Hiking? In the winter? Yep. We started with a New Year’s Day hike several years ago, and we’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve written about some of my family’s favorite hiking spots in and around Boston, but we also like to get out and explore places farther afield. We’ve discovered five fun and relatively easy hikes for kids in Rhode Island. These natural playgrounds are perfect for a winter hike – they might even be more fun in the winter than they are in the summer. Here are the details, along with tips and some suggestions for activity pairings to make it a full day of adventure for the family.
Looking for even more to do in Rhode Island with children? Check out our new Rhode Island Fun Guide.
Lincoln Woods State Park
2 Manchester Print Works Rd, Lincoln, RI 02865
If you have a kid who loves to climb, Lincoln Woods is paradise. In addition to ponds, picnic tables, and paved roads (great for strollers), Lincoln Woods is a garden of small boulders (or are they very large rocks?). My kids could spend all day there, climbing, searching for ever larger rocks and steeper ascents. The emerald fairylands of moss you’ll encounter around trees and on rocks are equally delightful to explore.
Good to know:
- Lincoln Woods State Park is one of three Rhode Island State Park locations tested for safe ice during the winter months. Even if you don't do any ice fishing yourself, there's a good chance you'll get to watch a few ice fishers in action while you're there.
- Dogs and their humans love Lincoln Woods.
Pair it with: A jaunt across Great Road to Chase Farm
Park for sledding, kite flying, or an extension of your winter walk.
Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge
12 Sanderson Road, Smithfield, RI 02917
To the west of Lincoln Woods is the more low-key Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge. The Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s Headquarters lives here, which is a really good thing when you have little kids with little bladders. The refuge encompasses 120 acres and has fine stands of pines, a pond, and a brook. The rock walls are always a hit with the kids, too. Inside the headquarters there’s a library, gift shop, teacher's resource center, and bird feeding station. The gift shop is small but nice, especially if you’re a bird watcher. My kids took a shine to the RI Audubon bird calendar, which contains coupons for bird seed and now graces a wall in our home.
Good to know: Picnicking and pets are not allowed in the wildlife refuge.
Pair it with: A visit to downtown Providence, which is only 15 minutes away.
Fry Family Nature Preserve, Laurel Wood, and Frenchtown Park
Behind the East Greenwich Parks Department, 1127 Frenchtown Rd, East Greenwich, RI, 02818
We found this wonderful little gem thanks to RI Families in Nature, an excellent resource for finding outdoor fun for families in Rhode Island. Fry Family Nature Preserve, Laurel Wood, and Frenchtown Park are actually three separate East Greenwich Land Trust Properties, but you won't know which is which while you're there. The main trail takes you over a man-made dam, past ponds, streams and falls, and from there, it branches off to numerous hiking trails to the left and the foundations of an old mill complex to the right. We had so much fun tossing rocks onto the ice and listening to the bizarre and delightful reverberating sound it made, we almost didn’t make it over the bridge. That would have been a shame, because once we were past the bridge, we discovered distinctive areas both to our left and our right that were well worth exploring.
Good to know:
- The properties are located behind the East Greenwich Parks Department building.
- There is plenty of parking available behind the Parks Department building, and a small playground for the kids to enjoy before and/or after the hike.
Pair it with: A stroll along Main Street, through a quintessential small New England town. There are shops to pop into and waterfront restaurants to visit for lunch.
Roger Williams Park
41°46'37.5"N 71°24'50.7"W, near Temple to Music, F C Greene Memorial Blvd, Providence, RI 02910
Near the iconic Temple to Music, where kids dressed like skiers slide down hills on brightly colored sleds in the winter, there is a much quieter and more peaceful place. Just behind the baseball field (marked by a chain link fence if the ground is covered in snow), off of FC Greene Memorial Boulevard, lies Cunliff Lake. And around the lake there is a trail. It is lovely and peaceful, and offers gorgeous views of the Temple to Music across the water. Walk out to the edge. If your kids are like mine, they will spend a lot of time skidding the spiky seedpods across the icy lake. When they’ve finally tired of that activity, turn around make your way up the hill back toward the baseball fields for a nice, short workout. This path is especially good for traversing in snowshoes.
Good to know: There are no parking lots nearby. You'll need to park on the street.
Pair it with: Sledding at the Temple to Music, of course. You might also want to visit the Botanical Center, Zoo, or Natural History Museum.
Audubon’s McIntosh Wildlife Refuge and Environmental Education Center
1401 Hope Street (Rte 114), Bristol, RI 02809
Sprawling out behind the Environmental Education Center is a vast array of habitats for nature exploration. Follow the path down to the boardwalk, which crosses the East Bay Bike Path and takes you through fresh and saltwater marshes. At the end of your walk, you are rewarded with beautiful views of Narragansett Bay. When the weather is warm, enjoy the small garden and sitting area before you head back into the Education Center building.
The Environmental Education Center is also well worth a visit, with a cool tide pool, a massive model of a whale that you can explore the inside of, and several other interactive exhibits.
Good to know:
- We packed lunches, because that’s what we always do. But we soon discovered that it was too cold to eat on the park benches outside, and the nature center doesn’t have any areas for eating inside. I recommend having lunch up the street in one of downtown Warren’s eateries.
- The Education Center is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays during the winter unless it’s a school holiday.
Pair with: A visit to Delekta Pharmacy for a cabinet and then a stroll in downtown Warren.