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Long Island's hiking trails offer an escape for family time or your own mental or physical health. Tom Casey, vice president of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference advises, “While you’re hiking, be sure to keep your physical distance … There’s lots to see on the trails, so open your senses because it’s a relaxing thing to do in a stressful time.”
Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale
Casey recommends this park for families because they can hike any part of the 50 miles. "It's a very, easy walk," he says, “there are a couple of trails in the park that are busy, but there are also others that are less traveled and that means less people.”
Along the way, hikers at Connetquot River State Park Preserve might see deer, waterfowl and ospreys among the fauna.
"You walk past historic buildings, like an old mill, and have great views of the river," Casey continues. “It’s an interesting nature walk since the Southern Pine Beetle moved through here because you see nature at work with young pines coming back.”
INFO: Located on the north side of Sunrise Highway, Oakdale. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; $8 parking fee (currently parking fee waived), 631-581-1005, parks.ny.gov.
The Southampton Trail Preservation Society runs many guided trails in the Hamptons, some suitable for even small children.
Behind the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton is a small field that loops around and usually has butterflies and birds flying about. “Upon arrival, check out the posted map that shows the trails through the fields with a connection that goes all the way to Sag Harbor and the Long Island Pond Greenbelt Trail,” says Paul King at the museum.
INFO: Park in museum parking lot at 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton; 631-537-9735. See southamptontrails.org for more guided trails.
Blydenburgh County Park, Hauppauge
The east side is flat, making the walk very kid-friendly. The west side is a bit more hilly, but both have spectacular water views of the pond. On the east side is also the rowboat concession that opens on Memorial Day and benches, as well as picnic tables.
When you're at Blydenburgh County Park, go in the north entrance off New Mill Road near Route 347, where the main office of the Greenbelt Trail Conference is situated. The office can provide information and maps. The start of the trails also is here.
INFO: Dawn to dusk. Northern entrance is at the end of New Mill Road; 631-360-0753 (conference number) or 631-854-3712 (park number). No parking fee on north entrance, no fee collected from the main gate in the fall and winter; ligreenbelt.org.
Tackapausha Preserve, Seaford
The preserve has self-guided trails for the public and is a fun walk for kids with a stop at the museum to complete the visit.
Guided walks at the county museum are available with advanced reservations for organizations, scouts and school groups.
"It’s a great place to bring your family to bird watch, enjoy animals and connect with nature," says Dennis Fleury, site director at the Tackapausha Museum.
At Tackapausha Preserve, paths are flat, well-maintained and clearly marked, with a pond with bridges and a waterfall along the way.
INFO: Trails free and open sunrise to sunset, 2225 Washington Ave., Seaford, 516-571-7443.
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay
“Nearly half the 409 acres of the former estate of the W.R. Coe family and current state park arboretum property is woodland that includes nature walks and a greenhouse,” confirmed by Brian Nearing, deputy public information officer at New York State Parks.
Expect to see lots of wildlife, from foxes and chipmunks to birds of prey, such as red-tailed hawks and great horned owls, a delight for kids. “Pick up a map on the website and enjoy the historic Gold Coast property,” according to Nearing.
Walkers can select from different paths, covering about six miles in total, as well as all different lengths to accommodate different ages and abilities.
INFO: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; $8 per carload weekends through Nov. 22 (parking fee waived indefinitely); 1395 Planting Fields Rd., Oyster Bay; 516-922-9200, plantingfields.org.
Richard D. Fowler Preserve, Southampton
A pleasant short hike right in Southampton Village. The trail begins near the intersection of Wickapogue Road and Narrow Lane and heads through a wooded area with a stream that you can see from Wickapogue Road. According to Marilyn Kirkbright from the Southampton Trails Preservation Society, “It could be a little muddy, so dress properly.” “The trail features hedges along one side and plantings along the other and it resembles an arching cathedral.” It reaches a salt marsh where you can see across the salt pond at which point it turns along a grassy corridor to Old Town Road and the site where the first settlers spent their first winter circa 1640. Don’t forget to see the plaque where the pilgrims spent their first winter. The final leg is a walk along Wickapogue Road back to your parked car. This trail takes about one hour and is perfect for families.
INFO: Wickapogue Road just east of Narrow Lane, Southampton, southamptontrails.org.
Downs Farm Preserve, Cutchogue
This family-friendly place is an easy walk with the trail a little more than a mile long. “It’s a very peaceful location to see wildlife and birds and just take a moment to breathe,” according to Rachel Bosworth, media relations manager for the Group for the East End. The trail is marked, flat and stroller-friendly. You’ll also find Downs Creek, with benches along the way to rest and look at the views if you get tired. The preserve is home to a fort of the Corchaug Indian tribe that is on the National Park Register of Historic Places and is considered ancient land.