Long Island is at its peak beauty in the fall as the leaves change. And you're in luck, Nassau, Suffolk, and the East End have some of the best nature trails around, ideal for looking at that gorgeous fall foliage. These lovely backdrops lend themselves to great family photos that will put you ahead of the game for upcoming holiday cards. Strike a pose and take some candid shots of the kids. Fall on Long Island is perfect for memory-making.
So, strap on your hiking shoes, pack a few snacks and head out to one of these destinations for fresh air and splendid fall oranges, reds, and yellows. For more kid-friendly activities, be sure to check out our Fall Fun Guide.
The Clark Botanic Garden is A 12-acre sanctuary for birds, plants, and visitors to enjoy. Photo courtesy of the garden
Bethpage State Park — Farmingdale
Bethpage State Park, which is known for its golf courses, also features hiking trails for your family to explore. In fact, there are five miles of trails that cut through the Long Island Greenbelt Trail. It also offers hiking and biking trails for the little cyclers in your family. Bring along lunch so you can stop at one of the many picnic trails along the way. The park is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.
Clark Botanic Garden--Albertson
Check out the collection of rock garden plants, herbs, butterfly plants, conifers, daylilies, and roses at the fragrant Clark Botanical Garden. Admission is free, although a voluntary donation is greatly appreciated. The garden is open every day from 10am until 6pm. A gift shop on premises is open for business from 11am until 3:30 pm. Garden members receive a 10% discount.
LIU Post Community Arboretum — Brookville
With more than 4,000 trees on the grounds alone, this is one of Long Island's most scenic college campuses. Each tree in the 40-acre arboretum is labeled with interesting facts, so this also makes for a great learning experience. The self-guided walking trail leads you around campus to view the horticulture and historic buildings. The arboretum is open seven days a week. It is absolutely FREE.
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Muttontown Preserve — East Norwich
Nassau County's largest nature preserve spans more than 550 acres and includes a historic estate. The terrain is varied with meadows, streams, and woodlands that are home to birds, small mammals, and many different types of native plants and trees. Maps are available for self-guided tours. Adventure seekers can even look for the abandoned ruins of a former king's mansion.
Sands Point Preserve offers stirring fall colors and Long Island Sound views.
Sands Point Preserve — Sands Point
Sands Point Preserve offers six marked trails through 216 acres of diverse habitats of woods, fields, a pond, and even beachfront along the Long Island Sound. The preserve offers guided nature walks, or you can grab a trail map and find your own way. It has a variety of programs and activities for children throughout the year. Enjoy the Family Halloween Party and Pet Parade on October 20! Children can come in costume and bring their favorite pet. The preserve opens daily at 8 am; closing times vary by season.
Avalon Park and Preserve — Stony Brook
Between dusk and dawn, enjoy the gifts of nature at this preserve, which features eight acres of hiking trails, including a boardwalk, and crushed stone paths. There is also a paved hiking trail, as well as a labyrinth to explore.
Bayard Cutting Arboretum — Great River
Explore more than eight marked trails at Bayard Cutting Arboretum, winding through gardens along the Connetquot River and around the pine barrens. The arboretum is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesdays through Sundays; from November to March it closes at 4pm.
Caleb Smith State Park Preserve — Smithtown
Caleb Smith features 543 acres of woodlands with marked trails that are ideal to explore with your family. A nature museum is housed on the premises. Along the trails spot rare plants, including the pink lady slipper, trailing arbutus, and Indian pipe. The park is open from 8am to 4:30 pm, Wednesdays through Sundays.
Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve — Huntington
The historic, 1,750-acre Caumsett State Park offers 13 marked trails, from less than a mile in length to six miles. The park is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.
Laurel Lake Park and Preserve — Laurel
Just north of Route 25 in Laurel is the 480-acre Laurel Lake Preserve, which features 14 miles of well-groomed nature trails clearly marked for your family to follow. The lake is also a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Pack a lunch: There are several picnic tables and a playground to enjoy.
Mashomack Preserve--Fire Island
The Mashomack Preserve is a Long Island nature-lovers dream, with over 2,000 acres of tidal creeks, oak woodlands, fields, and freshwater marshes. The flat landscape makes it a great hike for kids. On October 26, enjoy Nature's Halloween Trail, designed especially for families.
RELATED: Fall day trips for LI families
Trails are well-marked for grown-ups and kids alike at the colorful Quogue Wildlife Refuge.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge — Quogue
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge features 305 acres of marked trails that wind around ponds surrounded by fall colors. The site's trails are all marked, and after an enjoyable hike, stop to visit some of the refuge's resident animals, including its owls and eagles. You can also explore the nature library and gift shop.
Sears Bellows County Park — Hampton Bays
Sears Bellows features a number of marked trails in the pine barrens, ideal for both advanced hikers and those just starting out. The easiest trail winds around Bellows Pond. If you and your family feel like walking farther, continue on to Sears Pond.
If you don't have the time to go for a hike, but still want to see fall colors before they're gone, consider taking a pleasure drive along Route 25A. In Nassau, Northern Boulevard (aka 25A) takes you through scenic spots such as Brookville and Oyster Bay. In Suffolk County, 25A offers colorful views through Kings Park, Stony Brook, and Rocky Point.
Photos are courtesy of the preserves/parks.
A version of this post was originally published in 2014. It was updated in September 2019.