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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, Woodbury to
Bethpage State Park & Massapequa

LAST RIDE:
June, 2014

One of Long Island's most popular "low-impact" trails, the 12.5 mile Bethpage Bikeway connects the Woodbury/Syosset area with Bethpage State Park and the Massapequa Preserve.  The $7 million expansion from Bethpage State Park to Woodbury Road in 2013-2014 brings this bikeway up to par with some of the best New York State has to offer. 

 

Note:  BRING WATER!  There are not many places for drinks or snacks along the bikeway!

 

Also, if you are looking for the easiest, most scenic section of this bikeway for a short, easy-paced ride, consider starting in the parking lot adjacent to the Massapequa Park LIRR station and heading north instead of south, as the following guide describes.

Technically, the bikeway begins in the vicinity of the Syosset LIRR station, as funding for the project was contingent upon bringing the bikeway to some form of mass transit station.  The DOT laid it out otherwise, but if I were to start at the train station, I would head south on Jackson Avenue one block to Convent Road and turn left.  Take Convent (a quiet country road once you get past the Jericho Water District) all the way to the end and turn right into the bike lane on Southwoods Road.  Pass the golf course on your right and continue to the first main intersection, which is Jericho Turnpike.  Cross carefully here to continue south in the bike lane on Piquets Lane. Take Piquets Lane to the end and turn right onto Woodbury Road.  Stay in the bike lane past Meyers Farm Stand, Geico Insurance, and a bunch of other buildings until you see Sunnyside Blvd (and the unflattering start of the bikeway) on the left.  Cross carefully to get to the bikeway.

 

The segment of the ride described above is a bit on the dangerous side, so I wouldn't do it with children or inexperienced cyclists.  Instead, consider driving to the small parking lot just south of Woodbury Rd and Sunnyside Blvd and starting your ride from there.  However, note that the first segment of the bikeway, from Woodbury Rd to Washington Ave, is hilly and disrupted by a few parkway/expressway on and off ramps that can challenge kids and newbie riders.  As of June, 2014, there was another parking area under construction at Washington Avenue, so you might even want to begin the ride there, instead.  From Washington Avenue south, it's a great ride for all ages. 

 

Backing up, however, to the Woodbury Rd start point, the ride up Sunnyside Blvd is a gradual uphill that could knock the wind out of a first-timer or a kid on 12"-16" wheels.  There's also very little scenery here.  Shortly after starting the ride, you will have to cross a somewhat tricky entrance/exit to the Northern State Parkway.  Then, after you've turned the corner on Sunnyside, you'll have to cross it just short of the very busy entrance to the Long Island Expressway.  This will take you to the continuation of the bikeway, which skirts the LIE Service Road all the way to Washington Ave.   This section involves a challenging climb against fast-moving traffic, although you are safely separated from the service road itself.  I only mention this for the sake of those who might not have the nerves to negotiate such a climb with the sound and stimulation of 60mph traffic roaring by.  NOTE for Experienced Riders:  If you need water at this point, cross over the LIE on Sunnyside Blvd (before turning onto the bikeway) and you will find a 7-Eleven at the corner.

 

Once at Washington Ave, the rest of the ride to Bethpage State Park is a series of gently rolling hills spread out among long, flat segments that are likely to be filled with joggers, dog walkers, strollers, and of course, other cyclists.  All major road crossings have traffic lights, and all secondary street crossings have signage advising motorists to stop for cyclists.  As you ride, keep an eye out for additional parking areas, in case you decide to use a different starting point the next time around.  Also note that there is a popular eatery (The Coliseum Kitchen) located a few blocks north of the bikeway at Old Country Road.  

As you approach Bethpage State Park, you won't know it, but you will riding over what was once the Long Island Motor Parkway, a high-speed automotive race track built across much of Long Island in the very early 1900's by William Vanderbilt and some of his other very wealthy friends.  Visit www.vanderbiltcupraces.com to learn more about these early historical automobile races.

 

Bethpage State Park itself is a good place to end this ride if you're tired or have places to be.  During the warm weather months, you'll likely run into family and corporate picnics, model airplane events, or a polo match.  Bethpage Park is also home to a very popular mountain bike trail and the famous "Black Course," site of several US Golf Opens.  Bring a picnic lunch, as there's really no food available for sale here.  Note:  You can also start your ride from here, but a parking fee (during the fair weather season) is required.  Also note that the southbound bikeway from here begins with a huge downhill that you'll have to climb up on the way back.

 

South of Bethpage State Park, the bikeway parallels the Bethpage State Parkway for a while, then eventually enters the Massapequa Preserve, with its lakes, greenery, and continuous duck-filled creeks.  This is one of the nicest sections of the ride, so if you've gotten this far, don't turn back just yet.  

 

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.

2. Cedar Creek Park To Jones Beach
via Wantagh Parkway / Ellen Farrant Memorial Bikeway
EXTENSION TO TOBAY BEACH NOW OPEN! 

Cool off on a hot summer day with this popular bike and roller blade route to some of Long Island's most famous and popular south shore beaches.  The Ellen Farrant Memorial Bikeway runs 5 miles 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 - or, you can now continue along Ocean Parkway on a dead-flat 3.6 mile bikeway extension to TOBAY Beach. 

 

Food and refreshments are available when the beaches are open, as are picnic facilities at Zack's bay.  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.  Bicycles are not allowed in the parking lot of TOBAY Beach at any time, so if you plan to hit the water or stop for a meal at any of TOBAY's waterside restaurants, bring a good lock.

 

The ride from Cedar Creek Park to Zack's Bay 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." 3) If you plan to ride the entire route from Cedar Creek to TOBAY, be sure to bring a good supply of water, unless you want to pay top dollar at one of the snack bars.  There are no stops and no call boxes between Cedar Creek and Zack's Bay or between Jones Beach and TOBAY Beach.

 

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 or TOBAY 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 35 + 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.  The extension from here to TOBAY Beach is approximately 3.6 miles and is dead-flat.

 

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.