David Weld Sanctuary

Location: Nissequogue, NY

Size: 55 acres

Date of hike: Jan. 19, 2014

When I pulled into the parking lot of the David Weld Sanctuary, I was skeptical whether this would be a worthwhile hike.  It was a gravel-covered lot with enough space for about six vehicles – and no option for roadside parking.  If this place was as good as I'd heard, surely it would have a bigger parking lot, I thought.  But luckily, I was off base.  Way of base.

The sanctuary had been recommended to me by several friends and I'd read up on it a little bit before visiting.  According to the Nature Conservancy's website, the sanctuary trails cross an old field peppered with red cedars and loop around a red maple swamp and colossal tulip trees.  The highlight, though, is a 50-foot bluff overlooking the Long Island Sound and a 60-foot-deep kettle hole depression that came to be when a massive block of glacial ice melted in place.  There are also roughly 1,800 feet of beachfront and a number of enormous boulders scattered throughout the forest and along the shore.  The property was donated by Mr. and Mrs. David Weld between 1969 and 1979, the website said, with additional land donated and acquired from neighbors.  Before Weld's tenancy, a man named Alden Blodgett and his wife, author/actress Cornelia Otis Skinner, bought the land and built a cabin, which burned in a windstorm in 1987, the website said.

Needless to say, I was in awe as soon as I stepped onto the first trail through the swamp.  Since it was winter, this section was mostly dried out, giving it an ominous look.  I'd heard the prettiest part of the sanctuary is the beach region, so I figured I'd save the best for last.  That meant heading off to follow the loop trail through the woods.  The hiking was hilly, but not too challenging.  To help set the mood, I threw on my iPod.  My music of choice was Haken's The Mountain, one of the top progressive metal albums to be released in 2013.  With an opening track titled "The Path," it felt like the perfect pick for a walk outdoors. 

It took an hour to complete the loop and make my way back to the heart of the sanctuary.  From there, I headed toward the long-anticipated beach.  Of course, I chose the long way.  Instead of going right to the water, I hiked a bluff-top path that led me a couple stories up.  It's amazing to look across the open water from that elevation.  If I stood right at the edge, my body felt like it was almost floating for a moment.  Call me crazy, but I love being one step away from death.  It makes me feel aliveAnd we all need that feeling sometimes.

As I continued down the path, the elevation lowered until an opening appeared to the beach.  It was like stepping into heaven.  Thousands of pretty shells covered the sand.  Big boulders stood alongside the tide.  And there wasn't a soul in sight.  It was all mine.  First, I explored the boulders.  If the tide's out, you can climb atop them.  One was filled with graffiti.  It said: "Pop a squat and enjoy the sunset."  Another said: "Embrace life."  The spot was inspiring.

I didn't stay for the sunset – a crime, I know.  But I still felt like I found an appreciation of the sanctuary and what it had to offer.  As I returned to the tiny parking lot, I felt happy it was so small.  It makes the place feel like a special treasure that only a handful of people can enjoy at a time.  And on this day, I was fortunate enough to enjoy that treasure for a little while.

Video: David Weld Sanctuary (360-degree view)   



  1. Nice winter viewpoint of the sanctuary. Definitely worth a trip back in the summer for the sunsets.

  2. I am from Smithtown and have been there many times. Do NOT go there at night. I was chased out by a shadow-y thing at sundown and it followed me out of the park