Seals are seen relaxing on shore during the Captain Lou...

Seals are seen relaxing on shore during the Captain Lou Fleet seal watching cruise Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Freeport. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Every summer, thousands flock to Long Island’s beaches and parks for a refreshing respite. But just because those sunny, warm days have been replaced with chillier temperatures doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to enjoy nature on the Island.

In fact, some outdoors enthusiasts argue that cold weather offers a chance for experiences that can’t be had during any other season.

For example, Janet King, whose Big River Barn Rescue offers horseback riding at Muttontown Preserve, said, “If there is snow on the ground, you can see tracks of animals that have passed that you would not ordinarily see in any other season.”

Here are three ways to enjoy nature on the Island in winter:

Seal Hikes

Through April, Montauk Point State Park is offering a series of hikes to observe wintering seals.

Led by a State Park naturalist, these approximately two-hour, three-mile hikes take visitors on a scenic beach walk to a rocky area where they can view up to five species of seals.

“It is a natural spot with the rocks sticking out the water, and during low tide, the seals would climb on the rocks and they will howl,” park manager Tom Dess said.

Hikes are being held on multiple Saturdays and Sundays through April 21. There is one scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, and then again on Dec. 23 and 24. Participants can register by calling 631-668-5000, ext. 0. The cost is $4 per person; children under 3 can participate for free.

While the sighting of seals cannot be guaranteed, the hike also offers opportunities to see winter birds.

Fly Fishing

For the adventurous angler, Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale is the ultimate winter destination.

“Where most waters in the area lack a population of hungry trout, the hatchery at Connetquot River State Park Preserve continues to stock the river every few weeks throughout the winter months,” said park manager Jessica Anderson-Ruiz.

Last winter, nearly 2,500 anglers tried their luck on the river between November and March, Anderson-Ruiz said. Similar numbers are expected this winter.

“Winter fly fishing is definitely a unique experience. . . . The thrill of landing trout on the Connetquot River during the cold of winter draws many anglers,” she said.

Reservations are required and may be made in advance by calling 631-581-1005. The cost is $25 per person.

Horseback Riding

In Nassau County, one can explore the more than 500 acres of forests, fields and meadows of Muttontown Preserve, a former Gold Coast estate, on horseback.

“I personally believe it is beautiful during the winter,” Janet King, the owner of Big River Barn Rescue, said.

Horseback riding is available daily at the preserve, located on Muttontown Lane in East Norwich. The cost is $150. Visitors can schedule a ride by texting King at 516-650-0016 or emailing janet@bigriverbarn.com.

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