Long Island is home to a unique and, at times, dramatic landscape. In the famed words of its hometown comic legend Rodney Dangerfield, it gets no respect. The best way to appreciate and absorb all that this diverse environment offers (but rarely gets credit for), is traveling by foot. Fortunately, Long Island is home to a fascinating (and also ever-overlooked) long-distance trail. Called the Paumanok Path, the relatively new foot trail serpentines 125 miles across the eastern half of the island, beginning at Rocky Point and traveling east to both the trail and island’s end at Montauk Point State Park.
The trail rolls through the pine barrens at the island’s interior. It offers hikers a view to the geologic past with features that range from erratic rocks to kettle ponds. And then there’s the views as the trail traces Long Island’s bays and the Atlantic Ocean, opening up memorable vistas before its abrupt finale at the state’s most iconic lighthouse in Montauk.
Paumanok Path is inspired by the 50-mile daily walks of Stephen Talkhouse, a 19th-century Montaukett Native American who traveled between Sag Harbor and Montauk. The term Paumanok itself is a generational translation of a Native American name for the whole of Long Island. A hiker soaking in the ever-changing views of the Paumanok Path is passing through the traditional homelands of some of the island’s Indigineous people, namely the Setalcott, Unkechaug, Corchaug, Shinnecock, and Montaukett.
Similar to the famed Appalachian Trail, the Paumanok Path (officially completed in 2016) follows white blazes, along with its own blue placards to mark major intersections. For thru-hiking fans, however, few designated campsites yet exist on the Paumanok Path, though there are many campgrounds near the trail (requiring some logistics for a multi-day haul of the trail’s full distance). While piecemealing the camp-stops shouldn’t deter those seeking the ultimate Long Island hiking trip, most travelers won’t consider the entire 125-mile trail. Rather, one of the following top day-trip sections along the route (from west to east) will be the way to explore and experience the best of Long Island’s Paumanok Path.