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Cathedral Pines County Park

Tanya Glover is the mother of two, stepmom to two more, as well as a writer and a grad student in psychology. A native New Yorker, she now lives with her family in North Carolina.

Long Island's forest

For a fantastic outdoors experience, the Cathedral Pines cannot be beat! Winter, spring, summer, or fall -- this is a fun family adventure anytime of the year.

Pine tree forest

Just about an hour out of Manhattan, and located along the headwaters of the Carmans River, Long Island's Cathedral Pines County Park is a huge forested park. Cathedral Pines offers a variety of family-friendly facilities -- including picnic tables, an activity hall, and several campsites.

Take a walk with nature

Once you enter into the nature preserve, you'll see that Cathedral Pines County Park has many different trails from which to choose -- both for walking and bicycling -- and most of them are fairly level, so there would be little problem for small children to navigate through them.

As you walk along the trails, notice the huge tree stumps. The original pines were planted in the 1800s, so some have fallen due to old age, and other have been knocked down due to weather related issues. When you see them, count the rings on the top part of the stump to see how old the tree is! While the ring counting method isn't completely foolproof, in general, each darker ring equals one year that the tree has existed.

One of the trails will take you past some old wooden buildings where workers used to do blacksmithing and other trade work. Feel free to explore inside, but be careful. Remember these are old structures in the woods, so you must watch out for creepy critters and things that may trip you.

This rule of watching your step goes double for the forest itself. While wild animals are not an issue, you want to look where you are going to ensure that you do not stumble over any pine tree roots.

Winter in the forest

If you are a sucker for a gorgeous winter scene, you must see the Cathedral Pines while covered in snow! Not only is it the most beautiful thing ever, the deafening silence that comes with being in a pine forest during a snowfall is unforgettable. Plus, with all the little hills, sledding is great fun for the kids.

During the rest of the year, you'll still want to bring a jacket. While so much of this breathtaking pine forest has remained the same for decades, the one thing that does change is the temperature -- so dress accordingly before heading out.

Camping and biking and picnicking -- oh my!

This 320 acre forest is great for all types of fun times and adventure! You can camp, bike along the trails, or just set up a picnic for a relaxing family outing. There are campsites for both groups and individuals to pitch a tent and rough it. (There are also 10 sites available for the less adventurous camper to hook up their RV to water and electricity.)

If you are planning to hold a family reunion, wedding or other event at Cathedral Pines, there is an activity hall available, too!

More fun is closer than you think

Across the way from the Cathedral Pines is yet another pine forest -- Prosser Pines Nature Preserve. The white pines here were planted way back in 1812, and so have two centuries of growth. Prosser is also a popular place for biking and weddings -- and is another photographer's dream.

More about Cathedral Pines County Park

Address: Yaphank-Middle Island Rd. South of Route 23, Middle Island, New York

Phone: 631.852.5500, or 631.852.5502 for camping reservations

Website: Cathedral Pines County Park

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