you to get outside and get moving in a less woodsy setting. Additionally, Newport has lots to offer outside of the Cliff Walk, so a post hike brunch or beach stroll could be great options.
Pachaug State Forest – Voluntown, CT. 45 minutes away, this area is the largest state forest in Connecticut and encompasses 27,000 acres and 6 towns within the state. Various trails of different lengths and difficulty run through this park, which is open to both bikers and hikers. Many walking paths are gravel and relatively easy to navigate, so opt for sneakers instead of hiking boots. The area is densely wooded, even more so than Lincoln Woods, so make sure to follow the trail maps and travel with a group. Pachaug State Forest may be best visited before the fall, when the bright green trees cover the trail almost entirely.
Blue Hills – Milton, MA. Blue Hills Reservation is a 6,000 acre hiking preserve that is a short 35 minute drive from campus. There are over 125 miles of trails, each with something different to offer. Some include rocky summits and vistas that overlook the city for the more adventurous hikers, while others are simply tree lined paths through the fall forest. Each trail is marked by color, and various park rangers assist daily visitors in selecting a hike that works for them. Additionally, during the warmer months, Houghton’s Pond, located on the reservation is a great place to stop for a mid-workout swim!
Purgatory Chasm – Sutton, MA. This spot is more of a traditional hike than others, in that it features rocky terrain throughout and requires more physical effort and skill. Located 45 minutes from Providence, this state reservation is actually a geological preserve because it features enormous rock formations throughout. Trails wind in and out of various caverns like “The Coffin” and “Lovers’ Leap,” and make for a great day trip adventure. After the climb, settle down near the stream for a picnic and enjoy the views.
As always, ensure that you are in compliance with any state, local, or University health protocols before visiting these places. Bring your mask, bring your pod and happy hiking!