Now that the blazing heat of summer has passed, it’s the perfect time to explore some of the gorgeous hiking trails right here in the Hamptons.
Hiking is a great low-intensity workout that will help you stay fit through the fall. The trails in East Hampton are especially suited for the casual hiker, since the area’s topography is mostly flat. Maximum elevation is only 200 feet, which is nothing compared to many trails in other parts of the country.
There are 191 miles of trails in the Town of East Hampton. Whether it’s state parks like Hither Hills or local trails along the Paumanok Path, there’s a plethora of choices.
Accessibility is one of the unique aspects of East Hampton’s trail network, according to Jim Zajac, President of the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society (EHTPS). “You are never more than a few minutes from the nearest trail,” Zajac says. “Particularly, Paumanok Path, which runs the length of the town. Once you hit that, you’re good to go for as long as you want.”
For those that don’t want to commit an entire day to hiking, the trails in East Hampton make for a quick adventure. Most are between three and five miles long, and can take only two to three hours to hike from start to finish. If you want something even shorter, you can check out some of the trails that are only a mile or so, like some of the Big Reed Pond trails in Montauk County Park.
Not only are the local trails easy to get to, they also have breathtaking water views. Some of the best trails lead to points overlooking the ocean, bays or inland bodies of water, which are what makes East Hampton’s trails stand out from most other hiking spots.
If accessibility and natural beauty aren’t enough, then maybe you’ll be interested in the history behind many of the hiking routes. Some have stories that date back to Native American settlements and Colonial times, while others are more modern. For example, Camp Hero State Park in Montauk was commissioned by the U.S. Army in 1942 as a coastal missile defense station disguised as a fishing village. It was staffed during World War II and for some years during the Cold War, with its main purpose to prevent coastal attacks and potential missiles aimed at New York City. Now myriad trails intersect and wind around the defunct defense base. Like many of the other historically significant parks and trails in East Hampton, Camp Hero’s historical features are paired with picnic areas and incredible sights, like an overlook of the Atlantic Ocean and the Montauk bluffs.
Fall is the best time to check out these natural and historically significant trails. The temperature isn’t too hot and the falling leaves add to the scenery. “Late fall is a nice time when the foliage has come down from the trees and you can see through the canopy better,” Zajac says.
The optimal time of day to go on a hike varies depending on your preference and the weather. Like most people, Zajac prefers avoiding the trails during the middle of the day. “I always like morning hikes or those that are towards the end of the day,” he says. “Especially here in the Hamptons, where the light is so profound. Those times of day are particularly special.”
Before you go hiking along East Hampton’s extensive network of trails, the two most important things you must consider when dealing with Mother Nature are safety and comfort. “We always recommend that people wear long pants, socks, and closed shoes to make sure that they’re protecting themselves from ticks,” Zajac says. “Ticks are certainly a big problem out here. Some people have special tick resistant pants or spray themselves and their clothing with bug spray.”
In addition, Zajac says to bring typical items like a hat, water, and a map. Besides that, the most important thing is to have fun!
If you’re looking for a way to get some exercise and explore the natural beauty of the East End this fall, take a hike!