Category Archives: Family Fun

Stewardship Saturdays At State Parks Long Island

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation offers the opportunity for environmental volunteers to get to work!  Stewardship Saturdays are a great way to come together with a community of people that care about the environment and want to give back to nature.

For example, this spring at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park along the Connetquot River on the southern shore of Long Island, volunteers guided by Parks employees kicked off the season by trimming the historic Rhododendron bushes that line the paths.  Rhododendron bushes can grow as tall as small trees if they are not trimmed once a year, but thanks to volunteers, the trails were ready for summer. 

The original bushes were planted by the Bayard family during the turn of the 20th century.  Gilded Age financier and philanthropist William Bayard Cutting wanted people to “Think of us as a museum of trees, not a park.”  The family donated the 691-acre estate in Great River to New York ” to provide an oasis of beauty and quiet for the pleasure, rest and refreshment of those who delight in outdoor beauty; and to bring about a greater appreciation and understanding of the value and importance of informal planting.”

The arboretum has many miles of trails to explore the grounds. Find a trail map by clicking HERE.

Our volunteers have a range of reasons for wanting to help on Stewardship Saturdays.  They also come with different levels of knowledge about plant life, so people who are not experts can still contribute by learning from others.

Volunteers this spring take a break from cutting back Rhododendron bushes at Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park. Below, evidence of their efforts to reopen a pathway for visitors.

One such volunteer, named Laura, said, “We volunteer as a family because we care about conservation and we are always looking for opportunities to give back to the community. George (also a volunteer) invited us to Stewardship Saturdays and we are glad to be here.”

Another volunteer, James, who was there with his wife Jeanette, said, “I am retired so I have a lot of time and like to keep busy.  We are involved with Island Harvest, Long Island Cares and help with the flower garden at Planting Fields Arboretum in Nassau County.  I volunteer about three days per week.  I don’t know about the plants but I’m here to help with anything the park needs.”

Joe has a lot experience volunteering with New York State Parks with his family.  He found out about Stewardship Saturdays through the State Parks’ web site: “We went to a meeting and it sounded like a great opportunity to give back to the community and get out into nature for a change.  After the first time, we were hooked and we now show up for about 95 percent of Stewardship Saturdays.  My family has been to around six different state parks so far and it’s fun.  I have lived on Long Island for 45 years and had no idea that this beautiful park existed.  When I was in college I worked for Habitat for Humanity and my job was to build houses for people in need.  When there is an opportunity to get away from electronics, I jump on it.  It’s easy to pick up your phone, but here at Bayard, we are giving back and having some downtime which is nice.  I volunteer all year.”

According to research, Rhododendron, meaning “red tree,” refers to the red flowers and woody growth of some species, but Rhododendrons range from evergreen to deciduous and from low-growing ground covers to tall trees.  Flowers may be scented or not and are usually tubular to funnel-shaped and occur in a wide range of colors—white, yellow, pink, scarlet, purple, and blue.

The collection of “Taurus Red Rhododendron” plants were named in honor of former Bayard Cutting Board of Trustees member Doris Royce.

 One Stewardship Saturday volunteers, Jenna, has some knowledge about the history and how to care for these plants “The Rhododendron plants are from the 1800s brought by boat from England.  They started planting them when Frederick Law Olmsted designed the park.  These specific ones grow very tall so we have to cut them back when they start to get too big and before they push buds, which helps with next year’s growth.  You can cut them but they will grow right back and very fast.”

Two other volunteers contributed to the conversation.  Josh said, “I have no knowledge of plants.  I am here so that I can help to maintain the historic park which is important to people who live on Long Island”.  And another man named Joe who was volunteering said “I love nature.  I have my own garden at home.  When you volunteer, it is a way to meet like-minded people.”

Everyone in the Long Island community is welcome to volunteer during Stewardship Saturdays! For more information, visit website: https://parks.ny.gov/environment/nature-centers/6/details.aspx or contact us at 631-581-1072.

Come join the fun!

All photos by Melissa Hunter, NYS Parks

Post by Sage Saperstein, State Parks Long Island Region

Get Out and Explore … The Niagara Region of New York State Parks

Home of the awe-inspiring and world famous Niagara Falls, this region stretches from the shores of Lake Ontario to the shores of Lake Erie, encompassing sand dunes and waterfalls, old growth forests and reclaimed agricultural lands, grasslands and gorges, urban and rural greenspaces, rivers and wetlands.

Covering Niagara and Erie counties, this diverse region includes 18 parks, two historic sites, and many miles of hiking trails, as well as several Bird Conservation Areas, an Internationally Significant Important Bird Area, and a Ramsar designation for the Niagara River as a wetland of global significance.

To start, any successful hike starts with a good map. Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Niagara region and other regions, are now available on the NYS Parks Explorer app. The free app, which is available for use on Android and iOS devices, is easy to download, user friendly and allows patrons to have park information readily available every State Parks facility across the state.

Trail maps are also available on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Links to maps are also included in the trail descriptions in this post. Be sure to download maps ahead of time to your phone or tablet, and maybe even carry a paper copy as a back up to aid your hike.

As with all hikes, there are a few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Check the weather forecast before you go, and dress appropriately. Wear sturdy, yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring enough water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. Be mindful of wildlife and give it appropriate space, particularly in areas marked as protected, such as for shorebird nesting.

Always be aware of your surroundings and mindful of hikes on steep terrain or those that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of an emergency is never a bad idea.

Hiking poles are also useful on longer hikes and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.

Hikers should plan their route in advance, know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. If weather conditions change for the worse, be prepared to turn back. Don’t let a desire to reach a specific destination make you press on. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, even in summer when days are longer, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.

State Park facilities are carry-in, carry-out, so don’t leave trash behind. Follow Leave No Trace principles to keep trails clean for everyone.

Additionally, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard.

Lastly, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, remember to practice safe social distancing, particularly in parking lots and at trailheads, and use face coverings when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained, even if you have been vaccinated. To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, click HERE.

Erie County


Buffalo Harbor State Park, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo, (716) 822-1207 – The only state park in the city of Buffalo, this park is located within Buffalo’s Outer Harbor area and covers about 190 acres on the shoreline of Lake Erie. It has a nautical themed playground for the kids and slips for up to 1,000 boats.

The Shoreline Trail along the waterfront is a multi-use trail for walkers, runners, cyclists, and people of all ages and abilities. Visitors can enjoy the brisk breeze coming off the lake on a hot summer day while watching kites and gulls soar high above, see the sailboats, kayaks, and motorboats gliding across the waves, and witness stunning sunsets.

This trail is particularly important for its connection to a larger trail system. The Shoreline Trail connects all the way through Niagara Falls to Fort Niagara State Park, and also links to the Empire State Trail, the  750-mile trail from Buffalo east to Albany and New York City, and north to the Champlain Valley and Adirondacks.

The Gateway to the trails at Buffalo Harbor allows access to a larger trail network, including the new Empire State Trail. The park’s trails are paved to provide universal access to those of differing abilities. (Photo courtesy of Niagara Region Interpretive Office)

Evangola State Park, 10191 Old Lake Shore Road, Irving, (716) 549-1802 – Located 24 miles west of Buffalo, this Lake Erie shoreline park has more than five miles of trails within its 733 acres of forest, marsh, meadows and vernal pools.

Starting behind the Evangola Nature Center, the half-mile Rim Trail traverses high bluffs with picturesque views of Lake Erie. During summer, trail hikers experience a leafy canopy overhead and a moss green carpet trailside, while enjoying cooling lake breezes and the the sound of waves crashing far below. Belted-Kingfishers, Bald Eagles and a variety of gulls can often be spotted soaring above the water here.

During the winter, the park’s plentiful lake-effect snow provides cross-country skiers and snowshoers with a chance to glimpse unique ice formations and spot artic ducks found here seasonally. The trail is a place to watch a sunset, catch a cool breeze or see the power of a storm rolling in across the lake.

A storm blows in from across the lake as seen from the Rim Trail, while below, in winter shoreline vegetation and ice for intricate formations. (Photos courtesy of Niagara Regional Interpretive Office)

Find a trail map here.

Knox Farm State Park, 437 Buffalo Road, East Aurora, (716) 652-0786 – Covering 633 acres, this park is the former country estate of Seymour H. Knox, a Buffalo businessman who co-founded the F. W. Woolworth stores. He purchased the property in 1890s to train standardbreds and carriage horses. Primarily grasslands that are home to a variety of grassland bird species, the site includes some woodlots and wetlands.

The park contains about seven miles of trails, including the Library Trail, which is reached directly from the parking lot. It leads into a field active in summer ith bobolinks, a grassland bird related to blackbirds and orioles. From there, the trails leads to a small woodlot with towering sugar maple trees and a small library in the woods.

Find a trail map here.

Niagara County


Golden Hill State Park, 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, (716) 795-3885 – This park contains Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse, built in 1875 to warn ships of a rocky shoal and shifting sandbar in Lake Ontario. There were several shipwrecks in the vicinity; the most famous being the HMS Ontario, a British warship that sank Halloween night in 1780. An active light until 1958, today the upstairs cottage is rented year-round and the foghorn building is now a visitors’ center with displays on the lighthouse and local maritime history.

There are three trails at Golden Hill, with the likely favorite being the scenic Red Trail which travels along the lakeshore and leads to Golden Hill Creek. Along the creek is an oak grove with trees up to 300 years old. Bald eagles are known to frequent this area, as well as great blue herons and wintering waterfowl. After crossing the creek on the footbridge, the trail branches off – east to the marina or west along the creek with stands of apple, beech and hop hornbeam trees.

The Red Trail travels along the lakeshore for continuing inland along Golden Hill Creek. (Photo Courtesy of Niagara Region Interpretive Office)

Find a trail map here.

Wilson Tuscarora State Park, 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, (716) 795-3885 – Established in 1965, the park on Lake Ontario encompasses 476 acres bordered by the east and west branches of Twelve Mile Creek. It has approximately seven miles of trails.

Nestled along the east branch of Twelve Mile Creek is the one-mile Interpretive Trail, which moves through several habitats, including wetlands, successional fields (a field transitioning to a forest), shrub lands, and ending in a mature beech-hemlock forest. This trail is best known for its spring wildflowers – notably white trillium, New York’s largest flowered trillium – that appear on the forest floor in May.

White trillium are found on the forest floor starting in May. (Photo courtesy of Niagara Region Interpretive Office)
The Interpretive Trail along Twelve Mile Creek, where pileated woodpeckers can be spotted. (Photo courtesy of Niagara Region Interpretive Office)

Find a trail map here.

Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park, 450 South 4th Street, Lewiston, (716) 754-7766 – Founded to promote the visual and performing arts, this park is on the lower Niagara River below the world famous falls. It contains two trails that are a part of the Niagara Gorge Trail System.

Trail 7, also called the Artpark Gorge Trail, takes a path through the Niagara Gorge, providing views of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, the New York Power Authority, and the vibrant blue green waters swirling in the lower Niagara River. Along this trail are seen fossils from the era of the Silurian Sea, before the time of the dinosaurs. After a climb around boulders and a waterfall view, a set of stairs leads down to the river’s edge to Trail 8, which is popular with fishermen who seek the river’s salmon or lake trout.

A view of the Lewiston-Queenstown Bridge from Trail 7 in Artpark. Below, a New York Power Authority hydropower plant is visible from the trail. (Photos courtesy of Niagara Regional Interpretive Office)

If the stairs are not taken, the trail traverses a shale slide and woods before emerging in a flourishing grassland ecosystem that connects to Trail 2 heading toward Devils Hole State Park.

Find a trail map here.

Get Out and Explore Other Regions in New York State Parks


The “Get Out and Explore …” series outlines staff-recommended hikes in State Parks across the regions of New York, including GeneseeFinger LakesLong Island, Central, Palisades, Taconic, Saratoga/Capital and Thousand Islands.

Cover Shot – Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park.

Seek and You Might Find: Geocaching In NYS Parks

I am not stealthy. This is not new information, but I didn’t realize how sloppy I was at sneaking around until I tried geocaching—a worldwide game of locating some of millions of little hidden stashes.

This outdoor activity relies on the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, where participants place caches of trinkets, also known as “hides,” in various places, and record locations with GPS coordinates to the website geocaching.com. Cache-seekers then use those coordinates with their own GPS devices to locate the caches, and can take some trinkets and leave some of their own for subsequent seekers to find.

And there are a lot of little hidden treasures out there. For example, the website above indicates there are more than 2,800 caches hidden around the Albany region.

On my first go at it, I found myself lifting low-lying tree limbs and creeping around bushes in search of tiny containers along a busy section of the Empire State Trail, the new 750-mile multi-use trail that connects New York City to the Canadian border, and Albany to Buffalo. While I was doing this, a woman in an SUV noticed me and I could tell I was acting a bit too suspicious for her taste. She stopped her car, watched me, and didn’t continue driving until I left that section of sidewalk.

After this inauspicious start, I was in awe of more experienced hobbyists, known as geocachers or cachers. After examining the map on the official geocaching app, it turned out there was a cache hidden close to my home. Strangers had been snooping around the area to try to find it and I hadn’t even noticed them! Luckily, the 2021 New York State Geocache Challenge is here this summer, so I will have plenty of time to hone my skills.

Volunteers and New York State Park workers have concealed more than 230 geocaches with items like stickers, toy cars, and figurines in 56 State Parks and Historic Sites in Central New York, the Saratoga-Capital Region, and the Hudson Valley. Adventurers who find at least 45 caches (at least 35 in a specific region, and up to 10 in either of the other two regions) will receive a geocache challenge geocoin representing the primary region.

The obverse of the geocoin for the Saratoga Capital Region.

The geocoins are trackables, each with a unique identifying number that can be activated online and then tracked as coins are located, reported and moved to new locations by subsequent geocachers.

So far, the geocoin that has traveled the furthest from a State Park is from the 2015  Saratoga-Capital District Region Geocache Challenge. Now settled outside Salt Lake City, Utah, the token (TB6Y60Y) has so far trekked 160,500 miles to such places as the Mediterranean island of Malta, Germany, the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in India, Japan, Israel, and nearly three hundred other places.

Some geocachers are nearly as well-traveled. Larry Eaton is the Saratoga-Capital region’s geocache volunteer coordinator and during his two decades, he has logged about 17,500 caches, with about 1,500 of those found in State Parks. Though this seems like a daunting number to some, Larry knows cachers who have found hundreds of thousands of caches.

Eaton and his companion, Sadie, out on the trail.

But most geocachers start with smaller beginnings. David Brooks is the education manager at the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site and serves as the park’s liaison for this year’s Saratoga-Capital District Regional Geocache Challenge. As more geocaches came to his site, he became more interested in the hobby. He decided to try it with his son after being inspired by a volunteer at his historic site named Barbara, who used the hobby to spend more time with her son.

When putting out caches in the historic site, Brooks likes mixing the environment and history of Schoharie Crossing, which focuses on the history of the Erie Canal. One year, he and Barbara put created an innovative cache that involved a small boat on a pulley system.

Some geocachers take pride in creating such clever hiding places. Eaton said once a geocacher in the Capital Region built a replica of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz out of an old furnace and hid a cache inside of it. There are also different kinds of caches for folks to get creative with, including puzzle caches and different types of challenge caches that require specific skills and tasks to obtain.

A cleverly disguised cache made from an owl decoy.

All the State Parks geocaches that are part of the challenges are free to find and access, though there may be fees to enter the parks. To participate, you can download the pick up a passport in person from a park or historic site or find it on their website.

For passports, click on the name each region involved to download a PDF, which outlines which Parks contain the geocaches: Central, Saratoga-Capital and Taconic.

To find the caches, download the Geocaching app or follow the coordinates of the caches listed on the Geocaching.com website. When you find a cache, stamp your passport with the stamp inside each cache the turn it in to the state park indicated on the passport. Remember to leave the stamp behind for others that come after you. The challenge runs through November 11, 2021.

Stay on or near trails, take care not to trample vegetation, put everything back as you found it.

And please, don’t set up your own geocaches without checking with your Park manager first. State Park rules require that any geocaches in State Parks must be approved beforehand and follow rules to protect sensitive environmental or historic areas and public safety. Keep it safe, keep it fun! Happy seeking!



Cover shot – The reverse side of the 2021 New York State Parks Geocache Challenge. All photos by NYS Parks.

Post by Jessica Andreone, Environmental Educator, Central Region of New York State Parks.

Get Out and Explore … The Long Island Region of New York State Parks

Cactus actually grows along the beach at a State Park in Long Island, the southernmost point in New York State.

At 120 miles long and 23 miles at its widest point, Long Island is home to nearly 8 million people, making it the most populated island in the United States, but also has places wild and remote to hike and explore nature. This region is noted for its beaches, golf courses, arboretums and grand estates, containing 30 State Parks and two arboreta to enjoy. The eastern end of Long Island is forked, and at the end of each fork is a State Park: Montauk on the south and Orient Beach on the north.

Formed by glacial movement that ended some 10,000 years ago, Long Island readily exhibits its origins, from the rocky bluffs of the north shore, including giant  boulders, called glacial erratics, to the fine grained, sandy beaches of the south shore, remnants of the glacial outwash plain. The region’s parks highlight many of these features, providing wonderful opportunities to get out and explore!

To start, any successful hike starts with a good map. Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Long Island region and other regions, are now available on the NYS Parks Explorer app. The free app, which is available for use on Android and iOS devices, is easy to download, user friendly and allows patrons to have park information readily available every State Parks facility across the state.

Trail maps are also available on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Links to maps are also included in the trail descriptions in this post. Be sure to download maps ahead of time to your phone or tablet, and maybe even carry a paper copy as a back up to aid your hike.

As with all hikes, there are a few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Check the weather forecast before you go, and dress appropriately. Wear sturdy, yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring enough water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. Be mindful of wildlife and give it appropriate space, particularly in areas marked as protected, such as for shorebird nesting.

Always be aware of your surroundings and mindful of hikes on steep terrain or those that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of an emergency is never a bad idea.

Hiking poles are also useful on longer hikes and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.

Hikers should plan their route in advance, know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. If weather conditions change for the worse, be prepared to turn back. Don’t let a desire to reach a specific destination make you press on. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, even in spring and summer when days are longer, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.

State Park facilities are carry-in, carry-out, so don’t leave trash behind. Follow Leave No Trace principles to keep trails clean for everyone.

Additionally, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard.

Lastly, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, remember to practice safe social distancing, particularly in parking lots and at trailheads, and use face coverings when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained, even if you have been vaccinated. To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, click HERE.


Hempstead Lake State Park, 100 Lake Drive, West Hempstead (516)766-1029: Situated in western Long Island, this park is a family-friendly facility that includes playgrounds and picnic areas. Within its 737 acres are several bodies of water: Hempstead Lake, the largest lake in Nassau County, as well as Northwest Pond, Northeast Pond, MacDonald Pond, Shodack Pond and South Pond. Popular for picnicking and fishing, this suburban park offers peaceful nature walks. A lovely green oasis surrounded by suburbia, it is a good spot for bird watching, and the colorful oak forests reflecting off the water are beautiful in the fall.

Some popular trails include:

  • Blue: 1 mile – Located on the North side of the Southern State Parkway, starting near Eagle Ave, this secluded natural trail overlooks North West Pond and meets the Green Trail near Hempstead High School.
  • Green : 1 mile – Also located on the North side of the Southern State Parkway, this natural trail runs parallel to the green trail.  It has views of the Hempstead Golf and Country Club, connecting to the Blue Trail near Hempstead High School.
  • Red: 3 mile – Located South of the Southern State Parkway, this natural trail overlooks Hempstead Lake.  Parallel hiking trails exist along the shoreline on the East and West sides of Hempstead Lake.
  • Bike trail: 2.4 mile – Mostly paved, this trail connects the parking fields, playgrounds, and walking paths throughout the park.  Sections of the trail are on service drives with vehicular traffic.

Find a trail map here.

Getting there: Take exit 18 off the Southern State Parkway. Make a right off the exit and follow the road south to reach the parking lots.

Hemstead Lake

Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale (631) 581-1005: At 3,473 acres, this preserve on the South Shore is the largest State Park on Long Island. A former hunting and fishing club, the land has been protected from development for more than 150 years. As a result, it is a pristine area that is home many rare species. The Preserve had more than over 50 miles of trails, but there are five established marked trails.

Yellow: 1 mile long (2 miles round trip) an easy walk through oak forest that ends at the trout hatchery, where trout have been raised for over 100 years.

Red: 1.5 miles – travels on the east side of the river, the red trail weaves through pine and oak forest and also ends at the hatchery. Either the red or the yellow trails can be taken back to the parking lot.

Green: 3.6 miles – travels the north – south length of the park.

Blue: 8 miles – a long loop that goes through some of the less travelled areas of the preserve.

Greenbelt: 4.4 miles – the Greenbelt trail runs between the north and south shores of Long Island, and part of it travels through the preserve.

Find a trail map here.

Getting there: the only entrance to the Preserve is located on the westbound side of Sunrise Highway (Route 27) in Bohemia.

A view during the fall of the Connetquot River from the Bunces Bridge, which is found on the Green and White trails.

Camp Hero State Park, 1898 Montauk Highway, Montauk (631) 668-3781: Located on the tip of the south fork, this unusual facility covers 415 acres of woodlands and bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was once a U.S. military installation commissioned for coastal defense during World War II that was disguised to look like a fishing village.

The military radar array at Camp Hero.

Listed as a National Historic Site, the park opened in 2002 and includes several trails, including the Paumonok Trail at 3.4 miles that travels around the park an and offers dramatic ocean views, as well as shorter trails of a half-mile or less that lead to the historic military buildings.

The bluffs here feature a geological formation called hoodoos, which are tall, thin spires of rock or hardened soil. Hoodoos typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements.

Find a trail map here.

Hoodoos at Camp Hero State Park.

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve, 25 Lloyd Harbor Road, Huntington (631) 423-1770): The park has roots in history, residing on the former grounds of the 1750-acre estate of investment banker and philanthropist Marshall Field III. Developed in 1921, it was a self-sufficient farm including its own water and electrical supply. Many of the structures still exist.

Earlier history can be found at the 1711 Henry Lloyd Manor house. The land has several different ecosystems including pine forests, a freshwater pond, tulip poplar forests, a saltwater marsh, and grasslands.

This large park has many trails for pedestrians, equestrians and cyclists. The most popular is the 2.4 mile paved loop trail, which is bicycle and stroller-friendly. The trail passes the Marshall Field III estate, which offers a beautiful vista of the Fresh Pond, the Long Island Sound, and Connecticut.

Find a map here.

Getting there: From Main Street in Huntington, take West Neck Road north for about 4.5 miles, where it will become Lloyd Harbor Rd. The entrance will be on the left in about .4 mile.

A view of Fresh Pond, the Long Island Sound, and Connecticut in the distance from the Marshall Fields III estate at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve.

Jones Beach State Park, 2400 Ocean Parkway, Wantagh (516) 785-1600: With more than 2,400 acres of marine environment, the flagship park at Jones Beach is a unique spot located on the south shore bordering the Atlantic Ocean, offering seven miles of fine-grained white quartz-sand beachfront to enjoy. The pristine area of the West End includes more than 100 acres of coastal dune habitat. There are no established trails, but there are eight parking lots, each one provides access to the beachfront, and the ocean vistas are unrivalled.

Birders and those seeking a quieter experience can watch for a variety of shore birds, such as oystercatchers, terns, skimmers, plovers, and many more. Children can collect shells along the seashore and encounter large horseshoe crabs. A pleasant pastime is a long, leisurely walk on the beach to the east or west of the central part of the park, where fewer people will be encountered.

The Atlantic Ocean at Jones Beach.

Those who wish to ride their bikes may do so year-round on our boardwalk.  Glide along the beach on Long Island’s premier bike path, the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway, which begins at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford. From there it’s a 5.4 mile ride to Jones Beach’s East Bathhouse on the Boardwalk.  There you can either lock up your bike for a stroll, or keep cycling to the food concessions.

Or stay on the extension on the north side of Ocean Parkway to pedal another 3.6 miles to Tobay Beach where there are more restaurants and a playground. The bike path extends even further east, 13 miles, to Captree State Park. Restrooms are available on the bikeway at mileage 5.4 to 9. 

At Jones Beach, if you choose to stay the path of the two-mile boardwalk, the new multi-use path extends from the boardwalk at Field 1 to the West End area of the park for an additional 2.3 miles.

Find a map here.

A section of the newly completed Ocean Park Coastal Greenway on the way to Jones Beach State Park.

Orient Beach State Beach Park, 4000 Main Road (Route 25), Orient (631) 323-2440: Located on the eastern tip of the north fork of Long Island, this unique 363-acre park stretches southwest into Gardiners Bay. It has a playground, picnic areas, kayak rental and more than eight miles of waterfront beach.

A walk west on the beachfront goes along ‘Long Beach’, a rich ecosystem which was designated a “National Natural Landmark” in 1980.  Native prickly pear cactus is abundant there. At only .3 miles, the Roy Lathan trail has interpretive signs that highlight the unique flora and other shore plants.

The park also is open for kayakers, with water routes around Hallock’s Bay and the Gardiner’s Bay side of Orient Point as described in this guide.

Find a trail map here.

Getting there: Head east on Sound Avenue, which will become Route 48 and then Route 25, which will take you to the end of the island. The entrance in on the right.

Long Beach at Orient Beach State Park

Sunken Meadow State Park: Rte. 25A and Sunken Meadow Parkway, Kings Park (631) 269-4333: Located on the north shore of Long Island, Sunken Meadow State Park has 1,287 acres and a variety of habitats, including woodlands, tidal creek, saltwater marshes and about 1.5 miles of beachfront. Amenities include swimming, kayak launch, playgrounds, ball fields, picnic areas, golf course, and a .75-mile boardwalk along the beach.

There are unmarked trails through the woodlands, many that are used for cross country track meets. Some of the more popular trails include:

Wetland trail: The trail is a 2.6 mile out-and-back trail that runs alng the saltmarsh, through woodlands and back along the creek to the inflow of fresh water near the southern border of the park.

Greenbelt Trail: This 32-mile trail spans the width of the island from Hecksher State Park on Great South Bay north to Sunken Meadow State Park being the northern most point. In the park, the Greenbelt Trail traverses 2.5 miles, and offers beautiful views from the bluff of the Long Island and Connecticut.

Get a trail map here.

Getting there: Head north on the Sunken Meadow Parkway, which ends at the park.

Long Island Sound as seen from the Greenbelt Trail in Sunken Meadow State Park.

Cover Shot – Prickly pear cactus grows in the sandy soil at Orient Beach State Park. All photos by NYS Parks.

Get Out and Explore … The Allegany Region of New York state Parks

Spanning Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties at New York’s wild southwestern border with Pennsylvania, this region contains the largest State Park – the 65,000-acre Allegany State Park.

The region also has a dramatic shoreline along Lake Erie that contains a historic lighthouse and is important habitat for many migratory waterfowl. This area is a wonderful place to experience dramatic sunsets over the lake.

Any successful hike starts with a good map. Maps for hiking trails and a variety of other useful information on State Parks, including those in the Allegany region and other regions, are now available on the NYS Parks Explorer app.  The free app, which is available for use on Android and iOS devices, is easy to download, user friendly and allows patrons to have park information readily available.

Trail maps are also available on each individual park website page at parks.ny.gov and at the main office of each park. Links to maps are also included in the trail descriptions in this post. Be sure to download maps ahead of time or carry a paper copy as a back up

As with all hikes, there are a few things to remember beyond carrying a mobile phone. Check the weather forecast before you go, and dress appropriately. Wear sturdy, yet comfortable shoes or boots, bring enough water and snacks, and perhaps carry a camera to capture what you see. Be aware of your surroundings and mindful of hikes on steep terrain or those that go near cliff tops. Having a small first-aid kit available in case of an emergency is never a bad idea.

Hiking poles are also useful and can transfer some of the stress of hiking from your knees and legs to your arms and back.

Hikers should plan their route in advance, know how long a trail is and how long it ought to take to finish. If weather conditions change for the worse, be prepared to turn back. Don’t let “summit fever” (a desire to reach a specific destination) make you press on. Since daylight is not an unlimited resource, even in spring and summer when days are longer, tossing a flashlight or headlamp into your backpack is a good form of insurance, should you unexpectedly find yourself on the trail as dusk approaches.

State Park facilities are carry-in, carry-out, so don’t leave trash behind. Follow Leave No Trace principles to keep trails clean for everyone.

Additionally, as incidents of tick-borne diseases surge in the state, it is always important to check yourself for ticks after being outside, even if it is only time spent in your own backyard.

Lastly, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, remember to practice safe social distancing, particularly in parking lots and at trailheads, and use face coverings when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained, even if you have been vaccinated.  To learn more about important COVID safety guidelines, CLICK HERE.

Cattaraugus County


Allegany State Park, 2373 ASP Route 1, Salamanca, NY (716) 354-9101: This 65,000-acre park offers an outdoor paradise with forests, mountains, meadows, amazing rock formations, three lakes and numerous streams and ponds. The park’s two developed areas – Red House and Quaker – have more than 90 miles of hiking trails and naturalist walks. Here are some staff picks.

Located on the park’s Quaker side, the Blacksnake Mountain Trail is one of the oldest trails in the park with a unique history. Parts of the trail follow the 1888 section of A&K Railroad (Allegheny & Kinzua), which is evident in the gentle slope on the north side of the three-mile loop. In 1933, the professors of the Allegany School of Natural History (located near Science Lake) mapped out a hiking trail they officially named the “Nature Hiking Trail” to conduct their field studies with their students.  It was later renamed “Blacksnake Mountain Hiking Trail” in 1980 after Governor Blacksnake, an Iroquois Indian chief for the Seneca Nation of Indians, who allied with the United States in the War of 1812.

The trail crosses several streams with new bridges, and a short steep climb leads to mature black cherry trees estimated to be between 100 and 130 years old. Cucumber magnolia, tulip trees and hemlock are other trees of interest along the way. This is a favorite trail for spring wildflower lovers. Trillium, Dutchmen’s breeches, squirrel corn, and spring beauties are just a few of the ephemerals that announce the changing of the seasons. Near the top of the trail, look for a granite milestone marker which represents the border of New York and Pennsylvania, where you can put a foot in each state. 

In this slideshow, start with the old railroad grade, then see the new bridge at Murray Brook, a painted trillium and the granite marker marking the New York/Pennsylvania border.

Bear Paw Hiking Trail is named after a style of snowshoe used by Native Americans and was originally designed as an interpretive snowshoe trail in 2015 by park naturalists. The 2.4-mile trail starts at the rear of the Summit Area parking lot. Look for brown numbered markers which highlight unique flora such as ground cedar, various hardwoods, and lowbush blueberries. Halfway along Bear Paw, at the end of the loop, hikers will be treated to the masterfully built Stone Tower, an Allegany State Park landmark, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934. The tower offers beautiful views of large open valleys, the city of Salamanca and Red House Lake.

User the slider bar to compare the view from above Stone Tower (left) to a sunset view from just below the Tower (right).

The second half of the trail traverses the south side of the ridge, through beech and maple forests and into a meadow. Depending on the time of the year, hikers may get to sample low bush blueberries or wintergreen growing in this area. The last section has a short, steep incline that adds a bit of challenge. Bear Paw ends at the Summit Warming hut.

Find a map of this trail here.


The 5.2-mile Robert C. Hoag Bicycle Path is named after the former Seneca Nation President and was dedicated in June 1990. Starting at the Red House entrance of the park, the path passes old apple trees and large stands of spruce and Scotch pine, along with many varieties of hardwoods, shrubs and wildflowers. The most used part of the path is around Red House Lake, where a 3.4-mile trail offers the potential to spot such wildlife as beaver, muskrat, great blue heron, and many species of waterfowl. Spurs off the trail lead to the Red House Wetland Interpretive Complex, Beehunter Cabin Trail and Camp Allegany. Several benches are located along the way to relax and enjoy the surrounding beauty.

The Thomas L. Kelley Bridge along the bike path.
Use the slider bar to compare Red House Lake, with a view of the spillway and dam (left), to a sunset over the lake (right).

Work on the new Quaker Multi Use Trail began in the summer of 2020 between the Taft cabin and the Quaker General Store. The second phase will start this season, and will continue the trail Quaker Lake Beach.  Once complete, the trail will offer five miles of accessible paths winding though woodlands and fields along ASP Route 3 and Quaker Lake, including several scenic crossings of Quaker Run.


Find maps to Allegany State Park here and here.


Pat McGee Trail, Little Valley, (716) 354-9101: The recently-acquired 12.1-mile Pat McGee Trail connects the city of Salamanca and village of Cattaraugus. This multi-use trail along a former rail bed has connections with the current Finger Lakes Trail System, which has about 1,000 miles of trails in southern and western New York, and the truly sprawling North Country Scenic Trail, which in turn provide links to Allegany State Park and the Allegany National Forest in Pennsylvania. Named for former state Sen. Pat McGee, the trail opened in 2005 and is used for bicycling, hiking, snowmobiling, and horseback riding. It features a 1.8-acre community park with pavilion and two gazebos in Little Valley, along with five trailheads with parking areas. It also contains six former rail bridges that were rehabilitated for trail use.

One of the former rail bridges along the Pat McGee Trail.

Find a map here.

Chautauqua County


Long Point State Park, 4459 Route 430, Bemus Point, (716) 386-2722: A one-mile loop, the multi-use Minturn Trail leads to the point of a peninsula that extends into Lake Chautauqua. Some of the sites along the trail include the house foundation of the former Minturn Mansion, wildlife viewing areas and various fishing access points. The marina area at the end of the trail features a boat launch and spaces to sit by the lake. The trail is a popular place for many different activities including hiking, fishing, birdwatching, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing.

Find a trail map here.

The Minturn Trail is gentle and popular among hikers of all abilities.

A great blue heron (left) and a much-smaller kingfisher (right) share a branch at the lake.

The marina on Lake Chautauqua as seen from the trail.

Lake Erie State Park, 5838 NY-5, Brocton, (716) 792-9214: Hike the East Trail and from the bluffs explore sights of the shallowest Great Lake. This wide trail is great for families and beginner hikers featuring breathtaking sights of Lake Erie and a vernal pool tucked along the wooded path. This multiuse trail is commonly shared with disk golfers and migratory bird watchers. Wildlife commonly seen at Lake Erie State Park includes the common tern, red headed woodpecker, black squirrel, deer and bald eagle.

There are spectacular wide-angle views of Lake Erie from the East Trail. A great place to catch the sunset.
Relax in a shaded gazebo along the East trail as you take in lake views.

Find a trail map here.


Cover shot- Red House Lake at Allegany State Park. All photos by NYS Parks.

Get Out and Explore Other Regions in New York State Parks

The “Get Out and Explore” series outlines staff-recommended hikes in other regions of New York, including Genesee, Finger Lakes, Central, Palisades, Taconic, Saratoga/Capital and Thousand Islands.