Biking is the perfect way to tackle a lengthier trail without taking the entire afternoon – so you can include time for a picnic stop – and Newport State Park offers a quiet, immersive cycling experience.
The Rowleys Bay Loop starts across from the visitor center at the park’s first parking lot. You’re immediately introduced to the frequently changing terrain, including large rocks, tree roots, a smoother dirt path and a grassy trail, which is why you should take a mountain bike, not a road bike.
The first mile or so is mostly shaded by trees, gradually opening up to sunlight shining down on flowering plants. The sound of grasshoppers and bees welcomes you into their homes as the trail narrows and winds closer to the water.
At two miles, the trail runs parallel to Rowleys Bay, and benches facing the water provide places to rest along the way. Although these are ideal for enjoying the view from the shade of trees, I preferred to venture out onto the sun-baked, rocky bay. The rocks are flat enough to walk along and large enough to serve as a seat or a place to lay out a picnic blanket.
I don’t recommend walking on rocks submerged in water – they’re slimy and slippery – but you can dangle your feet in the water from a rock seat or wade in one the tiny niches of finely ground stones and shallow water.
Back on a bike, the trail continues through cedar trees along Rowleys Bay. With one mile left until the end, the path abruptly turns inland, returning to the shade of deciduous trees and linking back to the Newport Loop Trail. If you’re done for the day at the final trail fork, take a right back to the trail entrance. Otherwise, head left to try more biking paths.
Where: 475 Cty NP in Ellison Bay
Distance: Four miles
Difficulty: Moderate. Expect occasional short hills and bumpy terrain, with rocks and tree roots in some areas.
Highlights: This trail connects to the Newport Loop Trail and passes the access to several campsites. Rowleys Bay is a great halfway stop to share a secluded shore with birds and butterflies.