Hiking in the Hamptons: Mashomack Preserve

A hidden gem on Shelter Island!

If you happen to find yourself on the East End of Long Island in New York, there are some absolutely fantastic hiking trails at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island. Located just north of the Hamptons – a very popular summer vacation destination – Mashomack Preserve remains relatively unknown. If you enjoy hiking and the outdoors, you definitely need to explore this preserve! It encompasses 2,039 acres of creeks, woodlands, and marshes – including 11 miles of coastline. The trails are excellently maintained, and best of all it’s family-friendly.

Here’s what you can expect if you visit!

Wooden sign in green forest
Entrance to Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island.

Getting There

Shelter Island is located in between the North Fork and South Fork of Long Island. It’s only accessible via ferry: from Greenport using the north ferry or from North Haven using the south ferry. The ferry rides are short (5-10 minutes long), and if you’re traveling with children they will be quite memorable for the little ones! You can even get out of your car to enjoy the view as you cross the water onto the island!

White ferry boat crossing water
Ferry boat heading toward Shelter Island.

The Boardwalk

After entering Mashomack Preserve, the first thing you’ll want to do is walk down the boardwalk – a short (approximate 1/4 mile long) loop by the visitor’s center. It’s a nice way to start things off before hitting the trails.

Wooden boardwalk in a green forest
View looking down the boardwalk at Mashomack Preserve.

The Red Trail

There are four main trails at Mashomack Preserve: the Red Trail (1.4 miles long), the Yellow Trail (0.9 miles long), the Green Trail (2.4 miles long), and the Blue Trail (4.3 miles long). Here is a link to the trail map.

Red trail sign marking nailed to a tree in a forest
Red Trail marker.

The Red Trail is the first of the trails, and is a loop that starts once you finish the boardwalk (near the visitor’s center). As I mentioned before, the trails are really well-maintained. Here is a picture of the Red Trail:

Hiking trail through a green forest
View of the Red Trail in Mashomack Preserve.

Note: if you’re exploring the trails with young children, you can take a stroller down the Red Trail so long as it is a rugged stroller like a BOB Stroller:

Alternatively, a good hiking baby carrier backpack will definitely come in handy:

As you proceed down the Red Trail, you’ll have a number of scenic views of marshes and wetlands. Some parts of the trail will look onto an area known as Miss Annie’s Creek:

Green marsh and wetlands with water in the background in a forest
Wetlands and Miss Annie’s Creek in Mashomack Preserve.

Along the Red Trail you’ll also find a number of informational signs and stations, which not only explain what you’re looking at but also really enliven the hiking experience! If you’re hiking with children, these signs will be a huge hit.

Informational sign explaining salt marshes found on the Red Trail.

At about the midpoint of the Red Trail is a picturesque gazebo:

Wooden gazebo in a forest with water in the background
A gazebo on the Red Trail.

Right next to the gazebo is a clearing that offers beautiful views of Miss Annie’s Creek (foreground) and Smith Cove (background):

View of Miss Annie’s Creek and Smith Cove.

Heading onward from the gazebo, you can choose to continue exploring Mashomack Preserve by taking one of the other colored trails, or continuing on the Red Trail which will loop you back to the visitor’s center and the entrance of the preserve.

Red and green trail sign markers on a wooden post in a forest
Red Trail and Green Trail markers.

If you stay on the Red Trail, you can finish a cute rhyming children’s story which is told on numbered signs along the Red Trail:

Green sign with the number ten and ten foxes
Rhyming children’s story told along the Red Trail.

Shortly after the last sign of the rhyming children’s story, you’ll find yourself back at the start of the Red Trail and the entrance to Mashomack Preserve!

After Hiking

If you’re traveling to/from Mashomack Preserve and Shelter Island from the South Fork of Long Island, then after you finish hiking you can head to Sag Harbor (one of the best places in the Hamptons!). Be sure to get a tasty treat from Big Olaf’s – the best ice cream shop around! – and walk around Windmill Beach and the Waterfront Marina enjoying your ice cream and the many exquisite boats and yachts in Sag Harbor Bay:

Blue sailboat in water
A blue sailboat in Sag Harbor Bay.
Yachts docked at the Waterfront Marina in Sag Harbor.

Protecting Against Ticks

The East End of Long Island is known for an abundance of ticks, especially during the warmer months of the year. If you visit Mashomack Preserve or other hiking areas, please keep this in mind and take the following precautions to prevent tick bites:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily
  • Wear pants and long sleeves; tuck pants into socks and tuck shirts into pants
  • Wear closed shoes
  • Walk in the center of trails
  • Avoid bushy, grassy areas with tall grass and leaf litter – these tend to be tick-infested areas
  • Check your clothing for ticks while hiking and after you come indoors
  • Check your body for ticks after you come indoors
  • Check children and pets for ticks
  • Shower soon after coming indoors, as this can wash off ticks
  • Use insect repellent specifically formulated for ticks

As far as insect repellents, three chemicals are known to repel ticks: DEET, Picaridin, and Permethrin. DEET and Picaridin can be applied to skin; Permethrin can be applied to clothing and gear only. Here are some great tick repellent options to consider:

Have you gone hiking in the Hamptons? Have you been to Mashomack Preserve? Let me know in the comments below!

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