Tillinghast Pond Management Area from the air.
Rhode Island: The Tillinghast Pond Management Area in western Rhode Island. © Ayla Fox

Places We Protect

Tillinghast Pond Management Area

Rhode Island

Discover the exceptional natural beauty that awaits you.

Tillinghast Pond is at the headwaters of the Wood River and conserved through the foresight and generosity of our many partners and supporters.

Why You Should Visit

Surrounded by protected forest, Tillinghast Pond Management Area offers serenity and natural beauty that rank among the best in southern New England.

Tillinghast Pond’s waters are clear and shallow, perfect for a family paddle. Cast a line, explore the coves, or just float around and let the solitude recharge your batteries.

Tillinghast Pond is open to hunting, under rules written by the RI Department of Environmental Management. Hikers are required to wear fluorescent orange during the hunting season. Please consult the RIDEM Hunting Abstract for current hunting regulations.

Why TNC Selected This Site

Tillinghast Pond sits at the heart of the largest coastal forest between Boston and Washington, DC.  Had it been lost to development, it would have undermined decades of land protection along the Rhode Island – Connecticut border. Permanently conserved in 2006, it provides outstanding recreational opportunities and safeguards the headwaters of the pristine Wood River.

This victory would not have been possible without the people of West Greenwich, RI. Faced with the prospect of more than 300 new homes, this small community approved an $8 million bond to help acquire the land. The vote in favor of the bond was 632 to 12.

The town’s overwhelming support attracted major support from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, The Champlin Foundation and individual donors. Local residents made a tremendous and lasting contribution to land conservation and to the protection of the area’s rural character. We are so grateful for their partnership.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

Tillinghast Pond’s 13-mile trail system makes it one of the most popular hiking areas in Rhode Island. Designed in partnership with the National Park Service and constructed with the help of dozens of volunteers, the trails offer a sense of remoteness that is hard to find in southern New England.

In 2019, we acquired 10 acres of hayfield in the middle of the preserve, including the iconic red dairy barn. The barn is an important summer roost for bats and the surrounding field is leased to a local farmer. Since the preserve was established in 2006, TNC has conserved an additional 400 acres of nearby forest, working closely with RIDEM, the West Greenwich Land Trust and other partners.

Under a 10-year Forest Stewardship Plan, TNC hires Rhode Island loggers to create pockets of shrub and grassland habitat by removing areas of forest that have succumbed to invasive pests, like gypsy moth caterpillars. These projects will increase habitat diversity on the preserve and are already benefitting hawks, bluebirds and woodcocks. TNC is the only nonprofit organization in the state to have its logging practices certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. 

Volunteers

The Nature Conservancy established a volunteer group called the Friends of the Preserves.  We hope that volunteers assist with ongoing stewardship projects including trail maintenance, litter cleanups and removal of invasive plants. If you would like to become a Friend of Tillinghast Pond, please get in touch with Jeanne Cooper at jeanne.cooper@tnc.org or 401-331-7110, x4516.

Parking

The main parking area for the Tillinghast Pond trail system is located at 100 Plain Road in West Greenwich, RI.  A trailhead kiosk greets visitors with an introduction to the preserve and its hiking trails.

In addition, there are two satellite parking areas located at 600 Plain Meeting House Road and 150 Hazard Road.

The Conservancy, RIDEM, and the Town of West Greenwich worked closely together to establish Tillinghast Pond as a top hiking destination.  Five interconnected loop trails provide for a wide range of options, from a short walk in the woods to a 13-mile day hike.

Restrooms

A public restroom is located at the main parking area on Plain Road. This trail amenity was funded by a grant from The Champlin Foundation.

Boating Access

There is a public fishing area and kayak/canoe launch at the north end of the main parking area on Plain Road. There is also space to pull off and launch farther along on Plain Road.

Trails

Pond Loop (blazed white) starts from either end of the Plain Road parking lot.  The 2.3 mile trail passes over easy, flat terrain around Tillinghast Pond, with ample opportunities to look for wildlife or simply enjoy the long views across the water.  An observation platform is located roughly half way around the pond.  The Pond Loop also includes three hayfields, which are leased to a local farmer.

The Flintlock Loop (blazed yellow) winds for 2.6 miles through the open woods east of Tillinghast Pond, and is highlighted by a glacial “boulder garden,” a historic cemetery, and an 1830s-era farmstead.  Start on the Pond Loop (white blazes) by the kiosk; walk for two tenths of a mile and look for the sign for the Flintlock Trail.  The trail is also accessible from the small parking lot on Plain Meetinghouse Road, via an old farm road.

The Coney Brook Loop (blazed orange) takes hikers through a forest restoration site, past the stone walls of an early 1800s farm, and along the tops of glacial ridges, shaded by hemlocks and beeches. Coney Brook highlights the 2.3-mile route, rushing over a dam and through a small ravine. Start on the Pond Loop (white blazes) from the north side of the Plain Road parking lot and watch for the sign to Coney Brook approximately 500 feet ahead. The trail is also accessible from the parking lot on Hazard Road, via the Shepard Trail.

The Wickaboxet Loop (blazed blue) connects the Tillinghast Pond and Wickaboxet Management Area trail systems.  Combining new woodland paths with old fire roads, the 4-mile trail provides a lot of variety for hikers and features two historic cemeteries and several well-preserved cellar holes.  Park at the Plain Meetinghouse Road entrance and follow a farm lane for a half-mile to the trailhead.  This trail is also accessible from the Wickaboxet parking lot and the West Greenwich Land Trust’s Pratt Conservation Area, at the end of Saddle Rock Road.

The Bates Loop (blazed red) celebrates the legacy of the Bates family, who cared for this part of the preserve as a farm and woodlot for eight generations, dating back to colonial times. Cellar holes and remarkably intact stonewalls lend a keen sense of place to the old homestead. Part of the trail follows Phillips Brook, a coldwater stream that feeds the Wood River. Footbridges cross Phillips Brook in two places.

The Logger's Trail is a rough half-mile path through a wildlife restoration area.  Seedling trees, pasture grasses, and berry bushes are abundant following a 2010 timber harvest, as are the songbirds that depend on such open habitat.  The trailhead is about a tenth of a mile from the Plain Road parking lot, branching off from the Coney Brook Loop.

Trail Map and Guide of Tillinghast Pond Management Area

Preserve Guidelines

We hope you enjoy visiting our preserves in any season. We ask that you please observe the following guidelines:

  • Stay on the walking trails, using marked trails wherever they exist.
  • Respect preserve open hours (one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset). Overnight camping is not allowed.
  • Do not ride bikes or any motorized vehicle through preserves or on the trails.
  • Do not disturb bird nesting areas. Between April 15 and September 1, nesting areas may be off-limits to visitors. People or dogs can easily destroy a nest with one misstep.
  • Do not remove any living materials from a preserve or disturb any vegetation.
  • Remove any trash you create and, if possible, any garbage that you see left by someone else.
  • After any walk on a preserve, it is a good idea to check for ticks when you return home.
  • Be careful! Your safety is your responsibility.

Thank you for your help.

What to See: Plants

Tillinghast Pond Management Area is largely made up of areas of pine and oak forest, with occasional red maple swamps. Several tree species are identified along the Pond Loop.  Elsewhere on the property, there are pockets of Atlantic white cedar swamp, rhododendron, and hemlock, with another 70 acres maintained as open hayfields.

What to See: Animals

Birds such as the Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, and Belted Kingfisher are fairly common around Tillinghast Pond during the summer. Red squirrels may scold you from high up in their favorite pine tree and barred owls call “who cooks for you” in late winter afternoons. The property's ponds and wetlands also support beavers, otters, and numerous frogs, salamanders, dragonflies, and damselflies.