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Insider’s Guide to Catching Long Island’s Fall Splendor

September 28, 2021

Autumn in the northeast is unlike any other region in the United States. As the days shorten and temperatures drop, the leaves begin to change from green to yellow, orange, and red, creating a beautiful array of colors that cannot be missed.

There are dozens of places across Long Island that showcase the colorful foliage as you hike or bike the many trails of our parks, preserves and mansions/arboretums. Here’s a complete list of spots that are sure to please the senses this fall. To discover where you BeLong this Autumn, see our full list of Fall Festivities & Seasonal Specials on Long Island.

Hotspots on the North Shore

The North Shore of Long Island is generally the go-to region for scenic fall excursions, with hilly landscapes and Gatsby-like mansions.

Fall Splendor of the leaves changing at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve

While on the North Shore, visit Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown. This park offers 543 acres of woodlands with marked trails that are great to explore and take in the amazing views. While there, you can also check out the Nature Museum on the premises that showcases natural history exhibits. Nearby you’ll also find David Weld Preserve and Sanctuary. Follow along one of the hiking paths at David Weld Preserve to bask in some unbelievable fall foliage. The well-kept paths will take you through a wooded setting and up the hills toward bluffs overlooking the Long Island Sound.  Here, visitors can also catch glimpses of wild turkeys, red-tailed hawks, chipmunks, turtles, and other native woodland creatures. If you’d like a longer hike with more water views, we recommend taking the beach path all the way to the David Weld Sanctuary.

Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Huntington offers miles of scenic nature trails and paths that wind through gardens, woodlands, meadows, and the shores of the Long Island Sound. In that area but looking for more of a climb? Head to West Hills County Park in Huntington to take a walk along the historic and picturesque Walt Whitman Trail to Jayne’s Hill, Long Island’s highest peak.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also catch the foliage at the top of the rolling hills in Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park. Fronting the Long Island Sound, you can enjoy hiking six miles of trails, biking, horseback riding and picnicking. And for those who want a bit of history with their hike, head to Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown. This 627-acre park is open year-round and features quite the view, especially for people who can’t get enough of Long Island’s rich history. Here, visitors can hike forested hills and valleys at the headwaters of the Nissequogue River, fish on Stump Pond, and casually stroll through the Blydenburgh Farm and New Mill Historic District where a grist mill and historic houses still stand. Once the leaves start changing color, Blydenburgh becomes one of the most picturesque historic districts in the whole region.

King’s Park is also the home of Nissequogue River State Park. The Greenbelt Trail, for walking and hiking, parallels the Nissequogue River and provides scenic views of the river and the Long Island Sound from the top of the bluffs.

Don’t Leave Just Yet…

The North Shore is the home to several beautiful mansions that you can enjoy. The Muttontown Preserve in East Norwich is the home to the Chelsea Mansion and offers a 550-acre preserve featuring glacial kame and kettle ponds plus various successions fields and woodlands.

Sands Point Preserve has 3 spectacular mansions: Falaise, Hempstead House and Castle Gould. With miles of trails and a beautiful garden, you can walk the grounds as you enjoy the view of the Long Island Sound. With Port Washington close by, you can spend some time at the amazing shops and restaurants as well.

Sand's Point, Hempstead House

Sand’s Point – Hempstead House

Other grounds to explore are Old Westbury Mansion and Gardens, Planting Fields Arboretum/Coe Hall, and the Vanderbilt Mansion and Museum in Centerport. Here you’ll find a natural history museum and the mansion of William K. Vanderbilt, heir to one of America’s greatest railroad fortunes.

Hotspots on the South Shore

The South Shore of Long Island is most popular for its white-sand beaches in the summer, but there are definitely some go-to places to experience the beauty of fall. Connetquot River State Park maintains 3,473 acres of land and water for the protection and propagation of game birds, fish, and animals. The preserve also has 50 miles of hiking, horseback riding, and nature trails, as well as fishing on the Connetquot River.

The leaves changing color at Connetquot River State Park

Connetquot River State Park

Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Oakdale has 690 acres of lawns and open meadows, a wildflower garden, a marshy refuge, and many nature trails for bird watching. The manor house features fireplaces, antique woodwork and Tiffany stained windows. An interesting side note—its landscaping and tree planting was designed by the famous design firm, Fredrick Law Olmstead, who later designed both New York’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Long Island’s only true forest, Prosser Pines Preserve, is one of the most impressive places to catch the changing of the leaves. Offering 15-acres of white pine forest views, this park serves as the ideal backdrop for any fall photography. And unlike many of the other parks listed here, the Prosser Pines Preserve trail is the shortest, measuring a little less than one mile when completing the entirety of the loop.

Seaford’s Cedar Creek Park is a great place to be active while taking in the views. This 259-acre park offers jogging paths, an aerodrome field, an archery field, and a dog run area. It also serves as the entry point for a six-mile paved path to Jones Beach for joggers, hikers, cyclists and rollerblade enthusiasts. Nearby Massapequa Preserve was once named the “Best Nature Preserve of Long Island” and for good reason! Featuring 423-acres and a fully paved 6-mile long out-and-back biking and walking trail, visitors can take this path from Massapequa Lake all the way to Bethpage State Park. The path also loops around through the preserve itself, so if you’re not in it for a hike and just want some sweet autumn views, stick to the footbridges instead of continuing down the path that runs along the Bethpage State Parkway. A variety of native flora and fauna live along the edges of the path, so in addition to watching the trees change color, guests can test their eyesight and spot chipmunks, turtles, swans, Great Egrets, and so much more.

One of the best-kept secrets in southern Nassau is Norman J. Levy Overlook Park and Preserve. It’s home to a land conservation project, gravel walking paths surrounded by trees and shrubbery, turkeys, peacocks, goats, and one-of-a-kind views of Long Island’s autumn season! While the animals sure make for some cute photos, they also serve a purpose on the grounds. The goats are actually used in place of lawnmowers, so if you see them or any of the other wild animals roaming around please keep your distance–they are hard at work!

You can also head to Bethpage State Park for picnic facilities, bridle paths, hiking and biking trails, playing fields, tennis courts, and five world-class golf courses. A short distance away is Eisenhower Park, which is considered Nassau County’s own “Central Park”. This 930-acre park is a mecca for sports and leisure fun for all. Guests will find paved loop trails perfect for cyclists, skaters, and joggers, a massive playground area, a roller rink, and a pond ideal for RC boating.

Also Check Out…

Before leaving the South Shore, you should head to the trendy villages of Babylon, Sayville, or Patchogue. These small towns offer dozens of unique shops and restaurants.

Another fun adventure is a visit to Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Considered Long Island’s 19th-Century “Living History” Museum, it provides visitors an opportunity to step back in time and experience life in a recreated mid-19th-century American village. Each fall, the village hosts the Long Island Fair that features the best of old-time county fairs.

Downtown Patchogue on Long Island

Downtown Patchogue

After the excitement of your outdoor excursion, you’ll want to warm up at one of our local restaurants, breweries, wineries, or spend the night at one of the many lodging locations available so you can enjoy another colorful fall day on Long Island.

 

If you are looking for more ideas, checkout our Off-The-Beaten Path Harvest Adventures.

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