Burlingame State Management Area, Charlestown
Burlingame State Park is located on Prosser Trail Rd just off of US Route 1 in Charlestown, RI. Free year round parking is easy to find, and the trails are a short ride from the Picnic Area parking lot. Additionally, the adjoining Burlingame Campground is a well known and popular campground if you feel like staying over. The campground is open from April 15th until October 31st, every year. The park offers about 17 miles of singletrack mountain bike trails, some of which include parts of the North South Trail. There is also a 5 mile loop of mostly doubletrack hills directly accessible on the north, in the Burlingame Management Area.
The 8-mile Yellow Dot Trail/Vin Gormley Trail (also the King of Burlingame race loop) winds around Watchaug Pond. The trail is accessed by riding either north or west out of the parking lot for about a mile up the road. It is the standard loop that most local riders know, and it is a fast rolling loop with some short technical climbs and a few rock fields. While there are a good amount of roots showing, fast and smooth-rolling stretches dominate the scene. The skill level on the Wednesday evening ride there is advertised as “Advanced Beginner”, and that assessment is accurate, as long as you stay on that loop. It is a fun trail to get out on and hammer away. The rock fields are a challenge for most, but it is generally a fast loop that even the roadies ride on those frigid winter days. I love being able to keep up with them for a change!
However, once you stray from the main, Yellow Dot loop, there are a couple of really fun intermediate and advanced trails. Starting with the intermediate; the “Wildlife Loop” starts in the southeast corner of the campground (riding west out of the parking lot), and skirts the park’s southern side. It is a swoopy, twisty couple of miles with some fast, high “G” curves and a couple of short, technical climbs. This trail eventually picks up the North/South Trail and heads into the Yellow Dot Trail. It has a few tricky left and right turns and is difficult to navigate without a guide for the first few rides. If the Yellow Dot loop is Mickey Mouse’s round face, then the Wildlife Loop is his left ear. That said, when you start from the Wildlife loop (going clockwise), you merge with the Yellow Dot and ride across Mickey’s forehead. You can then opt to pick up Mickey’s right ear. That is where the fun really begins.
This Mickey is like the one my 2 year old might draw, with a slightly oversized, angular right ear. The trail you now pick up is called the Sammy C trail. It treads to the east on the north side of the park and jogs south near the northeast corner, finally spitting you out near Mickey’s lower right cheek. It is relatively new, and only a couple of miles long, but offers by far the gnarliest riding in Southern Rhode Island.
Short, rough, rocky climbs are punctuated by death-grip, bumpy, babyhead studded descents. Anaerobic fiends will cackle on this trail as they wheeze up the steep rock and tree studded climbs, through jersey tearing twisties and down surprising, clunking drops. They’re usually left wishing they brought that second water bottle. There are a few low spots that can get pretty swampy, but they only add to the variety. This trail features climbs that you will not make the first, second, third, or possibly even the hundredth time on this trail. Seldom does a two-mile section rip you like this one does. It is always a challenge and it is always fun.
The Wednesday evening ride is probably the best way to get familiar with the terrain. It is pretty easy to learn the loops by looking at the map a few times before and after a guided ride. There is a good map available at the local shops, but it doesn’t show the newer, gnarlier stuff. There are GPS maps at crankfire.com and rinemba.org, as well.
After all that fun, a couple of miles up Route 1 north, on the south side of the road, is The Cove restaurant for a good burger and a Sammy’s. The towns of Wakefield and Westerly are located fifteen minutes up or down Route 1. They offer all the choices you would expect; Asian, Italian, Inn fare, etc. Beer geeks should be sure to make a trip to the Mews Tavern in Wakefield for your choice of 69 beers on tap. W.E. Stedman & Co.