This past weekend the family and I spent some time stomping around in the Muttontown Preserve. I’ve been exploring the 550 acres that make up the preserve since I was a little kid and it has always seemed to me to be a magical place. In addition to bucolic meadows, a variety of bird life, ponds and woodlands, the Preserve also boasts the ruins of the Gold Coast mansion once belonging to King Zog of Albania.
Zog was the last King of Albania. He fled his homeland after the Italians invaded in 1939, and bounced around Europe for over a decade before acquiring 150 acres of prime Long Island real estate in 1951. The property that would become one of the parcals to make up the Preserve included a 60-room granite mansion originally built for Wall Street investor Charles Hudson in the early 20th century. For unknown reasons, King Zog never made the move to the Island and he sold the property in 1955. The abandoned mansion attracted treasure hunters who had heard rumors that the King had hidden a fortune in the walls. The beautiful estate was soon trashed and the main house demolished.
Even though the mansion is lost to history there are still ruins on the grounds of the preserve, including fountains, stair cases and what appear to be gate houses. You can also follow some old carriage roads around the property and envision what the estate must have looked like in its heyday.
The hiking trails are shared by horses, so watch your step; piles of poop abound. It is also rather buggy in the summer so insect repellent is recommended. There are two entrances to the preserve and each accesses a different area. The Equestrian entrance is located on the west side of Route 106, just north of its intersection with Muttontown Road. The trails that start here are the closest to the ruins. There is also an entrance at the Nature Center, located off 25A in East Norwich. The Nature Center offers a selection of guided group hikes and programs for kids. Check the website for more details. I recommend a guided hike if you can fine one that suits your interests. I learned quite a few new facts about the flora and fauna in the preserve when I went with a guide recently, and I've been coming here since the 1970s.
I have run in the preserve, but find that some of the paths get a bit overgrown in summer and are not as conducive to trail running as Nevertheless, you can spend an enjoyable few hours wandering around one of the few wildernesses left in Nassau County, and its only a couple of miles from downtown Syosset.
The preserve is open from 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. seven days a week and admission is free. Restrooms are located at the Nature Center.