Arcadia Management Area, Exeter
If you referred to the Arcadia Management Area in southwestern Rhode Island as "Singletrack Central", everyone in Rhode Island would know exactly where you were talking about. Arcadia's more than 14,000 acres contain a dizzying amount of singletrack.
My mountain bike introduction to this area came more than 25 years ago on an EFTA race. The course consisted of a 25 mile loop, almost all of which was singletrack, and none of which was boring.
Since then, I've returned many times for other RI NEMBA EFTA/NEMBA events as well as for a lot of map, GPS and compass type exploring. After more than 30 years you might think that I'd ridden on every trail that there is. But I'm constantly surprising myself. I'll be riding a selection of my "favorite" trails, when I'll see an unfamiliar singletrack leading off to the right or the left. Following it leads to another. And that leads to another. Until I get back to something familiar, am done riding for the day, or get so lost that I need my map to get me "found". What fun!
Arcadia is bisected east to west by route 165. There are a number of good parking spots along route 165, all with immediate access to the trails. (Please avoid parking at the white church on Sundays.) The main parking lot is located on your right about ½ mile west of the White Church. The Browning Mill Pond parking area, located about 1 mile south of route 165 on Arcadia Road, is a good spot to access the southernmost portions of the trail network. And the pond is a great place to cool off in after a hot summer ride.
It will take you more than a few days to ride all of the trails in Arcadia. Probably the best way to begin exploring is to divide up your efforts by spending a day north of route 165 and another south of it.
Arcadia's singletracks are a gas to ride. Ranging from mildly to massively challenging, they meander all over Arcadia in a confusing but uncongested manner. There's not a lot of elevation change in Arcadia as a whole. But you will find yourself challenged by a lot of short ups and downs as the singletracks wander over and among drumlins and eskers.
The Mt Tom trail starts on route 165 and heads south. It's an extremely technical trail that follows an exposed stone ridgetop for about a quarter of a mile. It's among the most technical of trail sections in Arcadia. And choosing the correct lines will require a lot of thought. It's really fun but not for the novice rider. Most of Arcadia 's trails though, are suitable for the majority of riders.
Techies will also love Arcadia's "Ledges Area" It's located in the western part of the management area, north of route 165 near Mt Tom. The ledge's trails were created years ago by trials motorcyclists who wanted more challenging terrain to ride on. And in a relatively small area you'll find trails that will rival the best that Vietnam or the Lynn Woods has to offer. No maps exist of these very convoluted trails. But you'll have no trouble figuring out where you are once you get there.
In addition to about 40 miles of singletrack, Arcadia has quite a few old woods roads and many miles of graded dirt roads. And many of these lead out of the Arcadia Management Area.
What would otherwise be total confusion can avoided by getting a good map or using a map app like Trailforks. The map provided by the state at the Arcadia Management Area's headquarters doesn't show most of Arcadia's singletracks. Don't expect signage or much in the way of trail labeling. There are a few trails marked out with different colored blazes on trees. For example: The 6 mile Arcadia Trail, the 5 mile Breakheart Trail and the 9.6 mile Tippecansett Trail all are marked with yellow dots. In addition there are white and blue dot trails. I hope that this sounds confusing to you. Because, hey, without a good map, or a guide, you're going to be lost.
Whether your introduction to Arcadia was through an RI NEMBA EFTA/NEMBA fun ride, following friends through the woods or by personal exploration you will return. Singletrack Central RI is too attractive to sample only once.
To get there take exit 5A from route 95. Go one mile on route 102 to route 3 south. After a mile bear right on rt. 165 south until you pass Arcadia Road on your left. You are now in the Arcadia Management Area. Turn left on Arcadia Road to find the Browning Mill Pond parking area. Headquarters is located about 1 mile past Browning Mill Pond. For more information call the Arcadia Wildlife Management Agency at 401 539-2356.
Cautions: During the hunting seasons everyone is required to wear 200 inches of blaze orange.
By Bill Boles