Neutaconkanut Hill Hike - 12/9/2012
The Rhode Island Sierra Club took a short December hike this weekend at Neutaconkanut Hill. This lesser known 88 acre Providence park is a great place to be in nature without ever leaving the city. Kevin Proft and Christine Pemberton from the Rhode Island Chapter’s outing club guided 11 people on the hour and a half long walk through old oak groves and along cliff edges.
Leaving from the parking lot near the skate park at the foot of the sledding hill, the club stuck mostly to the perimeter trails, linking the Pond, Pinnacle, and Blueberry Trail. With the leaves off the trees the city below was often within view, even away from the few designated vista points. The loop ended at the top of the ski slope where the views of the Providence skyline are remarkable.
The group included a few outings regulars, but also a variety of new faces. Heather and Phil who recently moved back to Rhode Island from the Bay Area in California, came to see what the Rhode Island Chapter, so far removed from the Sierra Nevada Mountains that inspired John Muir to start the Sierra Club in 1892, had to offer. “It really doesn’t take much elevation to get a good perspective of city,” said Phil at one cliff edge lookout that hangs over the Silver Lake and Olneyville neighborhoods with the downtown skyline on the horizon.
Andrew and his wife Liz also decided to attend the urban outing despite being 8 months into their pregnancy.
As the Native American origins of its name suggests, the history of Neutaconkanut Hill dates back to pre-Colonial times. To keep an eye on their neighbors, local Native American tribes regularly burned the underbrush on the hill, which allowed for commanding views in all directions of the land below.
In 1636, Roger Williams he was deeded the land between the falls at Pawtucket and the hill at Neutaconkanut, making the hill one of the first named locations in the records of Rhode Island history.
The King family bought the land in 1829 and later willed it to the city in 1913 for the public’s enjoyment.
The park boomed during the Great Depression and World War II when times were lean and people couldn’t afford vacations. After the war, money began to flow back into the city and people slowly abandon Neutaconkanut Hill for vacations in the mountains.
The park fell into disrepair during the following decades. People used the park as a dump and hikers no longer felt safe on the trails. Two Camaros arrived on the Hill via car thieves who drove them up the ski slope and into the woods where they took what they were after, then abandon the cars. The cars can still be spotted on the trailside today.
In 2005, the Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy was formed and the park began to be restored. Now, the invasives have been cut back and the trails revived by Conservancy volunteers making Nuetaconkanut Hill, once again, a destination Rhode Islanders should be proud of.
Mo, an outdoor enthusiast who has lived in Rhode Island for over 20 years, joined the club for the second time this year to check out Neutaconkanut Hill, a place she had never heard of before. Afterwards she called the hill “a gem,” high praise from someone who has clawed her way to the top of Mount Rainier.
Sierra Club Rhode Island