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Great Summer Hikes

Escape the summer heat in the forest shade, catch a refreshing lakeside breeze, or find relief on a mountain summit. To amplify the cooling benefits, time your hike for the early morning hours and remember to bring plenty of drinking water.

Hiking collage with title of Discover New York's Nature

David A Sarnoff Pine Barrens

pine barrerns

Town of Southampton, Suffolk County

Hike through the oak and pitch pine forests of one of Long Island's largest pine barrens. The sandy soils were left behind by glaciers, but beneath the dry surface lies a gigantic aquifer that supplies Long Islanders with drinking water.

Trails: Three trails traverse the preserve (a map at the kiosk illustrates their routes). To find the trails from the parking lot, walk west about 150 feet and locate the trailhead sign.

Length: Trails of varying lengths.
Difficulty: Moderate

Wildlife and Natural Attractions: Designated a state Bird Conservation Area, in summer the preserve is aflurry with songbirds such as eastern towhee, common nighthawk, whip-poor-will, brown thrasher, blue-winged warbler and pine warbler. Visitors can also spot white-tailed deer, red foxes and box turtles.
Getting There: From Rte. 495/Long Island Expressway, take exit 71 to Rte. 24E. At the Riverhead traffic circle, make the second right onto Rte. 104. Drive two miles, and the parking lot for the preserve is on the right. The preserve is open from dawn to dusk daily. A seasonal access permit is required from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
More information: DEC Region 1 Wildlife Manager, 631-444-0305; David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve BCA Management Guidance Summary

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Saint Francis Woodlands

Staten Island, Richmond County

foot bridge at Saint Francis Woodlands

Saint Francis Woodlands encompasses 25 acres of wooded property offering a wide range of family-based recreational activities, including: hiking, wildlife and nature viewing, birdwatching and nature photography on pleasant Staten Island Greenbelt trails. A small dam at the beginning of the main stream provides an excellent opportunity to glimpse reptiles and amphibians. Follow the stream's winding course through the trees, and the woods suddenly reveal a glittering quarter-acre pond, located on the state-owned Richmond County Country Club property. Saint Francis Woodlands contains a beautiful deciduous swamp with red maple, sourgum and American elm trees set deep within a wooded upland composed of mature sweetgum, hickory, hornbeam, spicebush and white pine.

Trails: Part of the Staten Island Greenbelt, Saint Francis Woodlands provides visitors with three rambling trails through its forested-hill and upland-swamp habitats.

Surface: Rolling, wooded terrain
Length: Three trails, all less than one-half-mile-long
Difficulty: Easy

Wildlife and Natural Attractions: More than 30 species of birds are known to breed at the site, and dozens of plant species are present. The vernal pond also supports a locally rare population of spring peepers.
Getting There: From the Staten Island Expressway, take the exit for Todt Hill Road. Parking is available in the residential area on Helena Road and at the trailhead at the end of Helena Road.
Nearby Attractions: Todt Hill Woods

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Mongaup Pond Campground

Sullivan County

falls at Mongaup Pond

Combine hiking with camping at this great location for both. Not counting New York City's reservoirs, 120-acre Mongaup Pond is the largest body of water in the Catskill Park. After your hike, cool off with a swim at the campground beach, have a picnic lunch, or go fishing or canoeing around the pond. Canoes and rowboats are available for rent, or there is a cartop boat launch for your own boat. The campground also includes several accessible features for those with mobility difficulties.

Trails: Miles of foot and multi-use trails begin in and around the Mongaup Pond Campground and extend into surrounding Willowemoc Wild Forest and Big Indian Wilderness Area. Popular hiking destinations include Frick and Hodge ponds, which can be accessed via the Frick Pond trailhead located on Beech Mountain Road, just south of Mongaup Pond Campground. Dress appropriately for summertime activities, and take plenty of water with you.

Surface: Soil or rocky terrain ranging from old logging roads to simple foot paths
Length: More than 40 miles
Difficulty: Easy to challenging (rocky terrain is slippery during wet weather)

Wildlife and Natural Attractions: Black bear, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, beaver, fisher and coyote
Getting There: If heading east on Route 17, take Exit 96 (Livingston Manor). At the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto White Roe Lake Road. Drive a short distance and turn left at the intersection of Old Route 17. Take the first left onto DeBruce Road (County Route 81/82) and go six miles. At the fork at the end of DeBruce Road, bear right onto Willowemoc Road. Drive a short distance and turn left at the intersection of Mongaup Road. Drive three miles to the campground entrance. If heading west on Route 17, take Exit 96 (Livingston Manor). At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Debruce Road (County Route 81/82) and continue as described above.
More Information and Directions: Mongaup Pond Campground or call 845-439-4233
Nearby Attractions: DEC's Catskill Fish Hatchery, Catskill Art Society Arts Center and Catskill Fly Fishing Center in Livingston Manor

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Blackhead Mountain Trail

Maplecrest, Greene County

This challenging trail offers spectacular views of the northern Catskills for those who make the trek. Blackhead Mountain is the easternmost peak in the Blackhead Range, covered with a mix of mature hemlocks, northern hardwoods and balsam fir. Thirsty hikers can stop for a refreshing drink at a natural spring along the route.

Trail: The trail itself is rocky, and the slope alternates between gentle to moderate, to a crevice where hands and feet are needed to descend safely.

Surface: Uneven, with tree roots and rocks and possibly loose stones
Length: 5.1 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Wildlife and Natural Attractions: Mature hemlock-northern hardwood forest to balsam fir forest cover on the summit. An occasional deer, turkey or bear wanders along the path. Songbirds and raptors can sometimes be seen.
Getting There: The trailhead is located in the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness, approximately 3.7 miles east of Maplecrest on Greene County Highway 56 (about 1/4-mile past the snowplow turnaround). A trail register is located near the parking area, and all hikers are encouraged to sign in before starting a hike and sign out after returning to the trailhead.
More Information: Contact the forest preserve manager at 607-652-3698 or by e-mail.
Nearby Attractions: Many more trails and scenic views of the Catskills and Hudson Valley North-South Lake Campground

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Jay Mountain Trail

Jay, Essex County

view from Jay Mountain trail

Some of the most beautiful scenery in the Northeast can be viewed from the Jay Mountain Trail. At 2.5 miles, the trail reaches the ridge of Jay Mountain, where a short spur leads to an overlook with a spectacular 360-degree scenic view. The High Peaks, Whiteface Mountain, Ausable River Valley, Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont can all be seen from this vantage point.

Trail: The Jay Mountain Trail was recently redesigned, eliminating steep and eroded sections. The new trail leads to the western end of the Jay Mountain Ridge. Hikers can continue along the ridgeline, following rock cairns, for about 1.5 miles to the summit of Jay Mountain. The ridgeline is largely open and provides numerous opportunities to enjoy the surrounding scenery.

Surface: Natural
Length: 2.5 miles to the first overlook, additional 1.5 miles to summit
Difficulty: Strenuous

Wildlife and Natural Attractions: There are numerous rock outcrops, open ridgeline and stands of white birch.
Getting There: The trail starts at the intersection of Jay Mountain Road and Upland Meadows Road in the Town of Jay. The trailhead offers parking for up to five cars.
More Information: Trail Information for the Northeastern Adirondacks
Nearby Attractions: Ausable Point Campground

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Coney Mountain

Tupper Lake, Franklin County

Coney Mountain view

Coney is a small peak with a panoramic view, making a great choice for a short hike. The summit is open bare rock, treating hikers to a 360-degree view of mountains and lakes.

Trail Description: Marked by blue DEC trail markers, the trail angles southwest and crosses several wooden boardwalks over a wet area. Then, to keep the grade as gentle as possible, the trail gradually ascends on a looping route around the foot of the mountain-all the while climbing through open hardwoods.

Surface: Natural, the final 1/10 mile is steeper, through scrub and across bare rock slabs to the summit.
Length: 1.1 miles (elevation gain: 523 feet)
Difficulty: Moderate

Wildlife and Natural Attractions: Wide variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, including white-tailed deer and ruffed grouse
Getting There: The trailhead is located on Route 30 between Tupper Lake and Long Lake, just north of a snowplow turnaround at the Hamilton - Franklin county line. Soon after entering the woods, the trail turns right and leads to an information kiosk and trail register.
Nearby Attractions: The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY.

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Rogers Environmental Education Center

Sherburne, Chenango County

Hikers on trail at Rogers Environmental Education Center

Choose between trails through woodland, meadow, wetland, plantation, or farm fields, or hike them all, then view the center's outdoor exhibits on predators, waterfowl, fish, pond life and backyard wildlife habitat. The entire Rogers Center grounds offer opportunities to encounter the natural world.

Trails: Six miles of labeled trails. A two-mile system begins at the Visitor Center traversing a variety of habitats. Trail guide booklets explain various aspects of the natural resources along the way. Another mile of trails, located across the street from the main parking lot, winds its way up to the Farm Tower where one can enjoy a wonderful view of the Chenango Valley.

Surface: Varies
Length: Varies
Difficulty: Varies

Getting There: Rogers Environmental Education Center is located on NYS Route 80, 1 mile west of the intersection of Routes 80 and 12 in Sherburne, New York.

From Utica Area: Take NYS Route 12 south to Sherburne, turn right on Route 80.
From Binghamton Area: Take Interstate 81 north to Route 12 north to Sherburne, turn left on Route 80.
From Syracuse Area: Take Route 690 east to Rout 481 south to Route 92 east to Cazenovia. Take Route 20 east to Route 46 south to Route 12B south to Route 12 south in Sherburne, turn right on Route 80.

More Information: Rogers Environmental Education Center

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Texas Hollow State Forest

Bennettsburg, Schuyler County

pond at Texas Hollow State Forest

Texas Hollow State Forest is a short drive from one of the most popular Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake. Hikers here will find miles of trails and more than 900 acres of serene woods, ponds and wetlands to explore and enjoy.

Trails: About three miles of the Finger Lakes Trail bisects the property from north to south. The Bog Loop Trail takes you about 3/4-mile through wetlands. About two miles of multi-use trails penetrate dense pine and hardwood forest. Texas Hollow Road skirts the property on the west, and Newtown Road crosses it about midway.

Surface: Soil, wood puncheon and unpaved roads
Length: About six miles of wetland and upland trails
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging upland terrain

Wildlife and Natural Attractions: Ferns and wildflowers decorate quiet forests, bogs and ponds. The Hollow's diverse habitats are home to just about every kind of wildlife native to the area in the summer. Woods and forest margins hold white-tailed deer and a variety of small mammals, along with dozens of warbler species, flycatchers, finches, hawks and owls. In the ponds and wetlands, herons and kingfishers feed on frogs, small fish and salamanders, while waterfowl nibble at aquatic plants. Several species of colorful butterflies and dragonflies add their delicate beauty to your hike.
Getting There: From Watkins Glen, take State Rte. 79 east. Turn right onto Texas Hollow Road. Two parking pull-off areas are spaced at intervals along Texas Hollow Road; a third is located on Newtown Road.
More Information: Texas Hollow State Forest and Finger Lakes Trail Conference
Nearby Attractions: Watkins Glen State Park

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Palmer's Pond State Forest

Town of West Almond, Allegany County

trail at Palmer's Pond State Forest

This 3,645-acre area offers opportunities for many outdoor recreational activities, including: hiking, horseback riding, camping, fishing, birdwatching and nature photography. It also provides various habitats for numerous wildlife species such as deer, rabbit, grouse and turkey. Hunting and fishing are allowed on the property. Roadside camping is allowed only at designated campsites marked with yellow "Camp Here" disks.

Trail Description: Marked trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Two large parking areas opposite each other on Miller Road serve as trailheads for two five-mile loops. More experienced hikers can enjoy unmarked trails on thousands of acres of backcountry, where primitive camping is allowed as well.

Surface: Wide dirt and grass paths through wooded areas, dirt and gravel forest-access roads
Length: Twelve miles of marked trails, including two five-mile loops
Difficulty: Gentle terrain, with moderate elevation changes throughout

Getting There: From Interstate 86, take exit 32 (West Almond) and County Route 2 to the Town Highway facility; turn left across the bridge, and bear right onto North/South Road for about 2 miles to the first road to the right, Geitner Forest Road, which leads to the pond (about 1 mile). To reach the parking areas from Interstate 86, take exit 32 (West Almond) onto Miller Road (north side of interstate overpass) for about 1.5 miles.
Nearby Attractions: Finger Lakes Trail, Almond Historical Society, Stull Observatory at Alfred University