Hiking is great exercise, always interesting, and certainly more fun when done together as a family. Long Island is home to some of New York’s most beautiful parks, preserves, and trails. Whether you’re looking for a more populated, busy area or seeking the “road less traveled”, Your Local Kids has compiled a list of the best family friendly hiking trails on Long Island, as well as some helpful tips to ensure the most enjoyable experience possible.
Tip #1: Start Small.
When just beginning to hike together as a family, avoid pushing little ones too far. Remember that the important part is the experience itself, not just making it to the end of the trail. Kids have shorter legs and get distracted much more easily than adults, so take this into consideration when planning your trip. As kids gain experience, their endurance expands, and you can then lengthen the hike or head out on a longer trail.
Tip #2: Prepare Appropriately.
Check the weather forecast before heading out, and account for any changes that may occur along the trail. You may want to pack an extra change of clothing in case kids get wet, or a jacket in the event it gets chilly. Be sure both you and your children wear comfortable shoes, and dress in layers to account for temperature changes. Also, make sure you bring along a first aid kit, including sunscreen and insect repellent.
Tip #3: Pack Plenty of Water and Snacks.
Despite whether you’re out for ten minutes or ten hours, it’s important to stay hydrated. Bring plenty of water and healthy snacks. We suggest granola bars, trail mix, or fresh fruit, but make sure that the snack you choose is portable and kid-friendly.
Tip #4: Be Patient, and Take Frequent Breaks.
Every child is different, and even if your little ones want to power through the hike, remind them of the importance of taking a break and enjoying the moment. Some kids may seem to stop every five feet to examine a bug, pick up a leaf, or just take a breather, and that’s fine too. Don’t rush the experience, and be observant of your child’s reaction.
Tip #5: Take Advantage of Teaching Moments.
Although there’s no need to make your hike feel like an extension of your child’s school day, it’s a great idea to take advantage of teaching moments as they occur. If your child seems curious about a certain artifact they find – such as a feather, paw print, or shell – encourage them to use their investigative skills to determine what it is from. Do some research on the history of the trail before heading out, and talk to your children about it. Most kids are inquisitive by nature; encourage them to ask questions. Together, you can always find the answer.
Some of the best Long Island trails are:
- Avalon Park & Preserve – 200 Harbor Road, Stony Brook.
- Features trails with a wide variety of trees, ferns, wildflowers, and habitats for numerous woodland animals.
- Caleb Smith State Park Preserve – 581 West Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown.
- One of only two state nature preserves on Long Island with hiking trails that include rare plants as well as a variety of birds.
- Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve – 25 Lloyd Harbor Road, Huntington.
- Located on a scenic peninsula extending into the Long Island sound. Plenty of paths with gardens and nature trails.
- Cold Spring Harbor State Park – 95 Harbor Road, Cold Spring Harbor.
- This park makes a great choice for hiking with a variety of hills and great views.
- Makamah Nature Preserve – North side of Route 25A and Makamah Road in Northport.
- The preserve contains both dry and wet woodlands, as well as marsh. Many different species of birds, as well as owls and woodpeckers.
- Muttontown Preserve – 25A West of Jericho-Oyster Bay Road and Muttontown Lane, East Norwich.
- Nassau County’s largest nature preserve that includes miles of marked nature trails with local wildflowers, trees, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
- Sagamore Hill – 20 Sagamore Hill Road, Oyster Bay.
- Features a nature trail along a salt marsh that goes through woodlands, also offers a lot of educational programs.
- Sand’s Point Preserve Conservancy – 127 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point.
- Sands Point contains 216 acres with a mix of natural and landscaped areas along six marked trails.
- South Shore Nature Center – 130 Bayview Avenue, East Islip.
- An extensive network of trails and boardwalks, good for younger kids as the trails are easy to navigate and animal sightings can occur.
- Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge – 340 Smith Road, Shirley.
- Features two hiking trails and wildlife viewing. There are many different animals to be seen within the 2,550-acre refuge.
Of course, this is only a couple of the many great trails across Long Island; be sure to share with us your favorite trail in the comments section below.