When snow fell in December, Jay Caruso put on snowshoes for the first time and headed to Hempstead Lake State Park. He liked it so much that he did it three days in a row. “I got so hooked on it,” he says.
Caruso was the only one snow shoeing, and people who had come to the park to go sledding stopped to ask him what he was doing and whether it was hard.
“There’s no learning curve,” says Caruso, who is in his early 60s, lives in Rockville Centre and is a content manager for a hospital system. “If you can walk, you can show shoe. It’s definitely a workout as compared to walking or hiking, but it’s not nearly the workout cross country skiing is.”
A few years ago, park managers on Long Island rarely saw a snow shoer. “In our minds, that was an upstate sport,” says George Gorman, regional director of New York State parks on Long Island.
Today, that’s no longer the case — at least, in the wake of a good storm. “Snow shoeing has increased dramatically on Long Island from a few years ago, when we virtually didn’t see anybody. Today, we see snow shoers regularly,” Gorman says.
And, as more people snowshoe, the number of people taking up the sport — excuse the pun — may snowball. “As they see other people doing it, they may decide to try it,” says Edward Moran, former president of the Long Island chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, which is devoted to outdoor recreation and conservation of New York State’s forest preserves.
Snow shoeing is the poor man’s skiing — a pair of snowshoes and poles start at about $100. And snow shoeing is free to do at Long Island’s state parks, which don’t charge a parking fee this time of year, Gorman says.
WHERE TO GO
Here are some of Long Island’s popular spots for snow shoers, according to Gorman, Moran and other aficionados:
Bethpage State Park, Farmingdale
INFO 516-249-0700; nysparks.com
WHY “It’s in the middle of Long Island,” Gorman says, making it geographically desirable. It offers somewhat hilly terrain.
Blydenburgh County Park, Smithtown
INFO 631-854-3712; alltrails.com
WHY “It’s a six-mile loop around Stump Pond, so you start and end in the same place. It’s very pretty,” Moran says.
Caleb Smith State Park Preserve, Smithtown
INFO 631-265-1054; parks.ny.gov/parks/attachments/CalebSmithTrailMap.pdf
WHY “It’s like being in an upstate area, without the intrusion of residences. You see nature at its best with a beautiful snowy landscape,” Gorman says. Says Moran: “They’re all fairly easy trails. You see deer in there. It’s a nice place to get started.”
Caumsett State Historic Park, Lloyd Neck
INFO 631-423-1770; nysparks.com
WHY Caumsett is a favorite because of its outstanding views of the Long Island Sound, Gorman says.
Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale
INFO 631-581-1072; nysparks.com
WHY “It’s pristine. There are miles and miles of trails going through the woodlands along the Connetquot River,” says Connectquot environmental manager Annie McIntyre. “You can go a mile, you can go 11 miles.”
Heckscher State Park, East Islip
INFO 631-581-2100; nysparks.com
WHY “Heckscher has 25 miles of trails. It’s pretty much flat,” says park manager David Auguste. “We also have a beach environment because we’re on the Great South Bay.”
Sunken Meadow State Park, Kings Park
INFO 631-269-4333; alltrails.com/trail/us/new-york/sunken-meadow-trail
WHY “There are some really pretty trails overlooking Long Island Sound in the section known as The Bluffs,” Moran says. You can start from the picnic area inside Sunken Meadow State parking Field 4, and head east on the Long Island Greenbelt Trail, he says.
Trail View State Park
INFO 631-423-1770; nysparks.com
Jericho Turnpike (Route 25), Woodbury to Cold Spring Harbor State Park, Route 25A adjacent to Cold Spring Harbor Library.
WHY The trail starts right off on Jericho Turnpike for the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail and continues to Cold Spring Harbor State Park, Gorman says. “For getting into the hills, I like the northern part better,” he says. “You’ll feel like you climbed a mountain in the Catskills at the end of it.” He recommends beginners try a different park before taking on this more challenging trail.
IF YOU GO
- Dress for the weather. Wear layers, to be warm if it’s cold and that can be easily removed if sweating from exertion.
- Bring water. If it’s a sunny day, also apply sunscreen.
- Respect cross-country ski tracks; snow shoers should walk next to them, not on them.
- Bring a cellphone. Trails can head into more remote areas of parks and snow shoers should have the ability to call the park office or 911 in an emergency and be able to describe where they are, Gorman says.