(This article first appeared in the March 22, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
With no winter storms in sight, it’s safe to say spring is in the air. As the weather outside slowly transitions from chilly temperatures to brisk breezes, hiking is an ideal way to get outdoors and acclimate to changing conditions.
More than a simple walk in the park, hiking trails are a bit more challenging and offer physical benefits. According to Harvard Health Publications, uneven surfaces during a hiking trail, unlike treadmills or other flat surfaces, are a natural way to engage core muscles and trigger balancing skills. In addition, spending time in nature can naturally relieve stress, lowering blood pressure and risk of heart disease.
Beyond benefits for the body, nature walks can fight depression. A Stanford-led study found hiking in serene settings, not those related to an urban landscape, decreases negative emotions.
With an abundant amount of trails on the East End it’s hard to select only a few to feature. After all, each pathway provides its own unique attributes. So, here are five must visit parks for the 2017 season.
- Sound View Dunes Park in Southold is a 57-acre location named after the magnificent views of the Long Island Sound along Sound View Avenue. There are two trail options. A beach trail best described as a leisure walk of one third of a mile, takes you through the dunes. A forest trail provides about a mile of dune and wooded landscape. Its hiking skill level is moderate.
- Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, also known as the ‘Jewel of the Peconic,’ is a scenic location encompassing around 2100 acres, totaling a third of Shelter Island. With wildlife all around, this hiking only trail makes for a relaxing, undisturbed exercise. Its skill level is easy.
- Sears Bellows County Park located on Bellows Pond Road in Hampton Bays is situated on 979 acres. A location perfect for families, it offers an array of activities aside from the five-mile hike. Skill level is easy.
- Camp Hero State Park in Montauk was a former US Air Force Base. It boasts 415 acres of landscape diversity. In addition to the forest trails and Atlantic Ocean beachfront, there are rising bluffs that provide views of Block Island on a clear day. With two trails, the 2.9 mile Point Woods Loop Trail and the 3.6 mile Montauk Point Park Trail, the skill level for both is rated easy.
- Also in Montauk with historic charm, Theodore Roosevelt County Park is the site of the oldest cattle ranch in the United States with 1126 acres of land. With three and a half miles of nature trails and five miles of bridle paths, enjoy a stroll through time. Skill level is easy.
As we say good-bye, and good riddance, to the cold days of winter, it’s time to welcome sunnier and warmer pathways ahead. With each new step moving toward a healthier, happier life.