On a cold but clear day in mid-March, accompanied by my daughter-in-law Helen, I’ve come to explore Camp Hero State Park, located just west of Montauk Point. We stop first at the western end of Camp Hero Road, where a small sign directs us to the Point Woods Trail.
Following the well-blazed trail, we pass stone outcroppings, crossing on small wooden bridges over streamlets. We’re newbies to walking this area’s trails, and at this time of year, can’t identify the twisting bare branches of an impressive deep brown mahogany color. Do these belong to the beautiful mountain laurel that will soon bloom?
Above us stretch naked branches of tupelo, beach and oak, among other species, that will soon begin to create a summer covering of leafy shade. In the distance, the sound of the roaring sea adds a majestic touch to our experience on the Point Woods trail.
We’re only minutes away from civilization but already feel the power of these woods. Point Woods is one of only two areas in Montauk never reduced to grazing land by the cattle pastured here by European settlers of East Hampton.
The trail is easily followed and offers an excellent walking adventure for families. Dogs are allowed here, if they are leashed.
Established as a New York State Park in 2002, Camp Hero features high sea bluffs and renowned surfcasting beaches, as well as the remains of former U.S. military installations. At the East Gate entrance on Camp Hero road, signs lead to an easy walk to an ocean outlook—a fitting end to our visit with an astounding view of eroded cliffs and pounding surf pushed high by Montauk’s strong winds.
A few days later we head out to the Big Reed Nature Trails, one of Long Island’s most botanically rich areas, located in Montauk County Park. We’re now a three-generation team, as granddaughter, Finn, and her friend Bella, join our second expedition.
To get to the trails, we traveled two miles north on East Lake Drive to a parking area on the right where the trailhead is located. Our younger team members call back with delight as they lead us, crossing boardwalks over the dampest areas. Soon we arrive at clearing that has a bench and a small platform with a view of the south end of Big Reed Pond. In the spring, wildflowers like marigolds, wood anemone and swamp violets bloom near here.
This looped series of well-marked trails, with maps at kiosks along the way, provides a great adventure for families with young children. These woods include hickory, red maple, tupelo, and in some areas, the gray-green bark of the hornbeam tree, unusual for Long Island. One trail leads to a panoramic view from Quadam’s Hill, which could be the destination for our next visit. We’re looking forward to returning soon to the wonderful wilds of the Montauk parks.
When traveling any trails, it’s important to follow tick prevention guidelines. Find more information at East Hampton Trails Preservation Society (ehtps.org).