For a while there it looked like we might skip winter altogether. Lucky for us East Enders, one little blizzard is nothing. It’ll be 60° and sunny in no time. And since you can’t enjoy swimming in the 600-plus miles of some of the world’s best beaches, what better way to spend a day than exploring one of the Hamptons hidden treasure: its backcountry.
Elizabeth Morton National Wildlife Refuge, at 2595 Noyac Road, outside Sag Harbor, offers a non-demanding trail the whole family can enjoy. After parking and passing a small information center, you’ll find a three-quarter-mile hiking trail at the Refuge entrance. Soon after, you just might forget where you are. Small turtles have been known to amble across the footpath and fearless chipmunks sometimes run up to, and sometimes under, your feet. You’ll see more birds than you can shake a stick at—please don’t shake sticks at the birds! There’s also deer, and wild turkeys you’ll probably want to stay clear of. A pair of swans live in the pond about halfway along the trail where there’s an elevated rest area with a bench. In late spring and early summer they can be seen tending to a handful of chicks. Finally, you’ll come out to Jessup Peninsula, home to several species of shorebirds and osprey, who make their homes high atop manmade platforms. Take a look through the telescope to get an up close look, without giving them a spook. A more direct path will take you straight back to your car, or you could take a walk along the beach and maybe get your feet wet.
Also make sure to check out the East Hampton Trail Preservation Society website for information on eight different trails in the town, including East Hampton’s Ghost Town, an interesting three-mile loop trail through the abandoned Northwest Settlement. This one can be more demanding at times than the trail at Elizabeth Morton, but decidedly more historical. You won’t see as much wildlife, either, but you will come out on the beach along Northwest Harbor to absolutely breathtaking views of Barcelona Point and the historic Cedar Point Lighthouse. Photo opportunities abound at this time of year with all the leaves down. The trail can become a bit confusing at times, so be sure to print out a map of the hike available on the website, where you’ll also find a self-guided tour. The trail is marked at 15 points, and the self-guided tour will explain the historical significance of the trees or the holes in the ground you’re looking at. Both the map and tour guide can be found at ehtps.org/lost-ghost-town.
Not to be outdone, the Southampton Trail Preservation Society’s website southamptontrails.org—has information on 17 different trails covering over 300 miles in Southampton town, including details of the area’s natural history and topographical trail maps. The gem here is the Hamlet to Hamlet Footpath, an 18.2 mile hike from Elliston Park in Southampton to Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor. This trail and East Hampton’s Ghost Town often overlaps with the 125-mile-long Paumanok Path, a trail that extends from Rocky Point in the west to Montauk Point out east. For the history buff hiker, parts of the Paumanok Trail from Sag Harbor to Montauk follows the path of Stephen Talkhouse’s legendary daily walks of the mid 1800s. You’ll also find some information on locating the final resting place of a portion of Truman Capote’s ashes, which were spread on Crooked Pond in Sag Harbor in 1994.
So go ahead: strap on your hiking boots, grab a large bottle of water, a compass or a phone with GPS and take a hike!