Cold Spring Harbor State Park

Location: Cold Spring Harbor, NY 

Size: 40 acres 

Date of hike: March 5, 2016

Cold Spring Harbor State Park is probably the hilliest hike I've done on Long Island.  It was recommended to me by a local hiker who stumbled across my blog and sent me an encouraging e-mail, which I appreciated.  He also noticed I'd yet to visit Cold Spring Harbor State Park.  Well, with no specific plans when I woke this past Saturday, it seemed like a perfect day to head over and explore it.  In a nutshell, these hills are a thrill.

My pre-hike research told me the park consists of hilly terrain that offers scenic vistas of the nearby Inner Harbor.  "It features a mixed hardwood forest with large oak specimens reaching three feet in diameter, as well as thickets of wild mountain laurel," according to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation's websiteThe area was among land purchased by New York State in the 1960s and was initially intended to host part of a bridge to Connecticut proposed by Robert Moses, according to an article that appeared in The New York Times.  The unused parcel was ultimately brought to the attention of state officials by a librarian seeking space for a new library, the article said, and it was formally dedicated as a park in 2000.  In addition, the park is connected to Bethpage State Park through Trail View State Park, a 7.4-mile linear park built on the former right-of-way for a proposed northern extension of the Bethpage State Parkway, and serves as the northern trailhead for the 20-mile Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail.  A trail map is on the state's site.   

The entrance is located on the east side of Harbor Road, just north of the Cold Spring Harbor Library.  Although there's enough room for a few dozen cars almost every parking space was full, reminding me of something the local hiker who recommended the park said in his e-mail: "This trail can get very crowded though, only bad thing about it."  Boy, was he right.  Among the crowd was a dude extensively stretching as he prepared to start his rapid ascent up the early portion of the trail, which consisted of a bunch of logs and planks acting as makeshift stairs.  He suddenly took off and raced up them as if he were in a marathon.  I followed him up, but at my own pace.  To my delight, the payoff was immediate as picturesque views of the harbor can be seen as soon as you reach the first hilltop.  I should also note the trail's highest point tops out at approximately 250 feet, according to the website Hiking Project.

The 1.14-mile trail is very well-marked through every twist and turn and parallels the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail until it reaches Lawrence Hill Road.  Interestingly, this is the only local park so far where I've seen hikers use trekking poles, which took me back to the time I spent last year in New Hampshire's White Mountains.  Everyone used trekking poles there, but you rarely see them used on flat ol' Long Island.  On a related note, I later learned the trail is also open to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing when there are at least three inches of snow.  As for wildlife, the park hosts spring and fall migrations of various songbirds and is home to horned owls and red-tailed hawks, the state's website said.  You'll also see leashed dogs. 

It took about a half hour to reach the end of the trail, at which point I hydrated and began my retreat back to the parking lot.  But first, I set my iPod to play Riverside's 2003 debut album, Out of Myself.  I've always been a casual fan of the Polish progressive metallers, but I have really sunk my teeth into their tunes after the sudden passing of guitarist Piotr Grudziński.  It's sad to discover my love of their music under such circumstances, but this album takes me on an emotional journey like few others.  I'm thankful to have found it.  What a treasure.

While returning to the trailhead, I realized I probably passed about a total of 30-40 hikers – the majority of which seemed to be Asian, for some reason.  Unfortunately, the high volume of people prevented me from getting lost in thought, which is something I like to do on hikes.  But it's a small price to pay, especially for such priceless views.  In fact, it's quite a bargain.

(Updated: July 26, 2018) 

Video: Cold Spring Harbor State Park (360-degree view)
Map: Cold Spring Harbor State Park (Google Maps image)

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