It was a rainy day but there was no way I was coming to Newport without visiting the Cliff Walk. The 3.5 mile hike, of which I did about half, features the oceans on one side and the famous mansions on the other--although those tall fences to protect privacy has made many of those mansions hard to see. Still, it is a terrific walk and something everyone has to do on a trip to Newport.
The Forty Steps are part of the Cliff Walk and are a dramtic stone staircase that drops about 2/3rd off the cliff with an amazing stone like "balcony" The steps down to the balcony aford you an amazing view out to the ocean.
It is said that during Newport's "Golden Age" the steps were a gathering place for the many servants that worked at the many mansions. Here they would have dances during the weekend, enjoyin their traditional Irish songs.
Ferni and I love coming here during our visits as it gives us a sense of peace and serenity, it is also a wonderful place to just gaze out into the ocean.
Cliff walk is a 3 1/2 mile walk along the ocean side of Newport. About 2/3's of the walk is along a paved path and then the final stretch is unpaved. In the unpaved portion, you walk along a path that is basically walking on stones.
As you walk along, you have stunning views of the ocean on one side and for a good portion you have the backyards of many of the stunning Newport mansions on the other.
Bring your walking shoes and your camera for an enjoyable couple hour walk.
Cliff Walk is a beautiful pedestrian trail that hugs the Newport shoreline. As you walk the Cliff Walk there a views of the magnificent Newport Mansions and cottages. Cliff Walk is a favorite of mine. I love the ocean views and seeing the mansions from a different perspective.
The forty steps is a dramatic stone staircase on Cliff Walk. Watch your step when waliking down to the bottom it is rather steep. It is a favorite place of ours. We love the ocean and to watch the water crash on the rocks below.
The Forty Steps was the place where the servants from the Newport Mansions would gather together and have parties. Many of the servants were Immigrants from Ireland and they would play music and sing songs that reminded them of home and family.
Beginning at Memorial Boulevard there is a 3.5-mile scenic walkway overlooking the rocky bluffs and the Atlantic Ocean as well as the famous Newport summer mansions. The views are breathtaking as you meandor through some rough trails along the path.
Some of the pathway is paved but you must be very careful as the trail can be dangerous in some locations.
According to my research, "the site is only partially wheelchair-accessible, as there are rocks and stairs in some areas".
Parking is available.
The Walk's construction was originally just a path along the shore line. In some areas the public moved a few stones aside, some owners neatened their portions of the walk, others built tunnels or bridges in a public spirited move to make the walk enjoyable to all. In effect the walk is a public right of way over private property owned by the waterfront property owners.
The Forty Steps at Narragansett Ave.
At the end of Narragansett Ave., about 3/4ths of a mile south from Memorial Boulevard, are the Forty Steps ... a dramatic stone staircase that drops about 2/3rds of the way down the side of the cliff to a balcony over the sea.
The Cliff Walk is a rare occurrence of public right of way along a continuous stretch of some of Rhode Island's most beautiful coastline. It runs before some of the most magnificently ostentatious mansions built in the U.S., right between their manicured lawns and the ocean cliffs and rocks. While some sections are a stroll, and the most difficult (mostly southern end) are a rocky scramble, it is all there for the public to enjoy. What foresight by Newport's citizens!
One can take it in sections, or walk the entire length and use the public transport trolley buses that run along Bellevue Avenue in the summer in order to get back to town for a meal and libation.
The web address below is an excellent and detailed resource.
When we lived in RI in the early 70s, we visited Newport on several occasions, and my mom tells me that we went on part of the Cliff Walk (photo 4 is my mom's picture of that). So when we went to stay with the family of my daughter's boyfriend a couple of years ago, the Cliff Walk was something that we decided to do. The first picture was taken from inside a tunnel (probably the Gull Rock Tunnel) - my daughter's (ex) boyfriend is on the left, and then my daughter and on the right her little brother - our son. The second picture is of the section near Memorial Blvd.
There is available a pictorial map of the Cliff Walk called "The Cliff Walk & Bellevue Avenue Touring Map" which is a standard folded map size of 24” by 33”, with a full color front side depicting the Cliff Walk and Bellevue Avenue. Information about it is in the link below and it is pictured in the third photo.
We visited Newport a couple of times in the early 70s which was a couple of years before the 3.5 mile Cliff Walk was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1975 -- the first in New England.
The Walk is really a public right of way over private waterfront property so there were and are areas of dispute where property owners (especially the rich ones that built cottages along the waterfront) have tried to discourage use or keep walkers away by putting up walls, planting trees or kept dogs or even bulls along the waterfront to scare people away.
The section that we see from The Breakers in this photo is the 9th section of the Northern part of the trail at Ochre Point. You can see people at the edge of the Breakers property in the picture.
According to the Friends of the Waterfront Cliff Walk webpage:
Cliff Walk was protected by the combination of long term public use, the "Fisherman's Rights" granted by the Colonial Charter of King Charles II, and a passage in the Rhode Island Constitution that granted the public "rights of fishery and the privileges of the shore to which they have heretofore been entitled." Now centuries of prior use have guaranteed the legal right of people to walk on the cliffs.
Well, the spectacular mansions were the main reason I wanted to visit Newport so walking along the rocky shoreline and seeing these homes up close was one of the highlights of my trip. You won't have any trouble finding the Cliff Walk. Just drive up Bellevue Avenue and follow the signs. You can park your car at no cost along the side of the road. We didn't walk the entire length of the Cliff Walk, but I imagine doing so would require a few hours. We started at the Breakers (the most famous of the mansions) and headed north passing Salve Regina College and the Forty Steps near Narragansett Avenue. Heading south might actually be even more interesting as you'll pass the Chinese Tea House on your way to Land's End at the far south.
Walking along these gorgeous seaside cliffs provides spectacular views of the seashore and of the impressive mansions of many of New England's rich and famous. Anyone who saw the movie Reversal of Fortune (about Klaus von Bulow, the doctor accused of poisoning his wife) will recognize this place.
The Cliff Walk is a 3.5 miles walking journey. The best part about it is...it's free! All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and perhaps a bottle of water. When I went I also brought along camera. While the start is technically at Memorial Beoulevard there are several areas where you can pick up along the walk.
It is great on nice days to walk along and see the ocean as well as the views of the mansion grounds. One note however is that the cliff walk does get a bit more difficult as it goes along. Some parts of it are smooth while others are all large bouldars and they say at the start that you proceed at your own risk. Also do be on the look out for posion ivy.
One thing to look for is the Forty steps on Narragansett Ave. There are also plenty of other interesting sites along the way.
The manmade draws a distinct line between what mother nature built along these shores. The cliff walk hovers along the space where water meets land and traces the coastline straight down to a stretch of a open beach of sand. Many Newporter's were taking advantage of waters and hauling out like seals, they would swim to rock portrusions to sit in accomplishment. Heave the glory of "MISSION COMPLETE".
If you come to Newport one thing you must do is check out the Cliff Walk. It sits just above 1st 'Eastons' Beach. It's a 4.5 mile path that runs along side the ocean. On the other side is the Newport Mansions. The view to either side is impressive. About half of the path is paved while the other half is more dirt and large rocks. Depending on what you're looking for in a hike, you can find either here. There are also several enterances you can access the cliff walk from, so if you don't what to do it all in one day, it could be broken into several stretches.