Looking for a bike path less traveled? Take a ride on the quiet side of Long Island on the North Shore Rail Trail, the new, less crowded, easy option on the Island’s growing network of hike-and-bike routes.
“It’s relatively flat, so I’ve been able to bike 50 miles since 9 a.m.” says Brent Michael Heeren, 22, of Yaphank, who was riding his mountain bike back and forth on the 10-mile Mount Sinai to Wading River trail on a recent afternoon.
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), whose district includes the trail and who fought to get it built, says that although it parallels busy Route 25A, “What folks will find surprising is the tremendous amount of wildlife — rabbits, birds, deer, chipmunks, woodchucks.” Adds Anker, who has cycled the trail with her daughter, “It’s paved, it’s fairly straight and there are not too many includes or declines.”
Suffolk County officials formally opened the trail this summer, after more than a decade of planning. The trail was once a 10-mile Long Island Rail Road corridor.
Here’s a guide to traveling the trail steps from hidden parks, colorful playgrounds, good eats and the new Tesla Science Museum in Shoreham. Mileage is approximate.
START: Mile 0: Trail Head West Kiosk OR Mile 1.3: Rose Caracappa Senior Center
If you’re coming from western Long Island, your ride begins at this trailhead at Crystal Brook Hollow Road and Hallock Avenue, which is equipped with route map and a bulletin board posted with upcoming cycling events.
Want to begin your trek from a safe public space? Anker says you can park your vehicle and unload your bicycle in the big lot outside the senior center. Look for the trail entrance at the northeast corner of the lot; 739 Rte.25A, Mount Sinai, 631-451-5312.
Mile 2.1: Sylvan Avenue Park, Miller Place
If you’re bicycling with youngsters, this sunny green space, located on Sylvan Lane just north of the trail, features a ballfield, a big, colorful playground and wide, grassy fields.
Mile 5.2: Robert Miner Park/Rocket Ship Park, Hallock Landing Road, Rocky Point
About halfway down the trail, turn left on Hallock Landing Road to cool off at this shady, pine-scented park with the big red rocket ship out front. Take five on benches under the shade trees, as the kids cavort on the nearby swings and jungle gym.
Mile 6.2: Rocky Point Cycle, 669 NY-25A, Rocky Point, 631-744-5372
The trail is also steps from Main Street in downtown Rocky Point, where you can find such bicycling essentials as an ATM, fast food restaurants and a bike shop.
“If people need a water bottle or the brakes aren’t quite right, it’s fairly easy to pop off the trail and come into our shop,” says Matthew Connolly, 32, of Port Jefferson, co-owner of Rocky Point Cycle, which opened in July selling accessories, parts and other cycling necessities.
Around the corner from his shop is the Broadway Market, bakery and coffee bar (643 Broadway, Rocky Point, 631-849-1729, bmropo.com).
Mile 7.8: Tesla Science Center, 5 Randall Rd., Shoreham, 631-886-2632
Wired into any North Shore Rail Trail ride is a visit to Wardenclyffe, the Shoreham laboratory where Nicola Tesla worked on his global, wireless system for communication. The trail runs through the rear of the property, which is currently being renovated as a museum and science center, says Debbi Scott Price, director of visitor experience.
Visitors on foot or bicycle can walk around the grounds, or call ahead to schedule a same-day guided tour of the site containing “the original octagonal tower base where Tesla built his 18-story wireless transmitting tower,” Price says.
Down the trail a bit, you’ll cross the Woodville Road bridge, a quirky local landmark. It’s a stone arch abandoned by the LIRR in 1939, and more recently spruced up with green guardrails.
Mile 9: Robert E. Reid Sr. Recreation Center, Defense Hill Road, Shoreham, 631-744-2601
You’re almost across the finish line. Picnic tables under shade trees, another playground and restrooms are among amenities at this spacious Town of Brookhaven park, which parallels the final stretch of the trail.
Mile 10: North Shore Rail Trail Head East Kiosk, Wading River Manor Road, Wading River
Meet your car ride home, turn around for your return trip, or extend it just a little bit to a local restaurant.
Mile 10-plus: Phil’s Restaurant, 1856 Wading River Manor Rd., Wading River, 631-929-0508, philsrestaurant.com
Reward yourself for a ride well done at this friendly eatery restaurant on the doorstep of farm country just off the trail. Phil’s is part sports bar, so you can catch up on the game on flat-screen TVs from a sunny table by the window. Refuel with a bowl of chili, a sandwich and a refreshing beverage — perhaps one of Long Island craft brews on tap?