Running Around the Block
I started getting into running seriously about two years ago after joining my high school cross-country and track teams in northern California. There’s certainly no shortage of beautiful, shady trails out there, which means I’m never bored. In search of a similar range of running routes in the summers out here, I asked my mother, an avid runner who has been coming to the island since she was young, and her running friends to show me their favorite loops and share tips about running on the island. Without their advice, I would still be running the same short, three-mile loop near my house that I found when I was 12.
The following are five runs that have become my favorites. They pass through some of the island’s most beautiful scenery and landmarks and all are easy to adjust to fit your own schedule and needs.
West Side loop: 5.16 miles
This quiet loop is one of my favorites on the island. Although hilly, it passes through some of Block Island’s most beautiful scenery. I typically start the run at the cemetery on Center Road, as it is central to the island and a convenient meeting spot. Facing the cemetery, turn left up a small hill, staying on Center Road as you run past a small field where you may see draft horses or young calves. After the hill, keep on Center Road, running past Beach Avenue on your left and the light-blue gabled house atop a grassy hill on your right. The road goes into a slight downhill until you pass Beacon Hill Road on your right.
Then begin the climb up what is known as airport hill. Although this hill is a pain to ride a bike up, I never find it as hard running. Running past the airport if you look to your right, you will see some of Block Island’s beautiful rolling fields separated by stone walls. If you find yourself already tired of running on pavement, there is an entrance to the Greenway trails here. While running past these fields, look for Beacon Hill Tower, the highest point on the island that was once used during World War II as a lookout tower for submarines.
Once up that second part of airport hill, make a right on Cooneymus Road. From here you will continue on this main road for the duration of the run. You will soon pass Rodman’s Hollow nature preserve on your left, one of the prettiest places on the island to walk or hike. This is the two-mile mark of the loop and on a clear day you can see the ocean behind it. Keep on going and you will soon pass a small, quiet lily pond. Up a short hill, Cooneymus Road becomes West Side Road and you can spot Rustic Rides on your left as you continue on. Once up that hill, you come to more rolling hills and stone walls, and may be able to see a windmill in the background.
Then, past the old West Side Baptist Church, which is now a private residence, you will continue on with a slight downhill and come to another bigger hill. At the top, on your right you can see a big grassy hill with a pond at the bottom (the old gravel pit), where you often can spy cows grazing or drinking. Staying on West Side Road, you will eventually take a right past another small pond that is sometimes hidden by trees and down a long but gradual hill. This downhill will take you past Champlin’s Marina and the playground and eventually to the cemetery and the intersection with Center Road again.
Old Mill loop: 4.7 miles
The Old Mill loop is a shortened version of the West Side loop. It’s 4.7 miles in length, and cuts out part of the West Side loop by running on Old Mill Road, a quiet dirt road. Like the West Side loop, if you start at the cemetery and continue on past Beacon Hill and the airport, you will again turn right onto Cooneymus Road. But, instead of continuing on it for the remainder of the run, you stay on it for about two-tenths of a mile until the road intersects with Old Mill Road on your right. Stay on Old Mill, a bumpy dirt road, for almost a mile going over several slight hills, passing a few houses and ponds. The road will eventually merge back onto Cooneymus Road near the second set of rolling fields described in the above section on the West Side loop.
Beacon Hill loop: 3 miles
Beacon Hill is a quiet, hilly dirt road known for the tower that sits atop it as the highest point on the island. This loop offers an even shorter version of the West Side loop than the Old Mill loop. This short run is only 3 miles long, but has killer hills. Although you no longer have to run up airport hill as is required in the West Side and Old Mill loops, the Beacon Hill Road itself contains some relatively steep hills. Again, starting at the cemetery, running up the first hill, past Beach Avenue, you will turn right onto Beacon Hill Road right across from the Old Town Inn. Once on this dirt road, you will quickly approach the first hill. At the one-mile mark, you will come to the Beacon Hollow farm with a red farmhouse on your right. Look for the giant bunny inside the “goathaus.” Shortly after passing this farm, the road becomes very steep and windy. This is a good hill for serious runners looking to do hill repeats, as it is quiet. Soon after reaching the top, you will come to the entrance for Goose and Garden nurseries on your right and then the road merges onto West Side Road right near the old gravel pit’s grassy hill with cows. Take a right and continue on West Side Road until you eventually return to the cemetery.
Spring Street loop: 6 miles
This loop, about 6 miles in length, offers a nice run around the south end of the island. Although it runs through the edge of town for a small portion of the loop, it is generally quiet otherwise. Starting at the intersection near the Old Post Office Bagel Shop, run up Old Town Road past the Three Sisters sandwich shop and turn left onto Chapel Street. Take a right at the moped rental shop onto Weldon’s Way and run a few blocks until you reach High Street. Turn left and then make an immediate right to head up Spring Street.
For this loop, you will generally just follow the main road. Up Spring Street, head up a slight hill past the Manisses, Abrams’ Family Farm, The 1661 Inn and the Spring House. The view from this spot is one of the most gorgeous on the island. Overlooking a small pond, you are right above the ocean and can see the beach all the way up to the north tip of the island.
Continuing on, running past many houses, the road will eventually pass the Southeast Lighthouse. This is one of the main tourist attractions on the island. Past the lighthouse, the road runs along the Mohegan Bluffs and winds for a while until it passes a painted rock that countless people paint over each summer. There it turns right and becomes Lakeside Drive.
Lakeside Drive will take you north, past Fresh Pond, the island’s backup water supply. Continue north as the road becomes Center Road. After running past the airport, down airport hill, make the first right onto Old Town Road, past the Old Town Inn. This road will take you past a hill with grazing goats and a duck pond. Old Town Road will pass Connecticut Ave, but make sure to keep running straight, up over a pond, past Town Hall and eventually it will take you right back into town near the Three Sisters sandwich shop.
To make the loop longer, when coming north up Lakeside Drive, instead of continuing on Center Road past the airport, turn left onto Cooneymus Road and continue on the West Side Loop that is described above. Once back at the cemetery, keep running on West Side Road, past Payne’s Dock and onto Ocean Avenue at the Fire Station. Stay on Ocean Avenue until you reach the Old Post Office Bagel Shop where you began. With this addition, the loop will now be 9.3 miles in length.
Clay Head Trail loop: 1.45 miles
This trail that runs along the northeast side of the island is both quiet and beautiful. This is the perfect trail for an intrepid runner as it runs closely along the cliffs on the beach. This run is particularly popular during the offseason when ticks are less of a threat. I generally like to start it near the top of the island, as Settlers’ Rock is a convenient place to park. Facing south, the trail begins on the left side of Corn Neck Road. Signage is not great, but the trail starts on the first left coming from Settlers’ Rock. The road is also a driveway, and you will pass by two houses. At the top of the hill on the right is a “Nature Preserve” sign, stay right here. Soon you will come to a fork; take the left along the bluffs. A wooden sign shortly thereafter directs walkers left again. One of the reasons I love this run is that it is a dirt path, so no cars or mopeds are allowed. Also, it runs along the ocean for nice breezes.
Right above Clay Head Swamp, the trail turns right and will take you back to Corn Neck Road. Since the trail itself is relatively short, only 1.45 miles in length, I like to either continue running on Corn Neck Road or run back to Settlers’ Rock on the trail again, depending on how I feel.
Although short, this trail is many runners’ favorite as it is both quiet and beautiful. As one runner friend told me, “It offers stunning views of all the different landscapes of the island, from the open ocean, to small ponds, to meadows… but not for anyone afraid of heights!”