Local Hikes with Emily: Newport Cliff Walk
By Guest Blogger Emily O’Donnell from Denali Wakefield
The Cliff Walk, Newport
Zach, my sister Becca, and I set off to Newport, RI on Saturday afternoon. We decided to stop for lunch at this awesome little deli on Broadway called “The Deli” where you get great fresh sandwiches for a reasonable price. After lunch, we headed towards Easton Beach, which is at the start of the Cliff Walk. Since it was off season, we parked for free! We headed up Memorial Blvd to the start of the Cliff Walk where signs warn you of steep cliffs and give you some information about the Cliff Walk.
When we got about ¾ of a mile in, we arrived at Narragansett Ave. Here they have the “Forty Steps”, a dramatic stone staircase that drops about 2/3 of the way down the side of the cliff to a balcony overlooking the sea. There are also three temporary toilets conveniently located just off the walk as well. From Narragansett Ave to Ruggles Ave we had the beautiful blue water on our left and the stunning mansions of the Gilded Age on our right. We passed Ochre Court, The Breakers, Cave Cliff, Vineland, and Ochre Point all belonging to either the Preservation Society or Salve Regina University. A chain-link fence blocks access to these properties, but for a small fee you can step inside and marvel at the richness that is the Gilded Age.
Up to this point, the trail has been a nicely paved sidewalk-like path, but due to the blizzards and hurricanes, the walk was closed from Ruggles Ave to Ledge Road. A sign had been erected along with a flimsy piece of plywood that people easily squeezed behind. The rest of the Cliff Walk became a “go at your own risk”. From there on, we encountered collapsed and missing sidewalks, dirt paths and large well-placed rocks. We also encountered a fun but kind of creepy tunnel underneath the Chinese Tea House which is part of the Alva Vanderbilt Belmont’s Marble House circa 1914. It was a peculiar sight to see among all the French inspired mansions. We encountered a second tunnel about a quarter of a mile further at Gull Rock. It was smaller and gave the illusion of dropping straight into the Atlantic Ocean!
From there on the walk was very rough and started to open fully to the great Atlantic. There was much scrambling over large rocks and bits of debris. We eventually made it to Ledge Road where you can either head down a few blocks to catch a trolley into the heart of Newport, or you can continue on to the end of the walk at Bailey’s Beach. We are more of the go big or go home sort so we stuck it out until the end. The last little bit was very nice and grassy, apart from the broken slate steps. This section was quiet as we made our way inland towards the beach passing by some large, private summer houses. We took a little breather and admired the scenery at Bailey’s Beach, the once booming hot spot for the Gild Age’s “old money families”.
After our Cliff Walk adventures, we decided to enjoy the gorgeous spring weather and strolled to Bowen’s Warf via Bellevue Ave. The Cliff Walk is about 3.5 miles one way, but we totaled over 9 miles that day! A few tips for those heading to the Cliff Walk: wear really comfy walking shoes, pack a bag with snacks, lots of water, sunscreen, shades and I recommend bringing a wind breaker and sweatshirt because it gets chillier on some stretches. Have fun!