HikeLI: Ashley Schiff Park Preserve

Where: Ashley Schiff Park Preserve (Stony Brook, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved), Walk (side walk, paved)

Snacks: The Cookie Shop (Centereach, NY)

Nestled on the grounds of Stony Brook University’s Campus is a tiny little H- shaped trail network. To find, enter Stony Brook’s campus from the South Entrance on Nicolls Road. Turn right onto Marburger Drive. Keep right at the traffic circle and the preserve entrance will be on your right.

The fun part? Figuring out where you can park on campus without getting a ticket. It is simpler to find appropriate parking on a weekend as many of the lots only have Monday through Friday restrictions.

The preserve itself is about a fifteen minute walk through. Mostly flat and cuts from Circle Road to the dental clinic. Trails are designated red, yellow and blue. They’re well marked on the trees. If the short wooded stroll isn’t enough I recommend leaving the preserve on the Circle Road side and heading left. Pass the traffic circle, cross at the crosswalk, bounce down the stairs and make a quick loop around Roth pond. It adds about fifteen minutes. Or if you’re in the mood for a longer walk Circle Road is …. a circle and happens to be almost three miles.

For snacks we head to The Cookie Shop. A new storefront serving all things cookie. Fun fact, maybe five years ago I got obsessed with macarons and theirs are my favorite locally.

See you on the trails,

x Jess

HikeLI: David A. Sarnoff Preserve

Where: David A. Sarnoff Preserve (Riverhead, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Main Street Biscuit Co. (Jamesport, NY)

This DEC managed property is off limits during shotgun season and requires a permit to hike on. Don’t let that deter you; hunting season starts the first Sunday in January and ends on the 31st. As far as hiking permits go, it is a form you fill out yourself through the DEC website. You print it. Part stays on your dashboard and the other on your person. There isn’t a simpler permitting process.

Now that the housekeeping items are out of the way, let’s talk parking. There are multiple one to two car cutouts around the perimeter of the preserve. I usually use the area after the Route 24 traffic circle on Riverleigh Avenue. After exiting the traffic circle this alcove will be on your right. Look for a sign designating the preserve. Signs will tell you that you can’t park from sunset to sunrise.

Follow the paved access road (on foot), while keeping a close eye to your left. You’ll want to be on the look out for a red trail blaze to begin the 4.4 mile loop trail. Here’s where it gets tricky, this area is a little sparse, making the trail hard to locate. Rumor has it, due to beetle infestations trees had to be removed. They litter where we begin and end the loop. The trail markers are still in place.

After you navigate this section, the trail is well marked and easy to follow. Keep looking for those red blazes. A yellow trail runs through the preserve but that isn’t our loop. At various points you’ll see directional markers. The trail to kettle hole is completely overgrown, so, if bushwhacking is your thing, have at it. The trail to Wildwood Lake sends you to a residential road. The lake will be up on your left through the trees.

Toward the end of the loop, you’ll begin to lose trail again. Thanks to those pesky beetles. Just keep moving, safely forward. The blazes, for the most part, are still up in this section. Once you’re back on the access road, your loop is complete.

I didn’t see anyone else on the trail or in the parking area. It’s mostly flat, largely enjoyably but it is lacking any major view points. If a nice, quiet walk in the woods is what you’re craving this one is for you.

Headed over to Main Street Biscuit Co. afterwards. It was crowded for a winter morning but not unpleasant. Super cute place, diner style breakfast.

See you on the trails,



HikeLI: Southards Pond Park

Where: Southards Pond Park (Babylon, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Villa Bella Bakery (West Babylon, NY)

Once upon a time a girl ordered a Negroni. They are her favorite cocktail. But, she was at a trendy spot and it wasn’t called a Negroni. It has some cheeky name so she ordered it by that cheeky name. The waiter asked her if she was sure. He said because, “it’s basically a Negroni and people find them bitter.” Cool.

So, Babylon. I have mixed feelings about it. During the day I love it for the cute town it is. At night, when I go, I text at least one person to ask them why i keep participating in the same sh*t show. None of this means anything, I’m just feeling chatty today. If recipe bloggers can give you their life story, I guess I can give you the story of a day as opposed to the story of a hike.

So, I drink my Negroni slowly. They used a gin brand called ‘Old Tom’, which, was surprisingly awesome. One of the best Negronis I’ve ever had, minus the whole are-you-sure conversation. Whatever, I’m with cool people and I’m not as bitter as my favorite cocktail.

As a team of four we head off to Southards Pond Park. I like the entrance at Pond Place and Southard Lane. Use the intersection for your address. There is a sign, a pretty clear entrance and you can park on the street. The Park has many entrances but I think this one is the simplest to get to.

The park loop is about 1.4 miles. It is flat, packed dirt and only narrow in a few places. Muddy in a handful of places but as it hugs the lake closely and is sometimes flanked by water on both sides, this is expected. Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy.

Via the Sunrise Highway underpass you can connect all of the way to Belmont Lake State Park. It’s a nice walk. Lots of dogs, lots of people on bicycle, lots of people in general. It is the most suburban trail you’ll ever walk.

Keeping things Italian today, Villa Bella reminds me of the Italian bakeries my grandmother used to ferry me to on Sunday mornings so that we could have smorgasbord of pastries with Sunday sauce. It’s a smell and a vibe that I didn’t know I missed. Pignoli cookies and sfogliatella dominate my mind. Cappuccino with extra foam is always the play. Before I knew it I’m taking home half a pound of lemon drops because I have problems with nostalgia and a constant desire for sugar. Leave me to my gluttony.

See you on the trails,



HikeLI: Sunken Meadow Etc.

Where: Sunken Meadow State Park (Kings Park, NY), Nissequogue River State Park (Kings Park, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Café Portofino (Northport, NY)

Typically, I only come to Sunken Meadow in summers to laze about the boardwalk and listen to jam bands. I avoid the trails because they are difficult to navigate and pop out in local neighborhoods. They’re easy to lose and mostly unmarked.

Today, I did something uncharacteristic. I went to Sunken Meadow and Nissequogue with a group led by the lovely Ed Moran of Eastern Outdoor Experiences. Group hikes aren’t usually for me. I’m not great with small talk, often dislike the speed of the group and have a tendency to wander off. Surprisingly, this group had a pace I was comfortable with, a guide that pointed out things that I would wander off to see anyway and I got to learn all about bird watching instead of trying small talk. Superior group hike.

Without Ed, I wouldn’t have gone to Sunken Meadow. We did 10 + miles on a loop of Ed’s design traversing road, park path, beach, bluffs and along Sunken Meadow Parkway. I couldn’t repeat the loop if I tried. We crossed 25A to see the remains of an old fire tower. I didn’t know there were fire towers on LI at one point. If you’re a regular reader, you already know that fire tower hikes are some of my favorites. There isn’t any tower left but, some old anchor points. Imagining the view that could have been, I’m disappointed.

The day ended in the park itself with a stunning beach walk followed by a loop up to the bluffs.

I took myself to Cafe Portofino for a campfire mocha (it tastes like a s’mores with a perfectly cooked marshmallow).

See you on the trails.



HikeLI: Rocky Point State Preserve

Where: Rocky Point State Preserve (Ridge, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: NoFoDoCo (Mattituck, NY)

There are several entrances to the Rocky Point trails. Today, we’ll park at the Whiskey Road / Wading River Hollow Road entrance. This entrance is hiking access, not mountain biking access. For mountain biking use the entrance on Rocky Point Road or the entrance where 25A splits to bypass the business district in Rocky Point. DEC permit may be required to park at some entrances. I’ve never seen this enforced. There is no fee to park. Additional parking areas dot 25A. Please visit dec.ny.gov for a detailed map.

For hiking the park has three trails. The yellow (2 miles), blue (4.1 miles) and the red (4.9 miles). These can also be cobbled together to form an 8.5 mile loop. For today, we’re focusing on the red trail, which is my favorite it is also a point to point trail. If you choose to make it an out and back understand that it will be nearly ten miles.

Using the parking area on Whiskey Road, enter the trail. There are usually port-a-potties here. The trail is beautifully marked with red circle blazes. Where this trail crosses a mountain bike trail it is marked with neon ties on the surrounding trees. Bikes yield to pedestrians but, look both ways before you cross. The trail is flat save for a large hill at about midway. Near mile 4.25 you’ll have to cross Rocky Point Road to continue the trail to the end. This will put you in one of the parking areas on 25A. This trail is beautifully kept, and serene. Despite proximity to large road ways, it is rare to hear the road noise.

Hunting access is not allowed along the trail but may be allowed within the preserve.

After a lovely morning stroll I went out east to check out a much talked about donut shop. This time of year you’ll have to brave the farm stand, pumpkin picking, vineyard traffic but it was a nice drive to top off an enjoyable morning.

See you on the trails,



HikeLI: Kings Point Park

Where: Kings Point Park (Kings Point, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: For Five Roasters (Manhasset, NY)

Kings Point Park is located on Redbrook Road in Kings Point, (additional entrance on Steamboat road) smack dab in the middle of a residential area off of Middle Neck Road. The 175 acre park has roughly five miles of trail, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and more. The park is dog friendly in some sections provided dogs are leashes. There are ample places to picnic.

For this trip, I took the 1.8 mile loop as recommended by All Trails. The loop criss crosses over Mitchell Creek with a series of wooden bridges. Mitchell Creek was dry today and I’m glad for it, I wasn’t in the mood for mosquitos. A portion of the trail hugs various backyards and for a moment there I thought about inviting myself into a stranger’s pool.

Despite the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood it is serene here. Such a cute place for a quick walk or a trail run.

For snacks we went into Manhasset for a quick flat white from For Five Roasters.

See you on the trail,



HikeLI: Manorville Hills County Park

Where: Manorville Hills County Park (Manorville, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Eastport Luncheonette (Eastport, NY)

Manorville Hills may look daunting but don’t let the long dirt driveway fool you. Nestled on the northbound side of rt. 111 between Sunrise and the LIE (the Manorville one not the Smithtown one) is a picturesque walk in the woods.

Despite its easy access location, this park is by no means popular. For large chunks grass grows on the trail. Be gentle to it. Absolutely check for ticks. But come and you’ll be engulfed by nature. The park is broken into three sections: an 8 mile pedestrian loop, a 12 mile mountain bike path (blue) and a 6 mile horse trail (yellow). Horses have the right of way at trail intersections. There is also access to the Paumanok Path – an LI thru hike from stretching from Rocky Point to Montauk. The pedestrian trail is marked with white blazes and from what I’ve seen the only way out is through. Paumanok is also marked with white blazes but worded signs point you towards Paumanok.

Turn around if you can’t commit to the loop. The loop is riddled with fences in an attempt to curb horses and cyclists from using the pedestrian trail. You may have trouble navigating these areas if you are a person of size or use mobility aids. Trail is hillier than other local parks but it isn’t daunting. Since the trails are quiet, it is one of my favorite places to get fully immersed in nature.

Sometimes, quiet trails feel eerie but at Manorville Hills, the trail blazes are bright and the parking lot is always clear of debris. You get the sense that not only was someone here before you but that they also cared for the space.

Since this writing, prior to publishing there was a fire at the park. The July 7th fire is a reminder to exercise caution and to understand how fragile outdoor spaces can be. I found no news reports of closures to the park after the fire. The brush fire covered 15 acres, according to 27east – a local news outlet. County rt. 111 was closed for a time and there were no evacuations of residents necessary.

Manorville Hills pairs perfectly with nostalgia. I grew up going to the Eastport Luncheonette. Enjoy a no frills breakfast / lunch / coffee with a side of small town charm. Eastport used to be home of the antique shops, now Main Street is mostly empty stores with a stained glass shop and a boutique or two.

See you on the trails,



HikeLI: Shadmoor State Park

Where: Shadmoor State Park (Montauk, NY)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee (Amagasett, NY)

I just want to put it out there that Jack’s said they didn’t have a public restroom. There are however public restrooms across the street in a municipal lot. Cleanliness at 8am was good. I’d gotten a honey cinnamon latte, which was an unexpectedly delicious combination. Would have been better without the weird bathroom side quest.

Jack’s happens to be across the street from The Stephen Talkhouse. I don’t want to talk nostalgia or misspent youth, but man …

There are a bunch of State parks in Montauk – Camp Hero, Hither Hills, Montauk Downs, Montauk Point. You know Montauk Point, it’s got that Lighthouse. So why Shadmoor? (Shadmoor is about five miles west of the Lighthouse on the right hand side of Montauk Highway. Parking lot holds about ten cars.) I like bluffs and it is a bit calmer than the other parks.

The loop is a short, sweet 1.2 miles. You can extend this to about 2.5 if you stay along the bluffs and take that path to the end (turn around when you reach the driveway). Trail is clearly marked with red arrows. The trail is narrow and you’ll have to walk over planks in a few areas. There is something magical about Shadmoor, between the sunshine soaked bluffs and the enclosed shaded areas that allow you to feel deep in a forest it is ecotone at its finest.

Stopped at Hither Hills on the way home but made a rookie mistake. We stepped off trail to allow some cyclists to pass. I found two ticks on myself and am now paranoid about more lurking. As of this writing I’ve checked myself seventeen times. The fear still persists.

So check for ticks, watch for cyclists and pee before you leave the house.

See you on the trails,



Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park

Where: Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park (Great River, NY)

What: Walk (trail, paved, gravel)

Snacks: Hidden Oak Cafe (Great River, NY)

What a day, friends! There was sunshine. There was one of my best friends. There was high tea. I bought dahlias and lavender to plant. I met Pete, the best tour guide – ever.

The arboretum is very popular. Even more so when you stumble upon a plant sale day. Normally, I’m not a crowds kinda gal but, I got a lesson in dahlia care, growth and storage. Now I have new friends at the Dahlia Society of Long Island.

Find this magical place at 440 Montauk Highway – Great River or Oakdale depending on your GPS. They’ve got a large parking lot. As of this writing there is an $8 parking fee. They’re open Tuesday-Sunday from 10-5pm with narrower hours in the winter.

This isn’t a hiking trail per say, more like a gentle stroll. Choose between the Riverwalk or the gardens. We did both! The riverwalk on our own and an hour long tour of the gardens with tour guide Pete. Pete was as knowledgeable as he was funny. Now I know that when I have a big back yard I want a European Weeping Beech, a blue conifer and a whole slew of other stuff. Despite the gravel areas on the tour, it felt accessible. I say this because someone on the tour had a walker and could navigate.

We then had high tea at the Hidden Oak Cafe. Treats on treats on treats. Scones, sandwiches, cakes, cookies. I’m so full.

Okay friends, I’ve got dahlias to plant.

See you on the trails,



HikeLI: Connequot River State Park

Where: Connequot River State Park (Oakdale, NY) (3525 Sunrise Hwy.)

What: Hike (trail, unpaved)

Snacks: Desserts on the Spot (usually between Wireless and Belle Meade on the south side of route 347 in a big dirt patch)

Picture this, it is 7:30am and you pull up to the park gate. A surely gate attendant tells you that she only lets permit carrying fishermen in before 8am. Cool cool cool. Your friend says that it is your first time at the park. The surely attendant asks you to pay the parking fee ($8 as of this writing) and hands you a map and a history pamphlet. She tells you that the gates lock promptly at 4pm.

It truly was our first time at Connequot; precisely because it keeps a strict 8-4 schedule. Brookhaven State Park does the same. It seems to be a rarity since I haven’t experienced it elsewhere. What happens if you get locked in the park after hours? Chaos?

Connequot River State Park is located in the westbound side of Sunrise Highway just before exit 46. If you miss it, you’ll have to loop back around. There’s an entrance on Veterans Highway but no official parking area. That entrance is gated too – and helps connect Connequot to Lakeland County Park via the Long Island Greenbelt (white blazes).

There are four marked trails to choose from excluding the Greenbelt. Red (3.7), blue (8.4) yellow (1.1) or green (3.9). Once you park the trails begin at the pond by the historic houses. Yellow and green are to the left and red and blue are to the right. Green crosses yellow, yellow connects to red, red runs along blue for a time. Confused? We couldn’t get through the park without a map from the app Avenza.

For this adventure we took the green to the yellow and did the red loop. Red was by far the prettiest. It was decently marked but not from the direction we took it (counterclockwise). Every so often we would hunt for blazes. This usually involved just turning around at the various intersections.

Now, the snack spot isn’t anywhere near the park. My original snack spot for this place was called the Golden Sparrow in Bayport but, it closed about a year ago. I miss it. Nostalgia aside, today was a task for Desserts on the Spot – a super delicious food truck with the best desserts. The only problem is, that it hangs out on the north shore. But, it’s a big pink truck and I (if you haven’t guessed by now) have a wicked sweet tooth. Today’s yummy is a chocolate danish pretzel hybrid.

See you on the trails,



PS: No dogs allowed, no cycling allowed etc. Only permit fishing and walking/ running.