Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Walking Dunes, Hither Hills State Park, Montauk, LI, NY

Hello from Hither Hills State Park in Montauk on the south shore of Long Island.  I'm sitting on what's known as the "walking dunes".   These dunes will "walk" when strong winds cause them to move, but as they walk, they bury forests, trees and anything that stands in their way. These winds are so powerful because they are funneled from the west to the north.  They blow from the northwest and cause the dunes to move in a southwesterly direction.  
Top of a tree sticking out of a dune
The average dune "walks" about 3/12 feet per year.  Headlands are responsible for the accumulation of sand to the area.  These "headlands" are points of land that stick out into nearby Gardiner's Bay.  Ocean currents erode the sand from the beaches on the headlands, carry it into the area, then wash up on the beach where it is picked up by the wind.    

Some of the trees, like the one you see in the picture to the right are still alive.  That's because their roots have connected to groundwater below the sand.

You can follow, as we did, a 3/4 mile trail that travels through the dunes where you can glimpse these dunes, the wildlife and the phantom forests up close.  There are wetlands to explore as well as the "Cranberry Bog" where you can see cranberry plants, wild orchids and carnivorous plants.

Cranberry Bog area from atop one of the dunes

 While exploring, you are requested to stay on the trail and not climb the dunes thereby preventing erosion. 
These dunes are unique to the Montauk area and are worth a trip to see them. 

Unfortunately, there won't be a lot of links to the Walking Dunes.  Most of the information that I'm sharing with you has come from a pamphlet which you can grab at the start of the trail. 

Here are some of the links:
Short Escapes,  This link gives a rather interesting account of the area including the history

These are directions to the walking dunes and some history of the Montauk area

Hiking with your dog.


  1. As I read this, I seemed to remember you going somewhere like this I dreaming, Clyde? Anyway, such a fascinating place to see and walk through!

  2. We walked it today. Bushwhacked in from the Hither Hills woods and arrived at Stop 8 on the trail. We saw a lot on our hike in, from delicate wildflowers to turkey tracks, buck rubs, and a remarkable absence of junk from illicit adventures. In other words, not a lot of use. Which is both enjoyable as a visitor, and good for the ecosystem. Really like the little pink orchids.