Long Island is home to miles of scenic trails for serious hikers and strollers alike. These are our favorites.
1. LONG ISLAND GREENBELT TRAIL, 32 miles along Connetquot and Nissequogue rivers. Winding National Recreation Trail goes from Heckscher State Park on Great South Bay to Sunken Meadow bluffs on the Sound. Access at Connetquot River State Park Preserve on the south (Sunrise and Montauk highways), and on the north at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve, Jericho Turnpike between Bull statue and Old Willets Path (preserve closed Mon. and Tue. due to state budget cuts, open Wed.-Sun., 8 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Nissequogue River State Park (St. Johnland Road). Other access: Heckscher State Park (Field 8), Sunken Meadow State Park (Field 3) and Blydenburgh County Park (New Mill Road) on the north.
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2. LONG ISLAND PINE BARRENS TRAIL, encompassing nearly 50 miles of footpaths in eastern Suffolk. Meanders past maple swamps, ponds and overlooks, extending from Rocky Point to Shinnecock Canal. Includes Rocky Point Preserve, Pine Trail Preserve, Peconic River watershed, Maple Swamp and Sears Bellows County Park. Segments of trail managed by state; written permit is required to hike this trail or park a vehicle; call the Department of Environmental Conservation, www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7815. html. Other access: Pine Trail Preserve parking area on Route 25, 1/2 mile east of William Floyd Parkway. Trail is part of the 130-mile Paumanok Path that runs from Rocky Point to Shinnecock Canal, has a few links in Southampton and leads from East Hampton border to Montauk Point. Write to Greenbelt Trail Conference, P.O. Box 5636, Hauppauge, NY 11788. Or stop at Pine Barrens Trail Information Center, Long Island Expressway exit 70, Manorville. For special events, see pb.state.ny.us.
3. L.I. SEASHORE TRAIL, 7 miles between Watch Hill and Smith Point on Fire Island, within the only federally designated wilderness in New York. Continuous hike between trailheads is not possible while the breach at Old Inlet is open. Check park website, nps.gov/fiis or call 631-687-4750. Also get information about the trail and park programs at the Wilderness Visitor Center (631-281-3010, all year) or Watch Hill Visitor Center (631-597-6455, July 1-Labor Day, Wed.-Sun.). Park at Smith Point County Park for access to the east entrance of the trail, or take the seasonal ferry to Watch Hill for access to the west entrance.
4. NASSAU-SUFFOLK TRAIL, 20 miles between Massapequa Preserve on the South Shore and Cold Spring Harbor on the North Shore. In woods, see hawks, foxes and mountain laurel. Main entrance on Ocean Avenue, north of Merrick Road. Trail follows the shore of Caroon's Lake to a log bridge, where vegetation begins to change to pine barrens. Later, trail cuts near Bethpage Parkway. Stretch of Nassau- Suffolk Trail between Stillwell Woods in Syosset and Route 25A in Cold Spring Harbor, has trees not in the pine barrens. It ends at a Greenbelt parking area, on east side of Route 25A.
5. NORTHWEST PATH, 6-mile path in East Hampton town, part of Paumanok Path, ehtps.org. Trail winds through areas of oak and hickory forest and blueberry and huckleberry bushes. At heart of trail, which moves to Chatfield's Hole west of Bull Path, are white pine groves. Trail's end boasts wetlands with foliage and bird life. Deer and red-tailed hawks frequently seen. Start at Route 114 at Edwards Hole Road. Park on Edwards Hole Road. Yellow triangles to Bull Path mark blazed portion. Call for accessibility.
6. RED CREEK PARK, a 5-mile loop in Red Creek Town Park, Southampton. Spotted and red-tailed hawks, blue heron, pheasant, kettle holes, deer and, in October, monarch butterflies seen. Trail winds through pitch pine woods mixed with oak, maple and tupelo. Wild grasses are found, with bushes that flower at summer's end. Maps available at park entrance on Old Riverhead Road (off Route 24) in Hampton Bays. Parking areas open to all. Call 631-728-8585.
7. WALT WHITMAN TRAIL, an 8-mile trail from Whitman home through West Hills County Park, Huntington. Circular trail includes Jaynes Hill, the highest point on Long Island. Trail links with Nassau-Suffolk Trail. Park at county park entrance off Sweet Hollow Road. Parking also near Jaynes Hill on Reservoir Road.
8. STUMP POND TRAIL, 5-mile trail begins at the L.I. Greenbelt Trail office at the north side of Blydenburgh County Park (New Mill Road) in Smithtown, and winds around 164-acre Stump Pond. Tours of historic area at 1 and 2:30 p.m. every Sat. Call 631-360-0753.