Rhode Island North South Trail: 78 Miles From the Atlantic Ocean to Massachusetts

Basic Info

Length: 78+ miles
Location: Rhode Island, USA
Trail Type: End-to-end
Time to thru-hike: Allow about five days

Scenery: The trail runs north from the Atlantic Ocean. It traverses through old farms, an abandoned ski resort, state parks, and environmental management areas, ending at the Rhode Island/Massachusetts state line.  The adventurous can continue on the Massachusetts Midstate Trail, ending at Mt.Watatic in NH, for a total of 191 miles.

Terrain: Easy with some roadwalks, including an 11-mile stretch in the middle.

Navigation: The Great Swamp Press book by Cliff Vanover is the definitive resource, although the maps are available online.   The trail is well-marked with blue blazes, in some places too well. Rather than the traditional “double blaze” at trail junctions, there’s often a double-blaze, and a sign, and an arrow. It would take a lot of effort to get lost.

Getting There

The nice thing about Rhode Island is that nothing is far away.  The trail crosses a few major roads including Interstate 6.  The southern terminus is the Blue Shutters Town Beach, in Charlestown, RI, which is easily accessible by car.  The trail ends at the Massachusetts border in the Buck Hill state management area off RI-100, several miles off road, however there is a dirt road to a parking area ~2 miles from the terminus.  There is no bus service near the trail; you will need to get a ride.

Why Hike This Trail

Where else can you hike across an entire state in three days?  There’s a wide variety of terrain and scenery packed into a short period of time. You pass through coastal oak and pine forests, walk old wooded roads, through forgotten hamlets, then into the more rugged forested uplands of western Rhode Island. At one point you’re within sight of Interstate-95, and at another, briefly dipping across the state line into Connecticut. For slightly more effort you can also walk to the ‘Tri State Marker” where RI, CT, and MA meet.

If you’re willing and able to make a 1/2 mile side-trip, you can climb Jerimoth Hill, the highest point in the state of Rhode Island.  At around mile 57 when you arrive at Rt-101, take a right and walk down the road for a bit; watch for the sign.

Climate and Weather

RI North South Trail register

It’s New England—if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. If you hike this trail during summer, expect highs in the 90-100 degree range. Early summer can be miserable if you don’t like bugs. Be prepared to encounter black flies, mosquitoes, and horseflies… to name a few.  Sweet fern, aka Comptonia, can help keep them away, and there’s plenty of it along the trail. Fall might be the best season, as the bug levels drop along with the humidity. A late fall or winter trip is not advisable as the trail passes through many hunting areas. Rhode Island has multiple deer seasons—check ahead of time.


RI North South trail junction

There is no backcountry camping along the trail corridor, which is the only logistical caveat to completing this trail end-to-end. There are rumors of a permit-required “backpacker shelter” in the Arcadia State Park, but rumors also indicate that it’s trashed. The trail passes by or through five formal camping areas: the Burlingame State Campground three miles from the southern end, the Ginny B Campground at mile 46, the Dyer Woods Nudist Campground at mile 48, the Oak Leaf Family Campground at mile 61, and the George Washington State Campground at mile 66. Other than that, be armed with a map, knowledgeable about state lands, and get creative. As always, be respectful of private property, and follow Leave No Trace principles.

Water Sources

RI North South Trail pond

Even in summer, water is plentiful, no more than 5 or 6 miles between sources, although in hotter weather the quality may vary as smaller streams dry up or become swampy.  Southern New England has many streams, small rivers, and ponds.  Here, the guidebook or your maps are your friend—there are as many low-quality sources as good ones.  You’ll need to plan your day and judge which sources you’ll want to use. Be sure to treat your water, unless you get it from a restaurant or campground.  In hot weather, be prepared to carry several liters.

Resupply Options

There’s no proper resupply options on the trail.

Restaurants: Snacks and a meal can be had at Shady Acres on US-6 (~ mile 53) in Foster.  You also pass the restaurant at Foster Country Club; depending on your hygiene condition you might grab a meal there.

Snacks: There are snacks and cold drinks at the Oakleaf campground in Glocester at mile 61.  At the turn onto I-6 at mile 53 there’s a bar (Helen’s) and a small gas station with convenience store.  At mile 57, about 1.5 miles east is another convenience store.

The trail is only 78 miles of rolling, easy walking.   You’re looking at 5 days at most.

Closing Thoughts

North South Trail sign

It’s not the longest trail out there, but it is a great trail.   The terrain varies so much that you you have 78 miles of something different. There are some roadwalk sections which can wear on your feet, but the views are nice, and the traffic almost non-existent in those sections.  The main roadwalk is also broken up by a beautiful management area at a pond.  Hiked South to North you get into increasingly remote areas and into some good New England-style hiking.  Hiked North to South, you can enter increasingly tame woods and end at the beautiful Atlantic Ocean beach, with a campground nearby.

More Photos

I thru-hiked this a short while ago. My own personal trip report is here, and the full picture album can be found here.

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Comments 34

  • Auntie Beak : Mar 11th

    Hey, just to let you know the shelter in Arcadia is fine. Not sure why you were told it was trashed. Also unclear on the process for acquiring a permit, but there’s contact information on this state website: http://www.riparks.com/Locations/LocationArcadia.html

  • Smokebeard : Mar 11th

    That’s great news, thanks! This will give people some legitimate options in that stretch.

  • Melita Quesada : Oct 9th

    Who/group is in charge/Maintenance of the North South Trail in RI.
    Can you give me a contact email. I can’t seem to find anything that is directly related to NS on the internet.
    I have some NS End to End patches that I would like to donate.
    Thanks for any info you can give me.

    • Ross : Feb 20th

      Contact: [email protected] For info on the NSTrek and those who maintain the trail . I’ve done this trail 8 or 9 times some long road sections the solitude and beauty of stepping stone falls is worth it

    • Michael : Sep 7th

      I would like to buy a few of those patches if you are willing to sell them. Please let me know via email.

    • Ken Pickren : Jan 19th

      If you still have END TO END PATCHES, I’d be interested. I could send a check.

      Ken Pickren

    • Christine : Apr 4th

      Hey Melita! I know it’s been a while since you posted about this, but if you still had any end to end patches, I’d love to have/buy one from you. Also, if you had any information on where I could get one if you’re out, I’d also appreciate that!

    • Roland Tremblay : Apr 4th

      For contact information for trail maintenance on the North South Trail contact Carl Windle at carlton.windle@[email protected]

    • Amy Krawiec : Oct 13th

      My friend and I are mid way hiking through the NST. We would love to have a couple patches when we complete the NST, if you are willing to donate.

  • Smokebeard : Oct 9th

    It’s sort of an obscure offshoot of the Narragansett AMC chapter. I have a few contact emails, but I’m not sure they’d want them shared. I can pass your email along though! I’d love to see the patch, maybe I can add an image of it to this review. Can you send me a picture at [email protected] ?

    • Christine : Apr 4th

      Hey could you also pass along my email too? I’d love to get more information on the trail and who maintains it.

  • Kristen : Apr 15th

    I love this little trail. I thru hiked it in 3 days last year, so this year I figured, why not give it another go and see if I can do it in 2, just to challenge myself! Summer and longer days can’t come fast enough!

    One of the best finishes ever, walking right into the ocean.

    • Smokebeard : Apr 15th

      Thanks for reading Kristen. I know some people mountain-bike the trail in a day, by caching food and water halfway through.

  • Janice : Apr 22nd

    Is there a good map of the whole trail. We have hiked from MA to George Washington but struggle to find the rest of the trail in any detail.

    • Kristen : Apr 23rd

      HI Janice,

      I printed out a GPS track that someone had posted. There were a few deviations from the trail that the person took, but it was mostly accurate. The trail is very well blazed, so it is easy to follow.


  • Jake : Jun 26th

    Hey looking to do this trail next week, what did you all do for camping?
    As in did you say screw it and camp on trail, or did you go off trail to the campgrounds?

    • Smokebeard : Dec 13th

      Hi Jake, on Day 3 I camped in the campground off Rt 44 in the George Washington Management Area, and on day 2, I was so near my house, I slept at home. On Day 1 I camped somewhere in the Arcadia Park.

  • Rich Goetz : Apr 2nd

    Is there guidance on how I could hike this trail in pieces? I’m not capable to do it in 3-5 days consecutive? Help?

  • Roland Tremblay : Apr 4th

    If you contact me by email I will put you in contact with someone who will provide you with the maps we use for our spring hikes which we do in six separate Saturdays.

    • Amy Krawiec : Sep 3rd

      I would love to have copies of those maps, if possible. My friend and I would like to complete this hike, in sections, this Fall.

    • Amy Krawiec : Sep 3rd

      I would love to have copies of those maps, if possible. My friend and I would like to complete this hike, in sections, this Fall. They would be helpful to me to where to start and finish each day.

  • Geoffrey Warne : Sep 23rd

    If you want maps or a patch, they can be provided by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope (2 ounces, at least 78 cents) to NST Maps, 27 Post Road, Warwick, RI 02888-1606. Maps cost $2 and patches cost $4ea (you don’t have to hike the entire trail to get one). If you’re mailing for the patch as well, you’ll want to add some postage to cover the weight of the patch. Probably just put 3 forever stamps on and you’ll be good.

    If you’d like to join other people hiking the trail, every spring an event called The Trek is held. A group hikes the whole trail over six days, every other Saturday from early March to late May. A school bus is rented that saves the hassle of carpooling. And a volunteer meets the group along the way with water, juice, fruit, cheese and crackers and, of course, cookies. People hike at their own pace. It’s a great way to hike the whole state. Contact Ginny Leslie ([email protected]) if you’re interested.

  • Nate : Apr 26th

    Thanks for this! Crucial info that I was looking for. I’m a Rhode Islander and a new backpacker, so this route seems perfect to gauge my endurance level and test out my second hand gear for a few days before trying anything more intensive.


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