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Noyac

Laurel Valley

 

 

Laurel Valley County Park is a little gem of a park, situated in Noyac.   Curiously, it is absent from most listings of Suffolk County Parks.  Where it is mentioned, it’s described as a “passive park for hiking and birdwatching.”  This beautiful and tranquil 148-acre park, maintained by Southampton Trails Preservation Society, is definitely worth a visit.

The trails are well marked, but since there are four different ones in the park, it can be confusing.   The Paumanok Path runs east to west along the southern portion of the park.  The Paumanok Path is a 130-mile long path running from Rocky Point to Montauk. It is identified by white painted rectangle blazes on the trees. This project is a regional initiative undertaken through the cooperative efforts of New York State Parks, Department of Environmental Conservation, Suffolk County Parks, Southampton Town, East Hampton Town, The Peconic Land Trust, the Nature Conservancy, South Fork Natural History Society, Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, Southampton Trails Preservation Society, East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, Group for the South Fork and many private landowners.

The Blue-Owl Loop, which joins the Paumanok Path at one point, and is bisected by the Black-Owl Loop at another point, is identifiable by diamond shape signs showing a blue owl on a white background.  The Yellow Owl Trail breaks off from the Blue-Owl Loop to take you to the south end of Wildwood Road another good trailhead for the park.  If you have a map, you will see that the Yellow Owl Trail takes you to the portion of the Blue Loop Trail near the scenic overlook in the northeastern corner of the park.  From here you can look out beyond the Noyack Golf Course to Little Peconic Bay and with the assistance of binoculars, you can view the North Fork.  There is a map of the trails in the park posted on the kiosk, but it is stationary.   Obtaining a map of Laurel Valley in advance of your hike is advisable.  They are available through the mail for $5.00.  Send a check along with your address to the Southampton Trails Preservation Society at PO Box 1172, Bridgehampton, N.Y. 11932.  Be sure to state which map you need as STPS has several maps available.  For more information call (631) 537-5202.

The mountain laurels except after unusually harsh winters give the hiker a lovely display of flowers in June. The knob and kettle topography, the deep ravines, a glacial erratic, and an exquisite view of the Peconic Bay all provide plenty of geological interest even without the laurels in bloom.  There is a varied ecology in this park.  Large communities of bracken fern, American beech, black locust, and oak trees co-exist here.  This is a great place for bird watching; I have seen a great horned owl take flight, the mating of American woodcocks, and a red-tailed hawk circling above along with many other species of birds.  The song of Baltimore orioles, the “tish-tish” of ovenbirds and the sounds of many other birds is a treat to the ears and to the soul.

Directions to Laurel Valley:  From County Road 39, head east past Southampton College, bear left onto North Sea Road.  Follow the sign for Route 52, Sag Harbor and North Sea.  After traveling 2.4 miles bear right onto Noyac Road (Route 38).  Travel 4.6 miles to Deerfield Road where you will make a very sharp right turn.  You will find the trailhead approximately 1 mile south on the left side of the road.   There is no comfort station or designated parking area, but there is room for several cars on the shoulder of the road opposite the entrance to the North Side Hills Development.  I suggest that you enter the park from the Deerfield Road entrance because there is a kiosk there and a map of the trail is posted there.

If you wish to visit the nearby Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge after your walk through Laurel Valley, travel north one mile on Deerfield Road to the intersection of Noyac Road.  Turn right and travel 0.4 of a mile east on Noyac Road.  You will see the entrance to the Refuge on your left.

Laurels in Bloom

A mild, wet winter has caused the mountain laurel to bloom copiously this spring.  Some of the laurel plants are 20’ in height and covered in a magnificent display of white and pink.  Last Saturday I walked three trails that visit abundant mountain laurel plants.  All three are similar in that they are characterized by a knob and kettle topography with acidic soil that supports the growth of heath plants like blueberry, huckleberry, laurel with some bayberry and a canopy of oak, pine, and hickory.  My first stop was Laurel Valley County Park, where I joined a Southampton Trail Preservation Society hike led by Dianne Rulnick. To purchase a map of this trail call 537-5202.

The trailhead we used is in Noyac on Deerfield Road about .6 of a mile south of Noyac Road, opposite the Deerwood Path entrance to the North Side Hills community. Park on the shoulder of Deerfield Road or along the curb of Deerwood Path.  Follow the white painted rectangular blazes of the Paumanok Path (PP) past the kiosk.

Dianne led the group on a route shaped roughly like a figure eight.  After a short distance, the trail splits; we turned right following the trail marked with both the white rectangles of the PP and the plastic blue owl blazes of a loop trail.  Shortly after passing through a grove of beech trees, we turned left onto a trail marked by black owl blazes.  This trail roughly bisects the blue loop.  When we reached the other side of the loop, we turned right.  After a short distance, we reached an area of higher elevation from which we could see the Noyac Golf Club and the bay in the distance. We continued on the trail and passed the access to a yellow owl trail that leads to a parking area at the end of Wildwood Road.  After walking through a tunnel cut in the laurel, and passing a large kettle on our left, we reached the PP again and turned right.  If you turn to the left, the PP runs to Middle Line Highway where you can park on the shoulder of the road.

We continued on the blue loop a short distance to the black owl trail.  We turned right then walked the black owl trail once again.  When we reached the other side, we turned left and walked the remaining section of the blue loop.  We passed through what had once been a farm field, where now cedar and bayberry grow.  The trail then cuts through a grove of locust trees.  When we reached the PP again, we turned right and walked the short distance back to where we parked.

During the winter months, there are views of Peconic Bay.  Explore the gently rolling knob and kettle topography and enjoy a wide variety of plant and animal life. If you have never walked through a laurel woods, this is an experience you should not miss.

Addendum

The trail passes by a glacial erratic, looks down into a shadow filled kettle. Maybe the origin of this park’s name “Laurel Valley” can be found in these glacial kettles.  Much of the understory is carpeted with delicately leafed bracken fern.  There are some stands of beech trees and an area where a fox has dug a den into the side of a hill. Enjoy the familiar cry of a hawk and the drumming of a woodpecker. This 148-acre parcel of land is Southampton’s “enchanted forest.”

In addition, you can enter Laurel Valley County Park from the southern most point of Wildwood Rd. on the south side of Noyac Rd. (you can park your car at the end of the road, by the trailhead).  Wildwood Rd. is just east of the Morton National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge is on the north side of Noyack Rd. At the head of the MNWR parking lot there is a Kiosk with a sign explaining the fee schedule: $2 pedestrian / bicyclist (no bike riding on their trails), $4 private vehicle, $12 yearly rate. There is less than a mile between the Laurel Valley Wildwood Rd. entrance and the Morton NWR.  To visit the refuge, head north on Wildwood Rd. after visiting Laurel Valley and then head west on Noyac Rd. There is just under a mile of road walking between the two trailheads.

If you follow the white Paumanok Path blazes Through the County Park to Middle Line Hwy. (asphalt here) you can head left (east) on Middle Line Highway.
 

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Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

Ken Kindler
Open Space & Trails Advocate
Post Office Box 1466
Sayville NY 11782
ken@litlc.org

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