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Mashomack Nature Preserve, Shelter Island (Photo credit: Eleanor P. Labrozzi)

The pace of life may slow during the winter months in the Hamptons, but there are plenty of opportunities to quicken your steps on one of the multitude of nature hikes around the fork, where trees and gardens are bare but ethereal. With all that high-season people watching out of the way, the Hamptons turns into its own kind of winter wonderland, one that’s — perhaps literally — frozen in time. It makes the cooler months the perfect time to explore the South Fork on foot.

Quogue Wildlife Refuge in Quogue 

This 305-acre refuge is open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset. Stroll through forests and ponds on seven miles of hiking trails. You can take in views of the Old Ice Pond — which may actually have ice covering if you visit this time of year — from the Charles Banks Belt Nature Center. It’s open Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The refuge is home to several permanently injured animals, including hawks and owls, that require human care. 

Northwest Woods Trails in East Hampton

This hidden gem off of the Sag Harbor Turnpike (Route 114) is a favorite of mountain bikers, but walkers are also more than welcome. Beware: the terrain is hilly—if you’re recovering from an injury or have mobility issues, this walk may not be best for you. But if you’re up for a slight challenge, the rolling hills add to the scenery, which also includes a canopy of white pines. 

Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island

Located on Shelter Island, about a 20-minute jaunt by ferry from Sag Harbor, Mashomack Preserve spans 2,039 acres. Hike the trails and take in marshes, frozen creeks and forests full of bare trees quietly awaiting the dawn of spring. Black duck, Canada geese, hooded mergansers and other waterfowls make Mashomack home during the winter. The preserve is typically open from dawn to dusk. 

Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton

This 607-acre park offers sweeping views of Gardiner’s Bay and a decommissioned lighthouse that once marked a bustling shipping port for fish, timber and whaling. Today, the only boats coming in and out are rowboats, but even they hibernate in the winter. Hiking and picnicking never go out of style here, though. 

Montauk Point in Montauk

The Montauk Point lighthouse, commissioned by President George Washington in 1792 to help guide shippers, is now an Instagram-worthy way to prove you’ve reached The End. But it’s not the only draw of Montauk Point where any day can be a beach day. Climb down to the rocky-but-sandy shore for a taste of the Atlantic during the off-season. Pets are permitted here on six-foot leashes. The views and ample space to sit make it an ideal spot for a winter picnic or merely a place to stop, stay and breathe a while.

Napeague State Park in Amagansett

Amagansett tends to be a quieter place in the Hamptons even during the summer. The spot that prides itself on not having the word “Hampton” in its name stays serene come wintertime, and Napeague State Park epitomizes its year-round tranquility. It spans nearly 1,370 acres of underdeveloped land on what’s known as the “Napeague Stretch” between Amagansett and Montauk. It offers views of the glistening, potentially frozen Atlantic, bare forests and sandy dunes.

Linda Gronlund Memorial Nature Preserve in East Hampton

This East End preserve sits on about 500 acres of land along the Peconic Bay. Walk along the beach or through the pine barrens habitat. You can also catch glimpses of Little Northwest Creek, a glimmering tidal wetland that, on a good day, appears as blue as the sky. The blue-blazed foot trail is four to five miles long, accessible for people of most skill levels and gives way to plenty of coastal views.