Avalon Park and Preserve is a hidden little gem full of whimsy & wonder making it the perfect place to go for a weekend hike or day trip. Located in Stony Brook, NY.
My daughter is funny, smart, and more than just slightly obsessed with Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. She flies through novels faster than anyone I’ve ever seen and her vocabulary is really quite spectacular. Her room resembles a mini-library and wherever you turn, books are stacked precariously in towers. The mess can be rather maddening, but her love of the written word is one I am also familiar with, so I simply try not to break my neck as I step over the books to kiss her goodnight.
Needless to say, if she’s given the choice to read or go outside, she’s going to read. It’s not that she doesn’t love playing outside, it’s just that she’s more in love with wanting to finish whatever book she’s currently reading. So, my husband and I have to trick her to put down the books and enter the real world.
Over the years, we’ve learned that the fastest way to get her outside is to promise her a new adventure. One that is full of whimsy, but grounded in reality. One that lets her imagination run wild, but keeps her feet on the ground (or close to it). One that’s full of animals, but not dangerous ones. This means that we spend a lot of our time outdoors on the water or in parks and preserves like Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook.
Avalon Park and Preserve, Stony Brook, NY
Avalon Park and Preserve (map) is a hidden little gem full of whimsy and wonder making it the perfect place to go for a weekend hike. Located right in the middle of suburbia, you can spend several hours here without ever seeing any other signs of “man-made” civilization. It’s quickly become one of our most favorite places to spend the day.
We stumbled into Avalon one lazy Sunday afternoon after shoving our faces full of cheese from our favorite little eatery, C’est Cheese in Port Jeff. With our bellies full of the good stuff (I highly recommend the American Salad), we decided to go for a hike. However, we were up on the North Shore and didn’t really know where to go. Somehow, after a brief drive, we magically ended up at Avalon. It’s been our favorite place to wander ever since.
We’ve gone in the dead of winter and in the heat of summer. To be honest, it really doesn’t really matter when you go — every season is full of its own unique beauty.
The biggest misconception that we had upon entering Avalon Park was that it was a tiny little nature park. We couldn’t have been more wrong if we tried! This 8-acre park is huge and you can spend hours here depending on which path you choose to explore, especially if you cross over to Avalon Preserve, the 76-acre tract of fields and forests.
Avalon Park is full of beautiful walkways that take you around one side of the pond where you can watch the birds from several viewing spots. You can also meader about the paths with your kids and search for the numerous turtles, frogs, ducks, and chipmunks that call the park their home.
As you follow the path deeper into the woodland gardens, stone stairways take you higher and deeper into the park. While you hike, make sure you look into the paths, especially in the fall and winter, to spot the yarn bombs or “tree cozies” decorating the trees!
If you follow the signs properly, you’ll be rewarded with one of the coolest little labyrinths I’ve ever seen. It’s not a hedgerow labyrinth per say, but it’s still super cool. There are also monuments in the labyrinth and once, we even got to see the “really large tree” by the labyrinth covered in a crocheted yarn bomb masterpiece by Carol Hummel!
Just so you know, you can explore all of Avalon Park in just about an hour and a half.
Avalon Preserve, however, is much larger and not necessarily for the faint of heart. Here, deep in the woods, the trails are steeper and unpaved. They’re also riddled with roots and rocks, so you’ll need to wander carefully, especially if you’re hiking with little kids. This part of Avalon is a favorite among runners and dog walkers, so you’ll be sure to encounter others on your journey.
The preserve can be accessed from Avalon Park by taking the “RED” path and crossing over Rhododendron Road. Here, you’ll encounter steeply sloped trails that meader about trees, ferns, and several wildflower meadows that are all native to Long Island. The preserve acts as a natural habitat for rabbits, squirrels, birds, box turtles, and red foxes.
Each trail is clearly color-coded and varies in hiking distances from 0.3 – 2.2 miles. The first time we went, we visited Avalon Park and then did the 0.3 Red Trail. Overall, I would say we spent about two and a half to three hours inside of Avalon on that trip.
Things To Know Before You Go To Avalon Park and Preserve
- Sneakers are a must, especially for little kids. I had shin splints for days after wearing flip-flops on one visit!
- It can get hot out there, so make sure you bring a water bottle and sunscreen.
- If you park on Main Street or by the Grist Mill, you will need to climb all of the steps to get to the Labyrinth. If climbing isn’t your thing, drive past the Grist Mill and park on the lots on Shep Jones Lane. You’ll have a much easier time walking through the woods and meadows.
- Dogs are welcome. Just make sure they are on a leash at all times.
- This tranquil place is perfect for thinking something through and meditating.
- There are NO public restrooms, so make sure everyone goes pee pee before they enter the park.
- It can get a little noisy on weekends, so try to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon to sidestep the crowds.
- Don’t bring a stroller; it’s not going to happen. If you’re bringing an infant, go with a backpack carrier so your weight is better distributed as you climb.
Avalon Park and Preserve is truly a place for all seasons. In the spring and the summer, the wildflower meadows are in bloom and it’s a sight to behold and inhale! Then, come fall, the green foliage turns vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange – and you can start to find the yarn bombs! Afterward, winter visits us and then you can try snowshoeing on the snow-covered trails!
In all honesty, my favorite time to visit is when it’s freezing cold out. The park is eerily quiet and almost empty. Much of it is shielded by the native trees, shrubs, and grasses that have been planted there so you get to stay out of the wind if it’s hollering out. Plus, all of the hiking up and down the stone paths really gets your blood pumping. And afterward, you can sneak across the road to Robinson’s Tea Room to get something hot to drink as you snarf down a scone.
So what are your thoughts about Avalon Park and Preserve? Will you go to the park and search for yarn bombs? Or, will you go off-roading instead and hike the 2.2-mile trail?
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