Nature Walks on Long Island to View Fall Foliage
Long Island might be at peak beauty in the fall as the leaves change. Nassau, Suffolk, and the East End have some of the best nature trails around, ideal for a fall foliage walk. 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 a splendid fall foliage walk amid oranges, reds, and yellows. For more kid-friendly activities, be sure to check out our Fall Fun Guide.
Fall Foliage Nature Walks in Nassau County
Clark Botanic Garden is a 12-acre sanctuary for birds, plants, and visitors to enjoy.
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 appreciated. The garden is open every day from 10am to 6pm. There is a gift shop on the premises, at which garden members receive a 10% discount.
Bethpage State Park — Farmingdale
Bethpage State Park, well-known for its golf courses, also features family-friendly hiking trails to explore. In fact, there are 5 miles of paths that cut through the Long Island Greenbelt Trail. It also offers biking trails for the little cyclers in your family. Bring along lunch so you can stop at one of the many picnic areas along the way. The park is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.
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 20-acre arboretum is labeled with interesting facts, making for a great learning experience. The self-guided walking trail leads you around campus to view the foliage, horticulture, and historic buildings. The arboretum is open seven days a week. It is absolutely FREE.
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.
Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve — Merrick
This 52-acre preserve has 3 miles of trails complete with a 500-foot fishing pier that juts into Merrick Bay. At the highest point in the park, guests are afforded views of the Jones Beach tower and Manhattan's skyline. During your visit, keep your eyes open for Nigerian dwarf goats that are employed to control weeds and brush in a sustainable way. Norman J. Levy Park is open seven days a week.
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Sands Point Preserve offers stirring fall colors and unmatched Long Island Sound views.
Sands Point Preserve — Sands Point
The Sands Point Preserve offers six marked trails through 216 acres of diverse habitats, including woods, fields, a pond, and even a beachfront along the Long Island Sound. The preserve has guided nature walks, or you can grab a trail map and find your own way. It offers a variety of programs and activities for children throughout the year. Bookmark its calendar and plan to visit during a special event day. The preserve is closed Mondays.
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site — Oyster Bay
Explore the grounds of former President Theodore Roosevelt's home, also known as the "Summer White House." Paved paths meander around the main house, orchard, and other structures while nature trails lead down to a waterfront that features lush foliage and expansive views of Long Island Sound. It's free to visit the grounds and tours of the home are available although tickets must be purchased in advance.
Easy walking paths make Caleb Smith State Park a good park for little hikers.
Fall Foliage Nature Walks in Suffolk County
Avalon Park and Preserve — Stony Brook
Between dusk and dawn, enjoy the gifts of nature at this preserve, which features 8 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. The park is closed Mondays.
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 9am to 4pm Tuesdays through Sundays.
Caleb Smith State Park Preserve — Smithtown
Caleb Smith features 543 acres of woodlands with marked trails ideal for exploring with a 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 and museum are open from 9am to 4pm 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 6 miles. Note that the park sustained damage from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida and most wooded trails are closed as of September 2021.
Fall Foliage Nature Walks on the East End
Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve — Riverhead
Set in the wetlands of Riverhead, this 165-acre park is located on what remains of an abandoned cranberry bog. Remnants of the operation can be seen along the 1.1-mile loop, where you might encounter birds, reptiles, and other wildlife.
Laurel Lake Park and Preserve — Laurel
Just north of Route 25 in Laurel is the 500-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 — Shelter Island
The Mashomack Preserve is a Long Island nature-lovers dream, with more than 2,000 acres of tidal creeks, oak woodlands, lush foliage, fields, and freshwater marshes. The flat landscape makes it a great hike for kids.
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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. Kids will love the nature center, where they can see a variety of animal exhibits.
Sears Bellows County Park — Hampton Bays
Sears Bellows features several 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 to Sears Pond.
Bonus: 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 and gardens.
A version of this post was originally published in 2014. Writer Kristen Markel contributed to this 2021 update.