Hiking Long Island

home mission membership
fyi gift ideas paumanok path  long island
trail lovers coalition
links path partners explore

people hiking on beach trail

Back by popular demand .... the East Hampton Trail Maps!
Image of Ken with dwarf pines

The Dwarf Pitch Pines

Recently a Newsday science reporter asked me how a person could visit the globally rare dwarf pines.  Years ago when I used to just wander around the woods aimlessly, I often found myself surrounded by Long Island’s pygmy pitch pines.  I knew that at Exit 63 where County Road 31 cut across Sunrise Highway there were a lot of those cute little fellas.  I also knew that it was hard to find a place near there, where I would feel comfortable leaving my car.  There are some places on CR 31 south of Sunrise Highway and north of Gabreski Airport that may be appropriate for parking.  There is a patchwork of landowners there including Suffolk County Water Authority, State, and County Parks.  I think it would be prudent to ask permission and guidance before you park your car in this area.

The Paumanok Path offers access to a trail that leads to the portion of the dwarf pitch pine forest north of Sunrise Highway.  If you wish to visit this pygmy pine community it would be ill advised to set out on your hike without a trail map and a compass.  Read the directions that follow and you will understand why.

From the parking lot (see below) follow a DEC yellow trail west for approximately a half-mile.  It is a DEC convention that access trails are yellow.  Both of the yellow DEC trails that you walk on today give access to a large red loop trail to the north.  Just before you reach the Paumanok Path, the yellow trail splits into two directions.  The trail you want to follow travels west and slightly south.  After a short distance you will arrive at the Paumanok Path.  Turn right and follow the white rectangular blazes west for approximately a half-mile.  When you reach where the Path intersects another yellow trail turn left (south).  You are now in County Park land, so you wont see any yellow blazes.  This trail runs straight south to Sunrise Highway.  The low growing bear oak is crowding back into the trail.  The reticulated branches can pull at your clothes, or if you aren’t careful scrape your face.

As you head south to the land of the pygmies notice that the pitch pines are on the average getting smaller and smaller, until just before you reach the highway many of the fully mature trees are only about five feet tall.  If you have a map like the one Larry Paul created for the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference and a compass it is easy to see how to create a loop trail incorporating West Hampton Road to take you back to the Paumanok Path, west of where you left it.

The soil here is primarily silica.  The nutrients are locked up in the woody pine needles and oak leaves produced by these plants.  The low pH of the leaves and the extreme permeability of the soil doesn’t allow for rapid decay.  These plants depend on fire to free up the nutrients in the accumulated organic matter on the woods floor.  The small pines have adapted to fire to an even greater extent than their larger cousins.  They have a thicker insulation of spongy bark, a wide root system that can sprout new plants if there is too much fire damage above ground.  These little pines, even to a greater extent than the common pitch pines have serotinous cones that depend on the heat of a fire to free the seeds from the cones.

To get to the David Sarnoff Preserve State Department of Environmental Conservation parking lot in Riverhead:

The dirt parking lot is on the west side of C.R. 104 midway between where the road intersects with C.R. 105 to the north and C.R. 31 to the south.  From the Riverhead circle take C.R. 104 south approximately 2 miles.  From Sunrise Highway heading east, take Exit 63 (C.R. 31 North) to C.R. 104 North.  Travel a short distance and the Parking lot will be on the left side of the road.

When looking at the map on one of the two informational kiosks by the parking lot, it is important to realize that the Paumanok Path is not shown otherwise you may be confused while hiking.

If you intend to hike on property managed by the DEC you should apply for an access permit. IT IS FREE! When you apply you are furnished with a lot of information from the DEC. Where the protected lands are, where to park, when and where there is hunting and any regulations you need to be aware of.

For the DEC permit:

For the Central / Eastern Pine Barrens Map:


Sun., April 18 – Pygmy Pines Hike. 10AM-1:30PM. Meet at the Sarnoff Preserve parking lot on the west side of County Road 104 in Riverhead. (From Riverhead circle take C.R. 104 south approximately 2 miles. From Sunrise Highway heading east, take Exit 63 (C.R. 31 North) to C.R. 104 North). Hike 7 miles of majestic and somewhat alien preserve. Bring lunch and water. Moderately-paced hilly hike.

Leader: Ken Kindler, or

Image of DEP Trail Marker


Copyright © 1999/2000/2001/2002/2003/2004 Hike-LI.com
All rights reserved.

Ken Kindler
Open Space & Trails Advocate

Web site design and management by Web Strategies
Please contact the with any comments about this Web site