When a winter storm blankets Long Island, you might think that a trip upstate is in order. But you don’t need to log hours of drive-time just to get the cross-country skis out of your garage. With a substantial snowfall, you can make fresh tracks right on the island. For many, the trails of Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve are a favorite destination for kick-and-glide fitness as well as other types of winter recreation fun.
Caumsett State Historic Park makes for a unique greenspace. The park is formed on 1,500 acres of a former estate that the state acquired in 1961. It holds a blend of historical structures, including the Colonial-era Lloyd Manor, but maintains woodlands and meadows up to the rocky edge of Long Island Sound’s lapping tides. Though the parkland illustrates these multiple shifts in its usage through time, Caumsett still retains its name from the Native Matinecock people, meaning “place by a sharp rock.”
And it’s still a unique place, with nearly 20 miles of trails crisscrossing the peninsula that the park-preserve calls home. In the summer months, some are geared toward horseback riding while others are for hiking. Once a few inches of snow consolidate, though, the park is primed for cross-country skiing with ungroomed trails best suited to classic-style (traditional) cross-country skis, or snowshoes.
If snowpack depths allow, cross-country skiers can enjoy Caumsett by using a roughly 5-mile loop showcasing the best of the park’s varied landscape. Beginning from the main parking lot, take Pedestrian Loop 1. The ski path cuts through otherwise open meadows and wide shoulders adjacent to the paved loop, which is plowed in the winter—open to service vehicles needing access to the historic buildings ahead, and hikers who want to leave the extra equipment behind.
At the first fork, take the right and follow the loop counterclockwise. You’ll soon pass by the Lloyd Harbor Equestrian Center and a 100-year-old polo stable. Within a mile, you’ll reach the Dinham Cottage and the Dinham Cottage Trail. Novice skiers or those looking for a shorter outing should continue on PL-1 (skipping the next section takes a little over 2 miles off this 5-miler). Otherwise, turn right on Dinham Cottage Trail as it gradually descends 70 feet over a quarter-mile.
When you reach the bottom of the hill, you’ll intersect with Pedestrian Loop 2. Turn right, where the trail loops around Fresh Pond then reaches Long Island Sound—the rugged coastal views make the glide out to the northern edge of the park worth the effort. Tracing the sound, you’ll gradually climb back up the slope you descended. When you reach the Ridge Trail, make a left and head south to rejoin PL-1. If the trail ever feels too steep to ascend, don’t forget: It’s always easy to unclip and bootpack uphill.
You’ll know you’ve topped out on the Ridge Trail when you see the main estate of Marshall Field III, the industrialist publisher who purchased 1,750 acres of the peninsula in 1921, most of which now constitute the park. At the intersection with PL-1, make a right and head west for a quarter-mile until you reach a major intersection. Continue west to join the East-West Trail, leading to a park section that opens up rolling farm fields where you can breathe in the winter landscape.
In a half-mile, the East-West Trail reaches Fisherman’s Drive, an unpaved road providing anglers seasonal access to Long Island Sound, but closed to vehicles January 1 to March 31, making a great doubletrack for skiers. (For those interested in using the road for angling in season, a $25 day-use or $40 annual permit is required, the latter limited to 500 users.) Turn left onto Fisherman’s Drive, heading south for one final ascent running a half-mile back to the main parking lot.
Before You Go
Snowfall totals and air temperatures determine which trails will be accessible to cross-country skiing. A few inches will open up double-track options on graded surfaces and more gradual elevation changes; nearly a foot of snow is needed for the steeper trails and those marked by roots or rocks. For the best conditions, look for temps remaining at or below freezing following an initial storm aided by subsequent snowfall. Adjust your route based on the day’s conditions. If there’s not enough snow for the skis or snowshoes, you’re not out of luck; the trails are still open for hiking. Call the park office for updated trail conditions, and stay connected with local groups like the Long Island Cross-Country Ski Club.
To reach the park’s main parking lot: Take state Road 25A toward Huntington, where you turn north on West Neck Road and continue 4.5 miles as it becomes Lloyd Harbor Road. In half a mile, turn left into the park entrance. The main lot will be up the road on the right, located next to the park office and restrooms. The park is open daily in the winter to cross-country skiers from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. $8 vehicle-use fees apply on weekends from Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day to Memorial Day (daily during the remainder of the year). More Info: parks.ny.gov
Refresh & Refuel
Stop by In The Shed, in downtown Huntington for a pre-ski stack of chicken and waffles drizzled with habanero honey along with a hot coffee. Or, grab a post-ski plate of hearty skillet mac-and-cheese with your favorite après.