The Cliff Walk is one of the top tourist attractions in the Newport, Rhode Island area. This beautiful but challenging hike is the most scenic in the area, filled with beaches, mansions, and other natural beauty. The cliff was originally formed by local wildlife, deer in fact! After that, it was commonly traversed by the Narragansett Native American population, then the eventual colonial immigrants to the area.
In the later part of the 1800s, the area was well known for being a summer destination for wealthy New York residents. In fact, throughout the years, the area known as the Cliff Walk was actually subject to significant battles surrounding who had the actual access rights to the area. It also was, at one time, washed away by Hurricane Sandy in several spots and had to be rebuilt with the help of a multimillion dollar federal aid grant. It is an officially designated National Recreation Trail.
The Cliff Walk comes with a variety of attractions based around the main attraction, the Cliff Walk itself.
The Cliff Walk features a three-and-a-half-mile walkway (public access) that borders the beautiful Newport shore line, starting at the eastern end of Bailey’s Beach and proceeding to the western end of First Beach. The public access entrances are located at Ledge Road, Bellevue Avenue, Ruggles Avenue, Marine Avenue, Webster Street, Sheppard Avenue, and Narragansett Avenue. There are five different and unique segments to the Cliff Walk.
Memorial Boulevard through “Forty Steps”: This is the perfect segment for those who are looking for a slower jog or casual walk, as it is paved and more easily accessible to everyone. Look for the “green” line.
1.“Forty Steps” through Ruggles Avenue: This segment takes guests past close views of the mansions on the campus of Salve University. Be aware that there are several different sets of stairs, so this segment is not accessible to those who are in a wheelchair or have specific physical impairments. Look for the “gold” line.
2.Ruggles Avenue through the Belmont Beach: Rough terrain and beautiful breaking waves are the highlight of this segment, especially when the wind blows strongly from the southern direction through the cliff. Look for the “magenta” line.
3.Belmont Beach through Ledge Road: Increasingly rough terrain (more challenging than that at the previous segment) is the main feature of this segment, which is difficult (especially around Rough Point) but also satisfying for more serious hikers looking for a challenge. This segment is also fairly high up, so visitors should not attempt if they are afraid of heights. Look for the “red” line.
4.Ledge Road through Bellevue Avenue: Although slightly easier terrain than segment four, this is just as satisfying for those looking for cliff views with a slightly easier path. Look for the “blue” line.
While on the Cliff Walk, make sure to check out the beach affectionately known as “Reject’s Beach.” This small beach, which is natural and not man-made, is frequently used by local surfers to launch their surfboards into the water while surfing what is called the “Breakers,” which are formed when hurricanes pass offshore.
Visitors to the area should also be sure to watch for poison ivy, as it is a frequent offender in the area. No dogs are allowed. Make sure to follow all posted rules and guidelines for safety!
Although there are few special events scheduled at the Cliff Walk, the parks department runs a thorough and active Facebook page. On the page, guests can keep an eye out for some of the smaller sites on the walk that may pass by an untrained eye. For instance, they recently featured the “Wave with 2 Feet” landmark, which is one of the most frequently photographed by people on the cliff walk. The page goes into the history of the piece, the location, and more! They also highlighted some “secrets” of the walk, like the shipyard observation deck, which is a lengthy public dock that few people know about but is a must see.
The area that encompasses the Cliff Walk also participates in local festivals, like the Folk and Jazz Festival. Hosted in Newport on a yearly basis, the festival is normally held in August and allows public access to the cliff with a variety of events held on and near the cliffs. It is a popular local event that draws guests from all over.
Newport RI Cliff Walk, 117 Memorial Blvd, Newport, RI, 02840-3659, Phone: 401-845-5802