How To Enjoy Winter in The Pine Barrens

Pitch Pine limbs covered with snow

With cold weather upon us, and only more of it to come, a question of how to best enjoy your hikes can arise. Some people, for one reason or another, can’t stand the sight of dead leafless trees, and would prefer to avoid them entirely. On the other hand, some may love the new sights that come from the loss of that dense foliage, allowing you to more clearly see birds in the trees or the sun in the sky. Whatever your preference is for the winter months, we at the Long Island Pine Barrens Society hope to show you all the ways to enjoy the Winter!

The Perfect Time for Birdwatching

While it might be sad to see trees lose their gorgeous color in the winter, there’s no better time to get some birdwatching in! The lack of leaves clears up the tops of the trees and allows for far easier spotting of some of Long Island’s local species!

In our Winter Recreation guide we recommend the Indian Island Country Park as an ideal spot for Winter birdwatching. The local beaches give an ideal view of any birds that might nest in the sand, and can also offer a fine view of the Peconic, however those who have followed us since August may remember a different spot for birdwatching we recommended. Can you remember what it was? Have a look at the image below while you think.

Remembered? Don’t worry, we’ll be giving you the answer regardless!

It’s the EPCAL Multi-Trail! Home to the previously picture Grasshopper Sparrow, and to one of the many properties we’re seeking to preserve with The Best of The Rest! As previously mentioned, the thinning out of the trees will make it even easier to spot birds high up in their branches, making it the perfect chance to try and spot one of these little tweeters.

Enjoy a Walk Along the Beach

While a trip to the beach may not seem like an ideal winter activity, it’s actually a perfect time to do so! The cooler weather will keep the sand close to the water firmer, and easier to walk along, and as mentioned in the last section, there are plenty of chances for birdwatching! The “notorious” Piping Plover can be spotted along many of the beaches across the island, along with a variety of other shorebirds to be spotted, making for some perfect photo opportunities.

Port Jefferson Shore – Photo Credit: Josh Ardle

And speaking of photo opportunities, the Winter months create a period of far clearer air than the rest of the year. As a result, sunsets along the beach will be even more vibrant than usual, making these cold times the perfect chance to practice your photography.

Take a Hike

Just because you’ll need a few extra layers doesn’t mean you can’t still go for a hike! Even without their vibrant leaves, Long Island flora, are uniquely beautiful come wintertime. If you decide to brave the trails, check out the bark patterns on any trees you pass, and see if you can still recognize them without their dense leaves!

A special benefit of the barren pines is the way sunlight can so easily pass through them, illuminating trails in a way not possible any other time of the year! Combine this with a recent snowfall, and your hike will be accompanied by an otherworldly radiance coming from sunlight reflected off the snow. This naturally applies to just about any trail in the pine barrens, but Prosser Pines Nature Preserve is a location we especially recommend for the winter months.

The Prosser Pines Nature Preserve

And for those of you who are Society members, check out our Thicket column in our most recent newsletter, The Pine Barrens Today, where winter hiking is featured.

Skip the Hike and Stay Home

Alright, so, not exactly a way to experience the Pine Barrens in the winter, but if the concept of a winter hike turns you off that much, you can always opt to huddle down for the season. If you find yourself still wanting a trip to the barrens though, consider checking out our TV show, available through our YouTube, or on channel 20 for Suffolk County residents. It may not be a perfect substitute for the outdoors, but with it you can learn a little more about the barrens, and get to see some gorgeous scenery, captured in gorgeous 360 resolution.

Long Island Pine Barrens Society TV Program

Co-Hosts Richard Amper and Kathleen Nasta on the set of The LIPBS TV Program

Alright, maybe that last point wasn’t completely serious, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the barrens in winter that I didn’t outline here. Even more of those can be found in our Winter Recreation Guide, or by reaching out and just asking for a recommendation!

We at the Long Island Pine Barrens Society hope you’ve had a good year and wish you luck and fortune going into 2023!


By Andrew Wong, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Cover Photo: Katie Muether Brown