For The Love Of The Hike

James Daniels
High school student and published author, James Daniels. Independent/Courtesy James Daniels

Growing up in East Moriches, James Daniels developed a love for hiking and the outdoors. This fascination would eventually lead Daniels to write The Must See Hiking Destinations of Long Island. The book is currently the bestseller at Hallock State Park Preserve and it is also selling in Orient Beach State Park, Fire Island Lighthouse, BookHampton, The Big Duck, St. James General Store, Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, The Ketcham Inn, Burton’s Bookstore, and Connetquot State Park.

But here’s the kicker: Daniels is only 14.

Yup, he’s currently in ninth grade at Westhampton Beach High School and he became a published author as a freshman.

“Ever since I was young,” said Daniels, “we would take our dog, Candee, to find new places to hike. We started out with the well-known parks, but after a while we started to find lesser known parks that were just as good, if not better than the popular ones.”

Using the Google Earth app, Daniels would look for signs of trails peeking through the trees in the Pine Barrens. “Sometimes they turned out to be great and sometimes they were overgrown and ended right away,” he said.

Through trial and error, he found dozens of trails from Schultz Road, Old Riverhead Road, County Road 51, and other roads throughout the area that lead to “hidden wonders” deep inside the Pine Barrens.

“For example,” he said, “Bald Hill in Riverhead is only 295 feet tall but offers a view all the way to Peconic Bay. Some other great hikes are to the numerous coastal plains in Manorville and Flanders, the globally rare dwarf pines of Westhampton, and many more. After a while, I started searching for more hikes but I could not find any more information than what we already knew. So, I decided to start working on a rough draft of The Must See Hiking Destinations of Long Island when I was 12 to let people know about the hidden gems throughout the area,” he said.

“It took a while but as I got further through writing the book, it seemed like a more realistic possibility that we could print it. Once I was finished, we self-published it and bought our first 50 books and made our first sale to Hallock State Park. We then went on to sell books to the Fire Island Lighthouse, Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, and numerous other
locations,” he added.

Daniels said the response has been “great.”

The student-hiker has already held several book discussions at local venues such as the Center Moriches Library and the Copiague Library, and will offer a presentation at Connetquot State Park in March.

The Must See Hiking Destinations of Long Island showcases many hidden gems across the Island in great detail with the assistance of high quality photographs and maps. The book details hiking trails of varying difficulty as well as the parks they reside in. The book even includes the GPS coordinates, the number of acres, and the mile distances for each hiking trail.

Daniels believes his book will have an impact on the community and that many locals “would love to hear about these great hiking opportunities right around the corner.” For For those interested in purchasing a copy, visit Daniels’s website at

[email protected]

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