Fire Island National Seashore, NY: Fire Island Lighthouse to Sailor's Haven

Snake 17 miles through beach communities and pristine shorelines to the Sunken Forest on the east side of Fire Island National Seashore.
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Snake 17 miles through beach communities and pristine shorelines to the Sunken Forest on the east side of Fire Island National Seashore.

The west side of Fire Island National Seashore is an anomaly. Despite being full of bustling seasonal beach communities, the island is relatively primitive. A single pathway cuts between the bay and ocean sides, offering the only access to the western part of the peninsula. It is illegal to drive a car during the weekends here. After a single glance at the so-called road, most visitors would cringe and likely strap on a good pair of walking sandals anyway. The road turns from a mixture of rock and sand to multi-use path and then back to sand, connecting the Fire Island Lighthouse and Ocean Beach.

From here, visitors have to hoof it along the water toward the route’s turnaround point at the Sunken Forest. The beaches are remarkably sprawling and unpopulated during this stretch.

The private community of Point O’ Woods sits between the ocean and bay. After the rooftops disappear, it’s all protected lands. Turn left into the Sunken Forest and explore shady maritime woodlands full of bushes and small quagmires. The boardwalk path goes north toward the inlet, offering views of Great South Bay. The route turns back toward the ocean at Sailor’s Haven Visitor Center, where the ferry shuttles guests to and from neighboring Long Island. Retrace steps back to the start.

-mapped by MacKenzie Ryan

Editor's Note: Visitors should consider bringing mountain bikes on this long route for its stretches along the multi-use path. Lock up the bikes in Ocean Beach and then walk to and from the Sunken Forest.

From NYC: Take I-495 East to exit 31 South for the Cross Island Parkway toward Grand Central Parkway. Merge onto Cross Island Parkway. At 4.6 miles, take exit 25A to merge onto Southern State Parkway East. At 25 miles, take exit 40 for Robert Moses Causeway. Continue straight for 7.8 miles. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit onto Robert Moses State Parkway. Continue to parking lot on left.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 28.2

Waypoints

KPL001

Location: 47.401093, -121.392977

Park at road closure point of Forest Road 9090. Start up the road.

Road Closure

Location: 47.401196, -121.392789

The trail starts out at the road closure

On the road

Location: 47.405379, -121.393518

Hiking up road 9090. Vine maple in autumn colors

KPL002

Location: 47.412973, -121.397499

Road junction. Turn right and continue up 9090

Hiker and vine

Location: 47.417722, -121.395879

Hiker on ledge of road.

Summit at Snoqualmie

Location: 47.421583, -121.392403

Looking down at the Snoqualmie Ski resort

KPL003

Location: 47.422194, -121.387646

Road junction. Turn Left and follow the road.

Rainer

Location: 47.427652, -121.383734

Young Douglas fir, a hiker, and Rainer in the background

KPL004

Location: 47.427489, -121.382801

Turn left off the road onto a trail. The trail is unsigned, so keep an eye out for a rock cairn.

Rock Cairn

Location: 47.427478, -121.381674

Cairn marks the turn to the lake

KPL005

Location: 47.429415, -121.382409

Shore of Kendall Pond. Marshy and shallow, the pond reflects the peaks above.

Cold Creek

Location: 47.429365, -121.381803

Ice starting to form at the mouth of Cold Creek.

Kendall Pond

Location: 47.429713, -121.381373

Lower Kendall Peak Lake

Location: 47.432036, -121.380944

Through the trees, lower kendall peak lake emerges

KPL006

Location: 47.432007, -121.380601

Lower Kendall Peak Lake.

KPL007

Location: 47.431555, -121.379519

Moss covered boulders mark the location of a steep and obscure boot path that leads to the final lake.

Final Push

Location: 47.432123, -121.37794

The final push to the upper lake is both short and brutal.

KPL008

Location: 47.432645, -121.3772

Upper Kendall Lake.

Above Lake

Location: 47.432769, -121.37727

Hiker above the upper lake

Upper Lake

Location: 47.432772, -121.377221

The deep blue waters of the final lake lay directly below Kendal Peak.