Hiking Hither Hills State Park
Beyond East Hampton and Amagansett, on the far eastern reach of Long Island’s south fork is Hither Hills State Park—an expanse of rolling hills, dunes of fine brown sand, gnarled scrub oak and fragrant mountain laurel. Extending from the Atlantic to Napeague Bay, Hither Hills offers hikers, birders, and a few hunters, access to a dynamic ecosystem of rare birds, plants and an ever-changing landscape of wind-blown sand.
Hither Hills State Park
At a modest 3,000 acres, Hither Hills is a park that can be experienced in a single day, though many visitors choose to spend two or more. Unlike other state parks in the greater metro region, Hither Hills is a supremely quiet place—particularly outside of the peak travel season. This is due in part to its distance from the city (3 hours by train) and the fact that the park is not well known outside the local area. So, if you’re looking for solitude and access to some amazing ocean beaches, we recommend planning a visit.
Hike Highlights for Hither Hills
For many visitors, the park’s main attraction are the Walking Dunes, a slow moving plain of blown sand that’s slowly overtaking a tree-line of craggy pine and cranberry bog. As the dune pushed southeast from the shores of Napeague Harbor, its terminal face slowly builds against the trees downwind, ultimately inundating them in an expanse of fine, golden sand. The transition is surprising for first time visitors who leave a densely wooded area and immediately descend into a landscape more reminiscent of the desert southwest.
Hither Hills is also known for the dune cliffs that plunge dramatically into the Harbor on the park’s north end. Battered by wind and salt spray, these cliffs–some rising over 100 feet–provide an amazing backdrop for walkers and photographers. Another unique feature of the area is Fresh Pond, a 36-acre body of fresh water smack-dab in the center of Hither Hills. Though reaching depths of little more than 11 feet, Fresh Pond supports abundant communities of large mouth bass, yellow perch, brown bullhead and others. Make sure to bring along your permit if packing a rod.
Staying the Night at Hither Hills
Hither Hills State Park offers one of the best beach camping experiences of any campground in the region. Literally feet from the Atlantic Ocean, campers are lulled to sleep by the sound of waves crashing against the shore. While tenters might not appreciate the multitude of RVs that dominate the grounds, it’s a small price to pay for direct access to the water, an amazing beach and some great hiking. Due to the popularity of the campground it’s not a particularly cheap place to spend the weekend. Rates range from $28-$64/night depending on whether you’re a state resident. They also charge a $9 reservation fee. Unfortunately, Hither Hills does not permit backcountry camping.
Getting to Hither Hills
Visiting Hither Hills requires a modest commitment of time and money. The trip from Penn Station to Montauk Station—the station closest to the park, and the LIRR’s eastern terminus on the south fork—takes just over 3 hours and often requires more than one transfer. But even with that in mind, it’s still a very pleasant trip. The new double-decker cars are quiet and the scenery of the south shore beyond the city is varied and increasingly scenic as you near your destination. Roundtrip, off-peak, tickets cost $39.50.
From the Montauk Station, it’s roughly 3-miles to the campground. The 10C commuter bus provides regular transport from the station to Hither Hills and points west. The $2.25 fare is purchased on board; bring exact change. If you’d like to explore Montauk Point, the S94 bus offers direct service from Montauk Village for $2.25.