Breakheart Trail/Penny Hill – Exeter/West Greenwich

  • Breakheart Trail/Penny Hill – Arcadia Wildlife Management Area
  • Hicks Trail, Exeter, RI
  • Trailhead: 41°35’42.83″N, 71°42’12.14″W
  • Last Time Hiked: October 17, 2015
  • Approximate distance hiked: 6.8 miles
  • Moderate, difficult in areas due to significant elevation.

The Breakheart Trail runs from Austin Farm Road at the Falls River to Breakheart Pond mostly in West Greenwich and parts of Exeter. This hike covers nearly all but the western most half mile or so. The route that we followed for this hike is the one in the Ken Weber “Walks and Rambles in Rhode Island” (Third Edition), however we chose to do the hike in reverse. The reasoning was a hiking club decision to eliminate the two miles of road walking first and to save the actual Breakheart Trail for the remainder of the hike. We started from the parking area by Breakheart Pond and started our two mile westward trek along Austin Farm Road. The road, at times flanked by stone walls, is a dirt road that first passes Frosty Hollow Road, then passes the Fish and Wildlife Education Offices before coming to the Flat River. On the left at the Flat River Bridge is a historical cemetery. A little further up the road there are yellow blazes on trees. These are not the blazes for the Breakheart Trail. Just after the two mile mark there is a sign to the right that reads “Hiking Only”. Just beyond that sign is the trailhead sign for the Breakheart Trail. The remainder of this hike follows the yellow blazes of the Breakheart Trail as it winds through the most secluded parts of northern Arcadia. There are some spurs and intersections along the way. Be sure to be aware of the blazes as not to take a wrong turn. The trail starts a steady and at times difficult climb up Penny Hill. This is one of the highest points in Arcadia and at one time had sweeping views of the area. The trees have now grown higher than the hill. Folklore has it being named by hikers in the 1930’s that would drop a penny in an abandoned bird nest at the top of the hill. The trail briefly splits and rejoins just to the east of the hill and then starts to descend downhill first passing the intersection for the multi-use trail before coming to the white blazed Penny Cutoff Trail on the right. Continuing straight the trail then passes through an area with several dead trees and low shrubs. At the next intersection is the white blazed Shelter Trail on the right. The Breakheart Trail then winds through some of the prettiest parts of the management area passing under a canopy of tall trees. There are a few boardwalks and the trail crosses Phillips Brook before coming to the wooden truss bridge that crosses Acid Factory Brook. This is a good spot for a break. The brook trickles over some rocks here and you are approximately a mile from the closest public road. You will notice signs on the trees stating “No Trespassing”. This is the boundary between Arcadia and the University of Rhode Islands Alton Jones Campus. After crossing Acid Factory Brook the trail then climbs yet another hill. This stretch is quite rocky and there are plenty of boulders. Be sure to follow the yellow blazes at the intersections. When you reach to dirt road your uphill climbing is all but done. The Breakheart Trail then descends southeasterly downhill soon coming to a brook on the left. At the next intersection we turned left following the yellow blazes over a wooden bridge at the extreme northern end of Breakheart Pond. After a short uphill section, the yellow blazes turn to the right and follow a trail along the eastern side of the pond passing a small stream and waterfall. Shortly after that is a cellar hole on the right. Finally there is a sweeping view of Breakheart Pond with its dam and waterfall before concluding the hike at the parking area. Hunting is allowed here. We ran into several hunters along this hike, particularly in the parking areas along Austin Farm Road. Be sure to wear blaze orange during hunting season.

Trail maps can be found at: Breakheart Trail and Penny Hill

Along the Breakheart Trail

Along the Breakheart Trail

Peak Foliage at Breakheart Pond

Peak Foliage at Breakheart Pond

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