Spring Hiking Tips: Get out there!

Hiking in Lincoln Woods – photo by Daniel Chang Christensen

There are many great hiking trails throughout Rhode Island, all with varying terrain and degrees of difficulty. With a little research, you can find an ideal place to spend some time in the woods.  

Some spots like Goddard Memorial State Park and Lincoln Woods have a paved loop with trails that veer off the main road. Places like this are often heavily trafficked due to their easier terrain.

At hiking spots like Arcadia and Big River, you can venture deeper into the woods and away from the crowds. They offer a more challenging hike as well.

Whether it is a quick jaunt or a long hike, here are some things to consider before heading into the woods:

Dress accordingly

Check the weather before you head out.  Hiking in any condition can be fun if you are prepared for whatever nature may throw at you.

The weather and trail conditions will determine the ideal clothing and gear for any given hike. Footwear is one of the more important considerations. Durable sneakers should be fine on most groomed trails. Unless you plan on veering far off the beaten path, you likely won’t need hiking boots. They are overkill on most of the marked trails around here. Most are well groomed, but I am often surprised by some flooded or muddy areas. Your footwear should be durable, comfortable, and fairly water resistant.

Don’t get lost

I usually drop a pin on my phone’s GPS where I park my car if I am in unfamiliar territory. At the very least, I’ll know which direction to head back out of the woods if I get lost.

It can be very harrowing to discover that you are off track. Before panic sets in, stop and reassess the situation.

A lot of trails don’t veer far from major roadways, and if you listen closely, you can hear the hum of traffic. You may be able to make your way toward that sound as a last ditch effort if you abandon hope of finding the trail.

Orient yourself to landmarks as you hike. A river or a stream can be an easy way to find your bearings. Make a mental note of the direction the water was flowing on your way in. If it is running in the opposite direction to you on the way out, you are on the right track.

Any time I enter the forest, there are some basic things that I bring along: 

  • A pocket knife 
  • Water
  • An extra layer of clothing, like a long-sleeved shirt. Sometimes the temperature drops more than expected. 
  • Trail food: A powerbar, trail mix, granola bar, etc. 
  • First aid kit: Try a smaller compact kit for hiking purposes. They contain the basic materials to aid most minor injuries. 
  • Various fire starters: A disposable lighter, matches, and a flint and steel kit. A basic lighter is great in most situations, but it could get wet, and won’t ignite if it is too cold outside. I also carry a little bit of dryer lint, and some shavings of birch bark in a ziplock bag, to keep them dry. These make great tinder.
  • A portable hammock: It is light, and takes up little space in your pack. You’ll likely need to buy the straps separately, but in a pinch, you could use rope or some other types of cordage to hang it. Paracord will do the trick if rigged properly, and is a good all-around product to carry with you as well.

I usually do bushcraft-style activities when I go out in the woods, so these recommendations may be a bit much for a leisurely stroll on an easy trail. However, if you do plan on venturing away from the main path, I’d suggest carrying these items. They are lightweight, and all fit tightly in a smaller pack.

For details on the many trails that Rhode Island has to offer, go to alltrails.com or dem.ri.gov.