You need to drive across nearly the entire length of Long Island to the far eastern tip to reach the Hither Hills State Park, which is one of several parks and preserves that make up a great natural space that has become a great destination for hikers and beach lovers. The combination of hilly, wooded trails and excellent vistas overlooking the sea make for a memorable experience. In addition to the hiking trails, the park offers picnic areas and fire pits, an ocean beach and a 168-site beachfront campground.
The park is known for the “walking dunes” of Napeague Harbor on the eastern border of the park, which make for a challenging hike on their own. But while the sandy areas may draw attention, the park is filled with great hiking trails that leave the beach and take advantage of the natural biodiversity in the area.
The state park is adjacent to Hither Woods Preserve, and the two areas combined have more than 3,000 acres to explore. For hikers, the top draw is the 11.3-mile trail—known as segment 11—that connects the two parks. You can start in the parking lot of the Hither Woods Preserve with a great view of the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll make your way west to the state park by going through pitch pines, stunted oak, mountain laurel, just to name a few. You’ll also find canyons, ponds, streams, and scenic ocean views from both the bluffs and beach level.
But you don’t need the full 11-mile hike to enjoy the park. The campsite allows visitors to stay within a short walk of the ocean and get plenty of time in the sand on a well-kept, large and soft beach. Showers and other amenities make for a comfortable visit for both families and dedicated hikers. Mountain bike trails allow for cycling most of the year and cross-country skiing when winter comes. Surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing are popular in season, and you can fish in the park year-round.
What Makes It Great
The topographic variety makes for many great hiking trails, whether you want to spend the day hiking or just an hour. Its isolation on the tip of Long Island means that you won’t get the big crowds that fill most of the other state parks in the summer.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers, beachgoers and nature-lovers. In fact, the park is part of a bird conservation area, which gives you a chance to see the least terns, the piping plover and the short-eared owl, which are all at risk but protected in the preserve.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Hither Hills State Park is open sunrise to sunset seven days a week. Swimming is available from 10 a.m. to either 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. throughout the summer. Cars are charged a $10/day access fee or patrons can use the Empire Passport to enter. Additional fees for camping and fishing apply. See the website for a full list of fees and park hours.