813-acre Edgewood Oak Brush Plains State Forest, an urban legend on multiple levels was once the site of a massive state psychiatric hospital complex. It is located where the eastern border of classic Hempstead Plains merged into the Oak-Brush Plains, a transition zone in which native prairie grasses intermingled with islands of pitch pine and scrub oak common to eastern Suffolk County and Long Island. It is bordered to the the south by Long Island Avenue, to the east by Commack Road and to the north by Fish Avenue (Pilgrim Psychiatric Hospital complex entrance) and to the west by an assortment of sports complexes and businesses.
More than 21.5 miles of recreational trails including 12.3 miles of trails designed specifically for mountain biking, unpaved and paved roads traverse and loop through shell-shocked woodlands dominated by successional pitch pine-scrub oak barrens with an understory of dense shrub thickets interspersed with mostly stands of Bigtooth Aspen. Woody shrubs like Black Huckleberry, Low Bush Blueberry and Sweetfern form a low canopy under the pines and oaks. Scattered throughout are patches and spacious fields of pairie grassland of mostly Indian Grass, Bush Clovers, Horse Mint, Wild Lupine, Bracken Fern (watch out for poison ivy) punctuated by a rich display of seasonal wildflowers.
A 12.5 mile trail system designed for mountain biking provides a five mile loop trail designed for beginners and plenty of more difficult singletrack and advanced Asylum Level Red Blazed mountain bike skills trails.
Disclaimer: Cyclists must follow NYS DEC rules and regulations, wear hard-shell helmets and eye protection and shall yield to official vehicles and equipment, horseback riders and hikers. A free seasonal access permit is required for using this property.
Mountain Bike Trails - Edgewood Oak Brush Plains State Forest
Bicycling is allowed only on marked mountain bike trails and roads. There are 4 old roads (paved and unpaved), which bisect and traverse the trail system: Old Commack Rd (paved) , Edgewood Oak Brush Plains PFAR (unpaved), North of Airfield Rd (unpaved), and Flyers Road (unpaved). Old Commack Road (2 miles) bisects the property south-north on a diaganol axis. These provide strategic bailout routes. A powerline road cuts east - west through the northern third of the property and a 2.7-mile hiking trail loops around the core of the mountain bike trail system.
The 12.5 mile mountain bike trail network, is maintained and marked and / or blazed. The wayfinding system is similar to that of Harriman State Forest, NY. Blazes are usually painted on trees or posts. They also indicate the direction of travel.
Do the Oak Brush Plains Hokey Pokey: a mountain bike ride performed in a circle, or a song describing the simple movements of the bike ride. If you get lost; turn yourself about.
Main Loop Trail
Trail Mileage / Blaze: 5 miles one-way direction, White Discs, Easy
The Main Loop Trail travels over mostly level singletrack through the woods. It's scenic with a few hills, ruts, weather related rain puddles and a few obstacles. This carefully planned trail system provides options to Level up in stages on interconnecting marked Advanced Beginner (Yellow) and Intermediate (Blue) Loop Trails. This trail combined with the hard-packed dirt and paved roads for easy bail-out routes makes this trail ideal for beginners to get in some long distance milestones and develop fundamental mountain biking skills.
Trail Access: To access the bike trails, take the first right after entering the Preserve from the trailhead marked by a NYS DEC Post with a sign and a yellow gate. The bike route eventually circumnavigates the area and ends back near the trailhead.
The middle path leads to a large green field that is used for model airplane flying by the Edgewood Flyers Club for over 40 years.
Edgewood Loop 1, Loop 2 and Loop 3 Trails
Trail Mileage / Blaze: Loop 1 (Yellow Blaze, 0.9 mile) Loop 2 (Yellow Blaze, 0.72 mile), Loop 3 (Blue Blaze, 0.72 mile)
These 3 mountain bike ride options near the beginning of the Main Loop Trail provide the beginner a chance to Level up. This is where you practice your chops. Once you get the idea . . .
Edgewood Loop 1 Trail
Rev up on Loop 1. This where beginners get into more handle bar action on the twists and turns and learn how to pump and roll the moguls. The trail loops back to the main trail with options to do this ride again, bail out on Old Commack Road, continue on the Main Trail, or try Advanced Beginner Loop 2.
Edgewood Loop 2 Trail
The importance of forests can not be underestimated. Ending deforestation is our best chance to conserve wildlife while defending the rights of forest communities. Get up close and personal with The Edgewood Pine Barrens Forest on Loop 2. Be ready to squeeze between narrow log saw cuts.
Edgewood Loop 3 Trail
This trail ups the ante with a series of small to large pump track style mogul runs and fast and flowy singletrack between the trees knees.
Trail Highlights & Nearby Points of Interest
Bikes And The Movies
Let There Be Light (1946), Director John Huston
Let There Be Light was filmed at the Edgewood State Hospital, once a hospital complex that stood on the prooerty of what is now the Edgewood Oak Brush State Forest. When World War II began, it was expropriated by the U.S. Army Medical Corps for a psychiatric facility to treat battle-traumatized soldiers.
The documentary film was directed by American filmmaker John Huston. It was the last in a series of four films directed by Huston while serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. The architect of the complex was William E. Haugaard. Haugaard was also responsible for the architecture of several other buildings in NY, including Pilgrim State. These malicious looking buildings and hospital complex grounds were the perfect sets and backdrops for the movie. Local area bicyclists always made sure they brought spare tire kits and bike lights for fear of getting flat tires or caught after dark while cycling in the area.
The film was intended to educate the public about post-traumatic stress disorder and it's treatment among returning war veterans, but its unscripted presentation of mental disability caused the U.S. government to suppress the film, and it was not released until the 1980s.
Along your mountain bike rides on the Edgewood Oak Brush Plains State Forest trails you will see remnants of the hospital complex including fire hydrants, assorted concrete slabs, old handball courts decorated with graffiti, an old railroad spur that was used as a means to bring coal to the power plant and other assorted relics that will blow your mind.
Wildlife Watch & Photo-Ops
Edgewood Oak Brush Plains State Forest & Conservation Area
Nowhere else on Long Island can you find this array of wildlife. There are about 40 species of butterflies and an unusual and rare variety of moths such as the Zabulon Skipper, Sweetfern Underwing Moth, Pine Barrens Buckmoth and the six spotted Aroga. Common urban bird sightings include Mourning Dove, Chipping Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow Warbler and American Goldfinch. Because the area is near the coastal plains it's on the radar of raptors looking for tidbits in the grasslands. While most of the terrestrial creatures have skidaddled to greener pastures, the cute Eastern Cottontail bunnies remain to make you smile.
Edgewood Oak Brush Plains State Forest was once the site of one of the largest psychiatric complexes in the world. When World War II began, it was expropriated by the U.S. Army Medical Corps and was used as "Mason General Hospital" to treat battle-traumatized soldiers. At its height, it encompassed 2,000 acres and housed as many as 16,000 patients. In 1946, after the war, it was returned to New York State and became an adjunct of adjacent Pilgrim State Hospital.
In 1983, the Office of Mental Health (OMH) transferred 631 surplus acres to the NYS DEC. which was dedicated to the State Nature and Historic Preserve in 1987 and the buildings were demolished. Additional purchases and property transfers were later added.
Rt. 495 (L.I.E.) to Commack Road exit 52. Head south about two miles. Look out for the trailhead dirt parking lot and the brown and yellow DEC sign on the east side of Commack Rd.
New York State Forest
NYS DEC - REGION 1 - https://www.dec.ny.gov