Top 5 Favorite Pine Barrens Hiking Spots

view of sun through pitch pine needles cranberry bog county park

This week on our blog, I’m spilling the beans on some of my favorite Long Island Pine Barrens hiking spots!  While many believe some of these parks should remain “Hidden Gems” and kept a secret, I believe that “This land is your land” and that nature should be shared.  Research shows that when people experience the beauty and wonder of nature for themselves, they’re more likely to work to protect it and adopt sustainable lifestyle changes at home.  So, the way I see it, the more that enjoy our Pine Barrens, the more that will join us in our efforts to protect it.

However, it’s always important to remember to leave no trace, so that you do not spoil the great outdoors for others looking to enjoy them or cause harm to the many creatures that inhabit it.

So, let’s get to it!

#1 – Ridge Conservation Area

Located on Randall Road in Ridge, this preserve offers 184 acres of woodlands, grasslands and a fishable pond.  There are three trails available – the blue trail is a 1.1 mile loop, the red trail (added to the blue trail) is about 2.5 miles in length and there is a yellow universal access trail.  While the woodlands and Randall Pond are beautiful, especially in the Fall, I think my favorite part of the trail is the field and grasslands.  Walking through the grasslands provides such a tranquil atmosphere.  Prior to being acquired by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 1914, the property the operated as the “Middle State Game Farm” and was used for agricultural purposes and to raise Bobwhite Quail and Ring-necked Pheasants.  Since then, the NYSDEC has worked to actively restore the property to its natural state.

This property is dog-friendly (make sure to follow the rules).  A hiking map can be found here.  A free seasonal access permit must be obtained from the NYSDEC to use this property – click here for the application.  The permit is good for three years.

grasslands at ridge conservation area in long island pine barrens

Ridge Conservation Area (K. Brown)

#2 – Calverton Ponds Preserve

The Calverton Ponds Preserve is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy and the trail entrance can be found along Old River Road in Manorville.  There is a loop trail here about one mile in length.  This is a 350-acre oak-pine forest that contains coastal plain ponds, one of the rarest wetland types in all of North America.  Coastal Plain Ponds do not have any contributing bodies of water.  Instead, they’re supplied with water by the aquifers beneath them.  These ponds are ecologically invaluable, as they have been known to host more than 50 species of state-rare plants.  They are also home to countless species of rare amphibians, fish and insects.  If you’re looking for a true sense of serene, then the Calverton Ponds Preserve is for you!

Dogs are not allowed on this property.  A hiking map can be found here.

As an added bonus, you can check out other coastal plain ponds in the area.  Drive about 1.6 miles northeast to the intersection of Wading River Manor and Schultz Roads.  Park safely along the shoulder and look for a clearing in the woods along Schultz Road – after about a half-a-mile’s walk, you’ll stumble upon the beautiful Sandy and Grassy Ponds.

coastal plain pond at calverton pond preserves in long island pine barrens

Calverton Ponds Preserve (K. Brown)

#3 – Cranberry Bog County Park

Cranberry Bog isn’t much of a secret these days.  This park blew up in popularity, especially during the pandemic.  However, it’s still a great park to visit! Located along Lake Avenue in Riverhead, this park offers a short and easy 0.9 mile loop trail around Swezey Pond.  The preserve is the site of an old cranberry production farm and you can spot several historic structures leftover from the farming days, including the old pump house, remnants of paved roads and earthen dams.  This preserve is also the site of the largest remaining Coastal Plain Atlantic White Cedar Swamp plant community in all of New York State.  This is a great place to view wildlife such as birds, reptiles and amphibians and rare plant species.

This park is dog-friendly.  A hiking map can be found here.

Swezey Pond at Cranberry Bog County Park

Cranberry Bog County Park (K. Brown)

#4 – Quogue Wildlife Refuge

Quogue Wildlife Refuge is another well-known Pine Barrens Preserve and rightfully so!  We call Quogue the “Crown Jewel of the Pine Barrens” because you can find stunning examples of all the ecological characteristics that make the Pine Barrens so special – ponds, wetlands, pitch pines, dwarf pines, sandy soils, heath plants, carnivorous plants and more!  There is also a wonderful education center on site and an outdoor wildlife complex that houses native animals that have been injured and would not be able to survive in the wild.  After hiking one of the trails ranging from 0.8-3.1 miles, don’t forget to walk across the train tracks and visit the Fairy Dell, a 1,500 foot long boardwalk that overlooks Quantuck Creek.

Dogs are not allowed on this property.  A hiking map can be found here.

view of old ice pond at quogue wildlife refuge

Quogue Wildlife Refuge (K. Brown)

#5 – Dwarf Pine Plains Preserve

Visit a globally-rare ecosystem right here on Long Island! Located along CR-31 in Westhampton is one of only three Dwarf Pine Plains in the world.  Due to the extremely acidic and sandy soil, the Pitch Pines in the preserve only reach about 4-8 feet in height.  There is a short 0.6 mile trail marked with interpretive signage, making the preserve an idea place for nature study. The environment here feels extreme, almost like a desert in the hot months of Summer.  This preserve is a great place to watch for unique birds and if you’re lucky, you might spot the endangered Buck Moth in the Fall.

Dogs are not allowed on this property.  A hiking map can be found here.

Dwarf Pine Plains (K. Brown)

Honorable Mentions:

And because I had a hard time picking just five, here are some honorable mentions:

  • Prosser Pines Nature Preserve
  • Hubbard County Park
  • Indian Island County Park (just outside the Pine Barrens boundary, but beautiful none the less)

Happy Hiking!

By: Katie Muether Brown, Long Island Pine Barrens Society