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Take A Hike

Beyond the beauty of the ocean and bay coastlines with their unparalleled beaches and sparkling waters, the East End of Long Island offers numerous parks, hiking trails and nature preserves for day visits with friends and family. While the Hither Hills Coastal Trail and Shadmoor State Park in Montauk are big draws for many hikers, there are other, less well known options for a lovely walk or a more strenuous hike. A quick note before setting out: come prepared, with lots of water and a snack; afterwards, please check yourself, your kids and your pet for ticks, which inhabit the tall grass and marshes of many of the trails on our list.

Quogue Wildlife Refuge Photo: Robert Seifert

So, for a change of pace from the beach and for a truly nature-immersive experience, spend a day with friends and family at any of these locations:

Quogue Wildlife Refuge
3 Old Country Road, Quogue

Founded in 1934, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge is a 305-acre non-profit nature preserve which is free of charge and open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. There are 4 hiking trails of differing distances and intensity, from just short of a mile to 3.1 miles and traversing forests and ponds, as well as the ecologically rare Dwarf Pines in the Pine Barrens. Check the event calendar for full moon night hikes and other special programs. A perfect place to bring the kids, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge also houses owls, falcons, a fox and other native New York animals in its Outdoor Wildlife Complex; the Charles Banks Belt Nature Center offers a variety of wildlife exhibits, live animals, a nature library, and gift shop. Dogs, bicycles, and picnicking are not permitted.

Mashomack Preserve
79 South Ferry Road, Shelter Island

Operated by the Nature Conservancy, Mashomack Preserve is considered one of the richest natural habitats in the Northeast, with over 11 miles of Peconic coastline and 2,350 acres of interlacing tidal creeks, mature oak woodlands, fields, freshwater marshes and underwater lands. There are a number of short, easy trails up to 1.2 miles; the longest trail clocks in at 4.4 miles over forests, creeks and along the Gardiner’s Bay shoreline. Trails open dawn to dusk, seven days a week. Visitor Center bathrooms open every day from 8am to 4pm; Visitor Center exhibits open 10am to 3pm, Thursday through Saturday.

Cedar Point County Park
5 Cedar Point Road, East Hampton

Overlooking Gardiner’s Bay, the 607-acre Cedar Point Park is operated by Suffolk County and offers fishing, camping, picnicking and access to a number of nature trails between 3 and 5+ miles long. Lighthouse Loop Trail is the most popular, an “easy” 5.3 mile hike past the historic Cedar Point Lighthouse and the crumbling 1800’s era estate of the former property owners. Sunrise to sunset, leashed dogs permitted. 

Elizabeth A Morton Wildlife Refuge
Noyack Road, Noyac

Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge protects 187 acres on the north shore of Long Island’s south fork in the town of Southampton. The refuge is located near Sag Harbor, and includes a peninsula one and a half miles long, locally known as Jessup’s Neck, which separates Little Peconic Bay from Noyack Bay. Newly admitted to the New York State Birding Trail as of 2022, the 1.4-mile loop trail is considered an easy route. This is a popular trail for birding, hiking, and running, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day. The Preserve is open year-round from ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset. A daily pass for a car is $4.00; for a pedestrian or bicyclist, it’s $2.00 (a bike rack is furnished at the entrance). An annual pass is available for $12.00. No dogs.

Morton Refuge

Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Preserve
1061 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke.
Mashashimuet Park, Sag Harbor;

Long Pond Greenbelt stretches 6 miles between Sagaponack and Sag Harbor, a unique expanse of coastal plain ponds, freshwater swamps, wetlands and woodlands encompassing more than 800 protected acres. Home to 12 separate ponds and miles of hiking trails, Long Pond Greenbelt shares its pathways with 3 other trail systems: the Hamlet-to-Hamlet Footpaths, the Bay-to-Ocean Trail and Paumanok Path, which runs 125 miles from Rocky Point to Montauk. Leashed dogs allowed; no picnicking, camping or bicycles.

Sagg Swamp Preserve
Sagaponack Road, Sagaponack

Another preserve under the mantle of the Nature Conservancy, Sagg Swamp Preserve is a 105-acre red maple swamp located at the southern end of Long Pond Greenbelt at the head of Sagg Pond. Head out on the 1.0-mile out-and-back easy trail, which loops through the southern part of the swamp via a long stretch of boardwalk. The Preserve boasts more than 330 species of plants, 84 species of birds (at last count) and 14 species of mammals.

Red Creek Park
Old Riverhead Road, Hampton Bays

Red Creek Park is home to the Penny Pond Loop Trail, a 4.9-mile, moderately challenging trail which circumnavigates a local freshwater fishing pond. This is a popular trail for birding, hiking and mountain biking. Leashed dogs allowed.

Big Woods and Wolf Swamp Preserve
Millstone Brook Road, Water Mill

Located on over 400 acres in Southampton and managed in concert by the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Peconic Land Trust, Big Woods and Wolf Swamp Preserve encompasses a rare maritime beech forest as well as one of the most extensive salt-marsh tidal creek systems remaining in the Peconic Estuary. The 2.3-mile loop trail is well marked, although intersecting trails are not as easy to follow. The trails are open for hiking and observing nature from dawn to dusk. The loop trail through the preserve traverses an upland beech forest, smaller groves of white pine, and red maple and tupelo wetland, which attract lots of waterfowl, including black duck, piping plover and tern. The wetlands and inlets are important feeding and nursery areas for shellfish and sea turtles.