George Washington State Park and Management Area
2185 Putnam Pike
Chepachet , RI 02814
Rhode Island’s Walkabout
To get there: From CT or MA, take
395 to exit 97, and go East on Route 44 about 5
miles. Look for the signs for George Washington
Campground on the left. From Providence, take Rte
Things to bring: a towel for a post-ride swim, $4
fee, and some supple legs and arms.
Navigation tips: Get a map at the trailhead,
it's quite good. The narrow "trails" on
the map are actually dirt roads. Plan to spend most
of your time on the 8 mile Walkabout loop.
Terrain: Very technical with lots
of rock gardens. Great for advanced riders. Beginners
should stick to the dirt roads. Intermediate riders
will be frustrated.
Are you looking for a short but spank-the-snot-out-of-you
technical ride? Boy, do we have the place for you!
The Walkabout Trail in the Northwest corner of Rhode
Island doesn't offer a lot of singletrack distance-wise — only about 10 miles worth — but don't
be fooled! What it does have is enough to tire and
entertain for a few hours. Never has riding under
5 mph wailed on my body so hard.
Let me warn you though… as my riding friend
Matt pointed out, this ride could be the most fun,
or the worst in your life, depending on what you
like. Don't come here unless you like rock gardens.
Or dirt roads. There's nothing in between! You may
want to invest in full suspension first.
The main trailhead is in George Washington State
Park (adjacent to Pulaski Memorial State Forest),
and there is a fee ($4 for non-RI residents, $2
for residents), but it rewards you with a nice swimming
area, outhouses, and maps. The map is quite good,
and also explains the unusual origin of the trails.
In 1965, Australian soldiers from the Royal Autralian
Navy were stuck in Rhode Island, waiting for their
brand new missile destroyer. So how does one amuse
300 soldiers for six weeks? The Division of Forests
of Rhode Island had a great idea: build an 8-mile
walking trail through the park. So for 2 weeks at
a time, soldiers went out into the New England "Outback"
and cut trail from 8:30AM to 4:00 PM every day,
followed by some swimming, rugby, horseshoes, softball,
and steak-sampling on the barbie by the reservoir.
Some enjoyed it so much, they requested to stay
for several months. And in the end, the trail was
named the "Walkabout trail," in honor
of the Autralian aborigine tradition of "going
walkabout" from time to time, wandering through
the bush with his family and meager belongings.
Almost 35 years later we can still enjoy the Walkabout
trail. But from our experience visiting the park,
the trail is barely being used — we ran into
a man and his toddler maybe a half mile from the
campground, and that was it. This was on Saturday
of Labor Day weekend, and the campsites were all
filled, but no one on the trails. Maybe it's because
it doesn't offer much in the way of views, but from
our point of view from atop a bicycle, it's a secret
The trail is marked by three blazes: orange, red,
and blue. They indicate three "walks" of different lengths, 2, 6, and 8 miles long. After
about a mile, the blue-blazed shortcut peels off
(and rejoins the Walkabout trail near its end).
A while later, the red dots peel off, leaving only
orange blazes on the trees.
The easiest way to navigate would be to simply follow
the orange blazes (longest route). I'd maybe suggest
doing it clockwise, since we found some nice, smoother
downhills in the clockwise direction. To eek out
a few more miles of riding, I would get a little
fancier and do a figure eight, cutting across and
doing the red-blazed shortcut twice. That way you
get a really fun downhill twice. You can also add
some dirt road for variety.
We explored the other "trails" marked
on the map and were disappointed to find they were
all just flat and boring dirt roads — some
of them with houses on them! Imagine how confused
we were at first, not finding trails where the narrow
lines where, but finding a bunch of roads that didn't
seem to be on the map! It took a while to figure
that out. We wanted to make sure we weren't missing
out on some secrets, so we rode Inner Border Road
out towards Peck Pond and up Border Road. At one
intersection, I happened to run into my good friend,
Archie, (who is also Penny Davidson's landlord),
taking a stroll while his friends were napping at
Peck Pond. Is that weird or what? Archie told us
that Peck Pond is a beautiful, clean place to take
a dip — maybe a good alternative parking spot.
Anyway, heading up on Border Road, we convinced
ourselves that there wasn't too much else out there.
We did ride a few braids of trails and dirt roads
by the power lines that indicated there may be a
little more, but nothing too special. We tooled
around a little bit in the hot sun, then headed
back. After reading a snowmobile map we had received
from the ranger kiosk, we also suspect there may
be a couple of snowmobile trails between the Richardson
Trail and the Walkabout trail, but we didn't notice
them as we were riding. We'll leave that to you
There's a neat mix of stuff on this ride. In addition
to the rocky and rooty sections, there's some really
fast narrow singletrack, cool hemlock groves, ponds,
bog bridges, corduroy. In fact, you'll find what
I would claim to be the world's longest corduroy
bridge — it must have been about a quarter
mile long! It's not in great shape, though, so kudos
to anyone out there that can clean the entire length,
I want to shake your hand. And of course, there
are those huge rock gardens. In some cases they
are so challenging you lose your rhythm, and you
may even want to throw your bike in the bushes.
But then you can get back on and get going again
with a smile on your face. Luckily, there are no
heinous hike-a-bike sections or too many really
long or steep climbs (after all, this is Rhode Island!)
If you look on the map, the
downhills are marked with arrows, and two arrows
means steeper, but they really are very mild. Don't
use the map for navigation, but it should give you
a good idea what you're in for. We couldn't investigate
one segment of the trail in the southwest because
we were warned about a goshawk nesting in the area
and we didn't want to be attacked. But we can only
assume it's just as good stuff.
We judged the Walkabout Trail to be about 85% rideable.
Regardless, the other 15% sent me home totally bruised
and scraped up. So check it out. And when you come
back with the snot beat out of you, don't say we
didn't warn you!
Map of the entire area.
NEMBA Chapter & Local Bike Shops:
Danielson Adventure Sports, Danielson CT 860-774-6010
East Providence Bicycles, East Providence RI, 401-434-3838
Victory Bicycles, Richmond RI, 401-539-7540