Take A Break From Busy City Life At This Beautiful New York State Park

An escape from New York City east of the Long Island peninsula can sometimes be just as crowded and costly as staying in the Big Apple. But nature and wide-open spaces can be found at one unique Montauk-area state park: Hither Hills. Relaxing hikes, ocean views, and nights spent under the stars are all a regular part of the Hither Hills experience. The park spans 1,755 acres and contains a whopping 189 camping sites. As a result, the spot is often considered a camping destination — not a quick day trip — for friend groups and families looking to get away from the hustle and bustle.

Bring a tent or camper van and find a spot just steps from the nearby Bathing Beach. Then, venture into the park's green spaces known for their biodiversity (Hither Hills is one of the top ten parks for biodiversity in the entire state of New York). Explore the forests' Russian olive, shad, oak, and pine trees, then venture into the region where cranberries, flowers, and other plants thrive.

Hither Hills is the perfect backdrop for quality time with family or quiet introspection away from skyscrapers and honking taxis. You might even forget that the big city is just a short road trip away.

What to do at Hither Hills

Hither Hills offers reprieve from packed schedules and demanding agendas, so there's no need to plan your trip meticulously. However, if you prefer to have an idea of how to fill your time, the park offers a variety of fun outdoor activities. One must-do in the area is visiting the Walking Dunes Trail, located on the park's western edge. From some angles, the breathtaking sand dunes look like a snapshot from a faraway desert — a rare sight for Long Island. You'll also find many of Hither Hills' trails ideal for cycling or running, making the park the perfect place to kickstart that workout plan you've been considering. After all, you might feel more inspired to move here for the accessible terrain. 

Away from the trails, there are several other ways to enjoy the natural environment. Consider horseback riding for a different view of the beautiful scenery, or head to the water to try your hand at fishing. Hunting is sometimes permitted; however, you must have a hunting license and, where applicable, a permit. Check about hunting season restrictions and other requirements before arriving at the park. Given Hither Hills' proximity to the ocean, it's also a prime spot for a beach day. When conditions allow, go for a relaxing swim or learn how to windsurf.

Things to know before your visit

Hither Hills State Park is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive outside the city on the west side of Montauk. While there are hotels and resorts nearby, the best way to savor the park's beauty is by camping on its grounds. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation notes that the peak season for camping is between June and September, so be sure to book in advance to secure your spot.

Near the camping area, you'll find amenities such as restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and a playground for children. There's also an on-site convenience store, but for more shopping and food options, drive a few miles east to Montauk's city center.

Be sure to abide by all park rules during your visit. If you have a motorhome or trailer, note that it can't be parked in parking lots on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Additionally, dogs and other pets aren't allowed at the park, so it's best to leave your pooch at home with a pet sitter. Finally, make sure you visit the park at the correct time. Hither Hills State Park is open every day of the year, between sunrise and sunset, but camping isn't permitted in the winter months.