Located just three hours from NYC by car or train, Montauk is one of the most convenient ways to immerse yourself in nature outside of the city. With six state parks, numerous trails, and a picturesque lighthouse—commissioned in 1702 by President George Washington—Montauk is also a haven for runners looking for a reprieve from running on city streets. But running is not the only outdoor activity available in Montauk. Below, we’ve outlined where to run, surf, and hike in Montauk.
For the better part of the year, Montauk can be described as a sleepy fishing town at the end of Long Island. But in the high season of summer (June through September) the town comes alive with visitors looking for a bit of nature and a touch of small-town charm. To give you a better idea of the influx that accompanies the summer months, the tally of about 3,000 year-round residents increases to about 30,000 people during the high season. Montauk is popular for a reason and there are a ton of outdoor activities to do year round.
Montauk Running Routes
Since you’re already at “the end”, why not take your run next to the ocean? Below are the three best places to run by the ocean in Montauk:
Camp Hero Lighthouse Loop
- Location: Camp Hero State Park
- Length: ~4 miles
The Camp Hero State Park opened to the public in 2002. From 1942-1981, it was a US military base and some areas are still off limits to the public. For example, the radar tower built during the Cold War to detect Soviet Missiles. Due to its military history, there are still old bunkers and historic buildings scattered around the park. Camp Hero can be accessed from Montauk town on Route 27. Find it on the right as you enter the Montauk Point Lighthouse loop.
Starting near the Lookout Bluff in Camp Hero State Park, run towards the Montauk Lighthouse on the Old Montauk Highway until you get to Montauk Point. Head back on Montauk Highway and turn left when it intersects with Camp Hero Road. Follow Camp Hero Park Road back to the starting point.
Hither Hills Coastal Loop
- Location: Hither Hills Preserve
- Length: ~3 miles
This loop is located in the 1,755-acre Hither Hills State Park. The Park is home to a popular ocean-view campsite. It offers fishing, hunting, and recreational activities for locals and visitors year-round.
For this loop, drive to the end of Navy Street. Here you’ll find the trailhead to the Hither Woods Preserve in Eddie Eker Park. The preserve is adjacent to the Hither Hills State Park. Follow the Coastal Trail around until it meets the Old North Road (‘forest section’). Then return to the parking lot at Navy Street. To avoid any “forested” sections, turn back at the end of the Coastal trail for an out-and-back along the water.
Montauk Point State Park
- Location: Montauk Point State Park
- Length: ~4 miles
Located at the official “end”, Montauk Point State Park is anchored by the historic Montauk Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was commissioned by President George Washington in 1702. This historic State Park has miles of trails with views of the Atlantic Ocean. For more information on visiting the park, see this official guide.
Best Seasons to run in Montauk
What to do in Montauk during the Fall & Winter
- Fall: Fall, or the months between September and November, is the most magical season to run in Montauk. The leaves start to change color and the warm sticky temps of summer drop down to a cool, crisp temp. The fall air provides runners with just the right amount of motivating snap when they walk out the door. On the other hand, it’s not so cold that you never feel fully warmed up. Fall is considered a shoulder season in Montauk. Therefore, there are less people to navigate on the trails. You can also find much better deals on hotels and lodging.
- Winter: Winter by the sea is idyllic as it sounds in Montauk. During this time, you can find snow covered bluffs next to stormy seas. Running in the winter requires the right gear and is not for the faint of heart. But it’s definitely worth doing, and the apres-run hot shower feels even better on icy skin. Winter is also a great time to XC ski in Montauk. Many of the running trails are covered with snow.
What to do in Montauk during the Spring & Summer
- Spring: Spring is also considered a slow season in Montauk. With summer around the corner, city dwellers may make the trip early to avoid inflated prices. This time of year is generally warmer than winter in Montauk, but by no means is it fully “warm” yet. Make sure you pack some rain gear in case clouds roll in.
- Summer: Summer is the official high season in Montauk. From the moment you arrive, you’ll realize most people in New York have the same idea. That said, it’s still worth the trip. Wake up early to beat the crowds to some of Montauk’s best running trails. Then take advantage of a fully-opened Montauk, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices to suit almost any appetite and budget.
Where to Surf in Montauk
Running is not the only outdoor activity Montauk has to offer. Being a town surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, ocean sports reign supreme and you can enjoy surfing, paddle boarding—along other water-craft sports—throughout every season. Summer brings small waves best for longboarding while larger swells tend to arrive in fall and winter. During this time, waves are consistently in the 3-5 foot range, with the occasional overhead or overhead plus swell. The ideal conditions to look for in Montauk are a SE swell.
Best Surf Spots in Montauk
Located at the bottom of Montauk’s picturesque bluffs, Ditch Plains is a great spot to surf or hang out at the beach with friends. Arguably the most consistent break in the region, Ditch Plains offers up some fairly cravable A-frames on the right swell. Because of this consistency, it is also one of the most popular spots to surf on Long Island during a swell…even freezing cold ones.
Check the Ditch Plains surf report, here.
The soft rollers that make their way through Trailer Park make this break well-suited for longboarders or stand-up paddle boarders. Its close proximity to the Ditch Plains lineup makes it a great choice on more crowded days. Make sure to watch for the large boulders scattered around this sand and rock bottom break.
Check the Trailer Park surf report, here.
Shadmoor State Park
Situated high on the bluffs with picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean, Shadmoor State Park is one of the best places to hike in Montauk. The sandy hike is around 2 miles (round trip) but you can lengthen it by traversing down to the beach and walking east towards Ditch Plains. This hike is super convenient if you’re coming from Montauk town which is only half a mile away. There is also a parking area for hikers. Best time to hike? Early morning.
The Walking Dunes
Located on Napeague Harbor in Hither Hills State Park, the Walking Dunes is part of an extensive trail system and a must-do hike if you’re into birding and hiking. The 4.3-mile loop is open year-round and can be found by heading West from Montauk town on route 27, making a right onto Napeague Harbor Rd after you pass Morty’s Oyster Stand. The trailhead and parking area can be found at the end of the road.
Amsterdam Beach Trail
The 2-mile (round trip) Amsterdam Beach Trail is a great option for an easy hiking or trail-running route in Montauk. To find the trailhead, head towards the lighthouse and you’ll come across a small parking area right across from the Montauk County Park. The end of the trail offers views of the ocean from the bluffs above.
How to get to Montauk from NYC:
- The Jitney (Bus): Running from various points in Manhattan, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, or Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn.
- The LIRR (Train): Leaves from Penn Station or Atlantic Terminal. The train ride from NYC to Montauk (the last stop on the line) takes about 3 hours.
- Rent a car: Zip car is a great option. The drive from NYC to Montauk should take around 2.5 to 3 hours if you’re lucky enough not to hit traffic.
How to get around in Montauk
- Car: Finding parking is not the easiest thing to do during high season in Montauk and some of the beach parking requires a town permit. But traveling between runs, surfs, or hikes is easiest in a car.
- Bike: Renting a bike is a great way to get around Montauk as most areas are fairly flat and most roads have shoulders.
- Shuttles: Catch a ride with the electrical shuttle, The Free Ride; or try the Hampton Hopper—offering transportation around the East End for $12/ride.
- Walk/Run: Walking or running from point to point is also an option here as most places you want to go are 1-5 miles apart.