Don’t let the name fool you. The Central Pine Barrens—a wild landscape at the heart of Long Island—are anything but barren. The rolling-hill terrain shaped by the most recent glacial age is marked by pine and scrub oak forest, with loose, sandy soil and spring-fed creeks full of aquatic life. The sound of song birds fill the canopy. And along the forest edge, you’ll find sprawling ferns, wildflowers, and fruiting blueberry bushes.
For trail runners and hikers seeking to explore these preserved woods, Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest is a fitting destination. The Red and Blue trails here combine to make a 10.5-mile loop—the perfect length for a moderately challenging trail run or long day-hike. And it’s all tucked away from the bustle of Long Island off state Route 25A.
Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest has over 5,000 acres of land managed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Along with the Red and Blue trails, there are dirt roads and trails for horseback riding and mountain biking.
The land, once home to the Setalcott people, saw use in the first half of the 20th century by the Radio Corporation of America, before RCA grew into an electronics household name. When radio communication transmission technology became obsolete, the company handed over the land to the state. Run the state forest trails, however, and you’re likely to spot some of the historical remnants of the company’s presence.
The best time to visit Rocky Point may be the summer, when the forest is a fresh green and flowers and berries are in bloom. Though, Rocky Point also makes a solid case for the winter, when it’s easy to find solitude on a pair of cross-country skis—on the occurrence, that is, eastern Long Island receives a good winter storm.