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Low Impact Bicycle Rides in the New York / Long Island / Hudson Valley Region


LONG ISLAND (Nassau/Suffolk County) BIKEWAYS

1. Bethpage Bikeway, Bethpage State Park
LAST RIDE:
May, 2013

One of Long Island's most popular "low-impact" trails, the 7.6 mile Bethpage Bikeway connects Bethpage State Park with Merrick Road in Massapequa.  Although not yet officially opened, a recent extension of the bikeway further allows cyclists to continue, entirely off-road, to Woodbury, where on-street bike lanes connect with the Syosset LIRR station.  Stay tuned for details!

The current bikeway includes a few parkway exit crossings and a few moderately busy street crossings along the way, but nothing to worry about if you're riding with kids.  All crossings are clearly marked and drivers are generally courteous and alert. The only major road crossing is at Sunrise Highway, near the southern end of the trail, but even this is made pretty safe by a stop light and crossing lane.  

 

If the distance of this path is too much for you, you can turn around at any point.  The main highlight is Bethpage Park itself, which hosts many family and corporate picnics in the warm weather and is also the home of the famous "Black Course," site of the 2009 US Golf Open. 

 

Along the path, which parallels the Bethpage State Parkway, you'll come across a few places to stop for food or refreshments, but I'd suggest bringing at least a water bottle.  If it's not too buggy, there's a lake toward the southern end that might make a good spot for a picnic.  Mostly, the Bethpage Bikeway is designed for riding!

 

Take the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway to the Bethpage State Park exit and enter where you see signs for the picnic grounds.  Note that there's a parking fee during the season.  Ask anyone in the parking lot where the paved trail begins.  I'd recommend "warming up" a bit before you hit the path, because it starts with a small hill that might be a little tough for beginners and out-of-shapers.  Otherwise, here are some tips for the path:  

 

Tip #1: There will come a point, when you reach the end of the Bethpage Parkway, where you will be faced with a decision about which of two overpasses to cross.  (If you're tired or not up to a challenge, you'll also have to decide whether to cross either overpass at all!)  Go straight ahead and cross the very steep overpass in front of you.  The one that cuts in from the right of the path leads to a badly broken up path on the other side of the parkway.  I used to tell people to cross over and ride this path back to Bethpage Park, but it's gotten progressively worse over the years.  At this point, I wouldn't even ride it with mountain tires and full suspension.  You'll have more fun riding a bona fide MTB trail.  

 

Tip #2: Right after the overpass described above, you'll come to a sign that reads "Welcome to Massapequa Park."  This is North Linden Street.  If you cross it, you can continue on the path all the way to Sunrise Highway.  But, if you have a mountain bike and you want to spice up the ride a little, cross the street, turn right, then ride along the sidewalk a short distance until you see an opening in the fence and the beginning of a dirt path.  This is NOT a dirt path like the kind you would see on a mountain bike trail.  It's a wide path with a hard-packed dirt surface.  I thought it might be for hikers only, but nobody around there seems to think so.  Anyway, you can ride this path through the woods all the way around the next pond, then meet up with the paved path again further down.  Just an idea.

 

Tip #3: If and when you reach Sunrise Highway (27A), the trail will appear to end.  If you'd like to continue to Merrick Road, carefully cross Sunrise Highway at the traffic light and make a right onto the sidewalk. Continue a short distance and you'll see a trail re-entrance on your left. 

 

Bethpage Bikeway to Jones Beach (avoiding Merrick Road !)

Here's a connection that many bikers make all the time using highly-trafficked Merrick Road.  However, you can actually get from the end of the Bethpage Bikeway to the entrance to Cedar Creek Park without having to risk your life.  


Just as you come around the last curve of the Bethpage Bikeway (~ 1 block before Merrick Road ) you’ll see a small concrete spur on the right leading off the path to a side street ( Ocean Avenue).  Exit the path here, then follow the directions below:

·        At the end of the concrete spur, turn right onto Ocean Avenue and ride a short distance to Prospect Place .

·        Veer left on Prospect Place and go straight 2/10 mile to Hicksville Road. 

·        Make a left onto Hicksville Road and a right at the first corner onto Maple Street. 

·        Take Maple Street 3/10 mile to Seaford Avenue. 

·        Make a left onto Seaford Avenue.

·        Continue 1/10 mile and enter the Tackapausha Preserve on your right. 

·        Use the paved path that skirts the pond, continually bearing right (do not head toward Merrick Road.)  Eventually, you’ll see a small opening in a fence and the paved path will end. 

·        Enter a path with a wood chip surface for about 100 feet.  Look to the left for an opening in the fence and exit the path here.  Now you’ll be on the grounds of the Takapausha Museum.  Get on the paved path and exit the museum parking lot onto Washington Avenue.  

·        Make a right onto Washington Avenue and go 1/10 mile to the first left turn, which is Waverly Avenue (United Methodist Church on corner).  

·        Make a left onto Waverly, cross under Rt. 135, and continue to the end (at 9/10 mile).  

·        Make a left onto Willoughby Avenue and go 2/10 mile toward Merrick Road.  

·        Before reaching Merrick Road, make a right into the shopping strip and ride behind the stores 1/10 mile to Spruce Avenue. 

·        Make a right onto Spruce and go 1/10 mile to Walters Avenue. 

·        Make a left onto Walters Avenue and proceed 1/10 mile to Fir Street.  

·        Make a left onto Fir Street and continue 1/10 mile to Merrick Road.  Cedar Creek Park will be directly across the street.  This is the exit, but it is safer to cross here (at the light) than to cross into the entrance, which is one block further.

 

NOTE:  The NY State Department of Transportation is presently working on an extension of the Bethpage Bikeway north to Woodbury Road in Woodbury, where street signage will lead cyclists as far as the Syosset LIRR station.  

 

2. Cedar Creek Park To Jones Beach
via Wantagh Parkway / Ellen Farrant Memorial Bikeway
EXTENDED TO OCEANFRONT FOR SUMMER OF 2013! 

Cool off on a hot summer day with this popular bike and roller blade route to one of Long Island's most famous and popular south shore beaches.  It's a safe, paved 5 mile trail that runs along the Wantagh State Parkway to the East Bath House at Jones Beach, crossing three bridges and passing Zacks' Bay and the historic Jones Beach Theater, where major artists perform outdoors all summer long.  At the end of the bikeway, you can enjoy a refreshing dip in either the ocean or the bay.  

 

Food and refreshments are available when the beach is open, as are picnic facilities.  If you don't mind walking (or walking your bike) about a 1/2 mile from the East Bath House along the boardwalk, you can make your way to the main promenade of Jones Beach, where you’ll find a snack bar with outdoor eating, a gift shop, an ice cream stand, and more.  Bicycling is permitted on the boardwalk between October 1 and March 1 only.

 

The ride from Cedar Creek Park to the beach is all along the water, so there's always a cool breeze blowing.  In fact, novice riders may find the wind a little frustrating, especially when ascending one of the three moderate hills along the route.  However, the wind is usually only a factor as you're heading toward the beach.  A tailwind usually makes the return trip a worthwhile payoff!  One warning: This trail can get very crowded in the summer months and many of the users are roller bladers who need more clearance than bicyclists. Be careful and be sure to let bladers, walkers, and joggers know you're coming!

 

To get to Cedar Creek Park, take the Wantagh State Parkway to exit W6 (Merrick Road East). The entrance to the park comes up shortly on your right. Continue until you see a parking field in front of a covered picnic area. The entrance to the trail is to the right of the picnic area. Just follow the riders and skaters.

 

NOTES:  1) This path is maintained by the Massapequa Park Bicycle Club.  Visit their website at www.massparkbikeclub.org  to say thanks!  2) Just north of the last bridge before the beach, a gravel walkway leads to the water, where a wooden boardwalk carries walkers under the bridge and to the opposite side of the parkway, where some type of surprise (a park?) seems to be under construction.  This side-route is intended for pedestrians only, and a sign warns "No Bicycles."

 

Westbury To Jones Beach via Wantagh Parkway Bike Trail  

Here's an extended version of the above trail for anyone ambitious enough to ride all the way from Westbury to Jones Beach

 

Please note that the trail north of Cedar Creek is in pretty poor condition, although some repairs were made in 2007. Many of the sections come dangerously close to the parkway itself, and there are also several exit ramp crossings along the way. There's also some on-road riding which varies from quiet neighborhood streets to some major roads. This ride (north of Cedar Creek) is not recommended for inexperienced riders or for road bikes.  It is, however, a satisfying 30 + mile round trip with a refreshing pay-off (swimming or foot-soaking at Zack's Bay) in the middle.

 

The trail actually begins at Brush Hollow Road in Westbury, but parking is limited here and the trail entrance is not easily accessible. A better starting point is Exit W2 (Old Country Road East) off the Wantagh Parkway. It's only about 1.5 miles south of Brush Hollow Road, so you won't miss much.

 

After you exit at Old Country Road East, make your first possible right turn onto Apex Lane. Next, take an immediate right onto Acre Lane. A2/10 of a mile, directly across from house # 167, there's an opening in the fence on your right that leads onto the path. Make a left and head south. 

 

Take the path approximately 4.5 miles until the pavement ends and bear left to Park Drive. To get around the Southern State Parkway and continue on the path, you'll have to ride some neighborhood streets for a bit.  Here's how to do it:

 

Make a right onto Park Drive and ride 3/10 mile to Weaving Lane. Make a right on Weaving Lane.  Ride 6/10 mile to Willowood Drive. Make a right onto Willowood. Ride 6/10 mile, pass Sand Hill Park and make a right onto Sand Hill Road. Ride 3/10 mile to Wantagh Avenue. Make a right onto Wantagh Avenue. Cross over the Southern State Parkway, 3/10 mile to Duck Pond Drive North. Make a right on Duckpond Drive North and ride 8/10 mile through neighborhood streets until you see Deer Road on the left.  Pass Deer Road and on your right you'll see a piece of undeveloped property. In the far corner of this property, you'll find an entrance to the southern portion of the trail.

 

At first, the trail will be dirt and will twist and wind through trees and grass. In fact, for a few minutes, it might appear there is no trail at all.  Don't worry.  After a short while, it will connect with a paved path that leads out of Wantagh High School. If you'd like to skip the Westbury to Wantagh portion of this trail and use Wantagh High School as your starting point, use the following directions:

Southern State Parkway to Exit 28 South ( Wantagh Avenue ).  Take Wantagh Avenue approximately 1/2 mile to Jerusalem Avenue. Make a right onto Jerusalem, less than 1/2 mile until you see the Wantagh High School ball fields on your left. Right after the fence around the ballfields, there's a small opening that leads onto the trail heading south.

 

Anyway, back to the trail itself. Although I haven't yet clocked the mileage on this central portion of the trail, I'd estimate it's about two miles from the entrance on Duck Pond (a little shorter from Wantagh High School) until the end at Park Avenue in Wantagh.  At Park Avenue, make a right, pass the Mill Pond Preserve on your right, and make a left onto Old Mill Road.  Follow Old Mill Road along the southern portion of the Nature Preserve about 1/2 mile to Sunrise Highway (Note: If you're in the mood for a short nature walk, you can actually enter this nature preserve off of Park Avenue, dismount your bike and walk through it until you get to an opening in the fence further south. Bike riding is not permitted here, though.)

 

When you reach Sunrise Highway (a very busy intersection), look across the road to your left for a sign that says "Welcome To Wantagh." Just west of this sign is an entrance to the southbound Wantagh Parkway . Find a safe place to cross Sunrise Highway and get on the paved path at the parkway entrance. Immediately after you get on the parkway, bear right on the trail over a small bridge and continue around Mill Pond Lake.  It may get buggy around here, so keep your mouth closed!  This path ends at a small park that faces Merrick Road.

 

Find a safe place to cross Merrick Road and head east (left) approximately 3/4 mile to Cedar Creek Park on the right.  (Do not accidently enter Wantagh Park!  Keep going until you see the sign for Cedar Creek.)  Be careful crossing the parkway on and off ramps.  Get on the bike path at Cedar Creek and ride approximately 1/2 mile to the opening in the fence that leads onto the Ellen Farrant Memorial Bikeway.  This will take you the remaining 4.5 miles to Jones Beach on well-maintained pavement.

To use Cedar Creek park as a starting point, see the directions above.

 

NOTES ON YOUR RETURN TRIP:

1. When you reach Park Drive (not Park Avenue), your landmark for the path entrance is Lawn Circle on your right. The entrance is shortly before Lawn Circle on the left side of the road.

 

2. Remember how the portion of the trail between Duckpond Drive and the Wantagh High School alternated between dirt and pavement? On the way up north, be sure that, when the pavement veers right toward Wantagh High School, you bear left onto the dirt path and continue all the way back to Duck Pond Drive.

 

3.The exit trail for Old Country Road is just before the exit ramp from the parkway itself. This trail will lead you back to Acre Lane, just across from house # 167.