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Waterfront hiking trails on Long Island

Glen Mueller from Islandia plays with his dog

Glen Mueller from Islandia plays with his dog Maggie Mae near the sound at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Lace up your waterfront walking shoes. On a Long Island hike this fall, there’s water, water everywhere, and not just in your canteen. Hiking trails at local parks and preserves offer refreshing trailside and trails’ end views of scenic lakes and rivers, idyllic ponds, crashing Atlantic surf and even a few bubbly waterfalls.

Be sure to follow any posted COVID-19 guidelines and guard against ticks by wearing protective clothing and checking your skin after your hike.

LAKESIDE

Twin Lakes Preserve, Wantagh

• Free admission

• Entrance on Park Avenue west of the Wantagh Parkway

• Open year round, dawn to dusk

•516-431-9200, hempsteadny.gov 

You might have seen Twin Lakes while driving by the preserve on the Wantagh State Parkway. But you can also do some Tom Sawyer-like exploring of the 58-acre, state-owned and Town of Hempstead-managed land. The forest trail passes three lakes, a human-made waterfall, freshwater wetlands and grasslands. You can fish for trout, which are stocked in autumn. (New York State freshwater fishing license required; dec.ny.gov/permits).

Hempstead Lake State Park

• 1000 Lake Drive, West Hempstead

• Open Saturday, Sunday and holidays through Columbus Day

• $2 entry

• 516-766-1029, parks.ny.gov/parks/hempsteadlake

The popular park offers an easy starter hike for families with kids and dogs — you’ll need to leash the pups. The trail wends around Hempstead Lake — the largest lake in Nassau County — and the smaller McDonald and South ponds. Kids can round out their day by fishing or riding the historic hand-carved wooden carousel.

Belmont Lake State Park

• Southern State Parkway, Exit 38, North Babylon

• 631-667-5055, parks.ny.gov

BelmontLake’s 7.6 miles of multiuse trails feature an unexpected sight: two bubbly waterfalls. The best-known cascade is located at the south end of the scenic lake where ducks frolic and the fall foliage blazes red, orange and yellow. The water tumbles over rocks and under a footbridge before feeding into Carlls River on its way to the bay. Deeper in the woods on the park trail, Little Falls rushes over a stony riverbed under a wooden footbridge. Instagram, anyone?

LONG ISLAND SOUND

Sunken Meadow State Park 

• dog-friendly trail

• Take Sunken Meadow State Parkway exit SM4E to Pulaski Road east and continue east to Old Dock Road

• Free parking and the trail entrance are on the west side of Old Dock Road

• 631-269-4333, parks.ny.gov

This hike is a shore thing for you and your canine companion. On the undeveloped eastern end of the 1,287-acre park, you can traverse a hilly, densely wooded and occasionally steep and rocky trail skirting the bluffs towering over the Long Island Sound. Two sunny meadows allow rest and rehydration before descending through the bluffs to the Long Island Sound shoreline.

Sagamore Hill

• 20 Sagamore Hill Road, Oyster Bay

• Trail entrance behind the Old Orchard Museum

Teddy Roosevelt was an avid hiker who often marched down to his estate’s swimming hole. Today’s hikers can follow Teddy’s footsteps on the dirt trail through the tulip tree forest, over the boardwalk spanning Eel Creek, to the beach on sailboat-dotted Cold Spring Harbor. Swimming is not permitted, but dogs can hike along with you. You’ll also get bonus views of the 3,209-acre Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

OCEANVIEW

Shadmoor State Park

• 900 Montauk Hwy., Montauk

• 631-668-3781, parks.ny.gov

The Roosevelt’s Run trail, which loops through the 99-acre Shadmoor State Park, opens up at one point to a dazzling seascape: blue sky, craggy oceanfront bluffs and 2,400 feet of sparkling ocean beach reachable by two stairways. To the east, you can see Montauk Village. Another trail leads to the Ditch Plains surfer’s beach. Also of note: the trailside abandoned World War II-era bunkers that once protected the coast with artillery guns.

RIVERSIDE

Bayard Cutting Arboretum

• 440 Montauk Hwy., Great River

• closed Mondays, $8 parking fee charged weekends and holidays through November

• 631-581-1002, bayardcuttingarboretum.com

A side trip to see the dwarf conifer collection planted last fall is another reason to take the river walk along a wide stretch of the Connetquot, one of Long Island’s longest rivers. Keep your eyes peeled for birds — blue herons, egrets, an American bald eagle — and a native plant collection (cattails, elderberry, wild blueberries) on Breezy Island at the tail end of the river walk. Loop back to the historic home for pie at Hidden Oak Cafe.

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