This 15-mile hike traverses about half of the 32-mile-long Long Island Greenbelt Trail. Except for one section in the middle of the hike, where the route crosses the Ronkonkoma Moraine, the trail is nearly level. There are a few short roadwalks, and some sections of the trail are adjacent to developed areas, but for the most part, the hike proceeds through pleasant wooded areas. A special...
This 15-mile hike traverses about half of the 32-mile-long Long Island Greenbelt Trail. Except for one section in the middle of the hike, where the route crosses the Ronkonkoma Moraine, the trail is nearly level. There are a few short roadwalks, and some sections of the trail are adjacent to developed areas, but for the most part, the hike proceeds through pleasant wooded areas. A special feature of this hike is its accessibility by public transportation, as both ends of the hike are situated at stations of the Long Island Rail Road.
From the Great River railroad station, head south on Connetquot Avenue for about 500 feet to Union Boulevard (you can follow an informal path along the west side of the road). Turn left and head east on Union Boulevard until you see a white blaze of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail, which bears left and enters the woods. After passing through a pine grove, the trail reaches Montauk Highway (NY 27A). It turns left, follows the highway overpass over the Long Island Rail Road tracks, then turns left at a sign for the Westbrook Sports Complex. The trail bears right at a “stop” sign and reenters the woods.
A short distance ahead, the trail crosses the West Brook, turns left and follows along the east side of the brook. It then turns left again and parallels the busy Sunrise Highway (NY 27). It soon turns right and crosses under the highway on a catwalk with a low clearance (you may have to duck), then climbs a flight of stairs and turns left, again paralleling the highway.
The trail turns left at the entrance to Connetquot River State Park Preserve and continues along the entrance road, passing a toll booth and a parking area on the left. For the next 4.5 miles, you’ll traverse this preserve. Just beyond the parking area, the trail turns left again, but you may want to take a short detour to visit an interesting historic building, which is just ahead.
The oldest portion of this building was built as a tavern in 1820. Subsequently, the property was acquired by the South Side Sportsmen’s Club of Long Island, which enlarged the building and used it as their headquarters. The park office, where maps and information are available, is in the most northerly portion of the building and is open Wednesdays through Sundays.
For the next mile, the Greenbelt Trail follows the route of the park’s Yellow Trail (the route is marked with both yellow and white blazes). After turning right and passing a barn, the trail bears left, leaving the paved road, and follows a path in the woods parallel to the road. Interpretive signs along the path provide information on the park and its flora and fauna.
Soon after crossing the road, the trail reaches the park’s Fish Hatchery. Here, the yellow blazes depart to the right, and you should take care to follow the white blazes, which briefly follow a road. Soon the trail bears right and begins to parallel the Connetquot River.
In another mile, you’ll begin to hear the sounds of traffic on Veterans Memorial Highway (NY 454). As it approaches the highway, the trail turns right onto a sandy road and reaches a fence. Hikers go through a gate in the fence, cross the busy highway at a crosswalk, and proceed through a gate on the other side, where the trail continues on a wide woods road. In a short distance, the trail crosses an abandoned paved road and continues on a footpath.
In another third of a mile, the trail turns left and crosses a boardwalk over a wet area. It then bears left at a fork and immediately turns right onto a woods road, with houses visible on the right. The trail now crosses under the Ronkonkoma Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, leaving Connetquot River State Park Preserve and entering Lakeland County Park.
Just ahead, you’ll reach Honeysuckle Pond, which feeds the Connetquot River. The trail turns right to skirt the pond, turns left onto a long boardwalk, then turns left onto a dirt road, with views over the pond. Before reaching a basketball court, the trail turns right onto a paved path, passing a parking lot for the park on the left.
The trail now leaves the park and turns right onto Johnson Avenue. It follows the street for only 200 feet, then turns left at a sign for the Greenbelt Trail and reenters the woods, proceeding through a pine grove. Soon, the trail bears left at a chain-link fence and follows along the fence for about a quarter mile (portions of the fence are missing).
Upon reaching the service road for the Long Island Expressway, the trail turns right and follows along the service road to the underpass at Terry Road. You’re now at the halfway point of the hike. The trail turns left, goes under the expressway, and continues ahead on Terry Road until it reaches a power line right-of-way. Here, the trail turns left and follows under the power lines for about 500 feet, then turns right, into the woods. It bears right at the next two forks and passes a horse farm on the left.
In about half a mile, the trail crosses Old Nichols Road. A 7-11 convenience store is located a short distance to the right, and you might want to stop at the store for refreshments. The trail reenters the woods, passing the back yards of homes on the left.
Soon, the trail turns right and climbs a small hill. The ascent is relatively minimal, but this is the first time on the hike that you’ve encountered a climb of a natural feature. You’re now crossing the Ronkonkoma Moraine, a glacial moraine that runs the length of Long Island. At the top of the hill, the trail bears left and begins to descend.
Next, the trail climbs another hill. With houses visible ahead at the top of the hill, the trail bears left and descends to power lines. It turns right and follows the power lines, climbing a little, then bears right at a fork in the power lines and reaches the Long Island Motor Parkway.
The trail crosses the road and reenters the woods at a gate. You’ll notice that a separate route is provided for mountain bikes here. The trail now climbs once more and reaches three viewpoints, marked by benches. The view from the first bench has largely grown in, but there are limited views to the north and northeast from the next two benches.
The trail now descends rather steeply. With a recreational complex and pool visible on the right, the trail bears left, and it soon begins to run along a chain-link fence – the boundary of a golf course on the left. The Greenbelt Trail briefly joins a woods road and runs concurrently with a blue dot-on-yellow-blazed trail.
After turning right, away from the golf course, the Greenbelt Trail enters the Hidden Pond Park of the Town of Islip. It bears left at a picnic area and passes Hidden Pond, which is dry for much of the year. Take care to follow the white blazes through this area, as the trail makes a number of turns and intersects several trails with other blazes.
At the end of the park, the trail turns right and follows a narrow corridor between chain link fences, with the golf course on the left and backyards of homes on the right. It soon reaches Town Line Road, where it turns left and follows along the road for a short distance, then turns right and crosses the road.
The trail parallels a drainage ditch, then passes by a wetland and reaches McKinley Pond, marked by a small dock on the left. Continuing along, the trail crosses a number of seasonally wet areas on short boardwalks, many of which were built as an Eagle Scout project. After going across a grassy field, it crosses the Nissequogue River on a metal-grate footbridge and turns right. The trail then goes over a long stretch of boardwalk and several shorter boardwalks, and it passes by condominiums on the left.
The trail soon reaches the busy Nesconset Highway (NY 347). Although a crosswalk is provided, the traffic on this highway is very heavy, and extreme care must be exercised when crossing the road. At this writing, there is a construction project underway on the opposite side of the road. Hikers should turn right and follow the road until they see a sign for the Greenbelt Trail at the end of the construction area. The trail turns left, skirts the construction area, then heads into the woods.
Soon, the trail comes out at the intersection of South Avenue and West Avenue. It turns left and follows West Avenue to a dead-end, then continues ahead into the woods. For the next mile or so, the trail traverses pleasant woods. After a while, it crosses a bridge over a stream and parallels the back yards of homes. A short distance beyond, it passes behind a shopping center and reaches an intersection with a sandy road at a graffiti-scarred kiosk.
The trail turns left onto the road, crosses a footbridge over the Nissequoque River, then continues along an abandoned paved road which curves to the left and begins to parallel Hauppauge Road (NY 111). The trail turns right onto Wood Hollow Road, crosses Hauppauge Road at the intersection, then turns left and parallels the road. It soon re-enters the woods, following a corridor between homes on the right and the highway on the left. In a short distance, the trail curves to the right. After passing the scenic Miller Pond on the right, the Greenbelt Trail reaches a parking area for the pond along Maple Avenue. Here, it turns right, crosses the dam of the pond, then bears left and again reaches Maple Avenue.
Turn right and head north on Maple Avenue. The Greenbelt Trail turns left onto Wildwood Lane, but to reach the Smithtown railroad station, you should proceed ahead on Maple Avenue for half a mile to West Main Street (NY 25). Turn left onto West Main Street, then turn right onto Redwood Lane, which leads to the Smithtown Long Island Rail Road station on the Port Jefferson Branch.
This one-way hike, with rail transportation available at each end, traverses the scenic Connetquot River State Park Preserve and goes by several interesting ponds.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.