Hike through mountain laurel over rolling hills in this Central Jersey park, enjoy views of the Navesink River and the Atlantic Ocean beyond, and check out military bunkers from WWII.
Trail surface: Moderate, packed dirt with roots, minor amount of rocks. Decent amount of rolling hills but nothing real steep. The trails are multi-use and this is a popular mountain biking spot.
- This route: 8.7 miles.
- Shorter: Kings Hollow (.7), Candlestick (1.5), Laurel Ridge (2.5)
- Longer: Route could be extended by hiking through Grand Tour and Laurel Valley trails again instead of returning via Cuestra Ridge
Map: There were paper maps in the trail kiosk or you can print out the trail map from the Monmouth County site.
Parking: N40 24.064 W74 00.774
[Buttermilk Valley Entrance; small lot with room for maybe 10 cars]
State Hwy. 35 to Navesink River Road and continue 4.7 miles. Turn right onto Locust Road. Cross Clay Pit Creek bridge to five way intersection. Bear right onto Navesink Ave and continue to Park.
–OR– State Hwy 36 to Navesink Ave. Southbound turn right, northbound use jughandle for Locust/Navesink Ave. Cross Hwy and follow to park entrance on left.
Directions to the other parking areas can be found on the Hartshorne Woods Park site.
Restrooms: Porta-john in the Buttermilk Valley lot, the Rocky Point Lot and at Black Fish Cove.
Hike Directions: We have done our best to describe the route below, but trails are not blazed with colors and instead have signposts at junctions so this things can get confusing. Please have the trail map with you!
The trail map marks trails with circles, squares and diamonds which only denote difficulty for bikers – none of the trails here are ‘difficult’ for hikers.
Route Overview: Laurel Ridge – Grand Tour – Rocky Point – Battery Loop – Cuestra Ridge – Laurel Ridge
0.0 – From the Buttermilk Valley parking lot, start following the Laurel Ridge Trail. It is on the right side near the porta-john.
0.4 – Pass a path on the right which leads to Hartshorne Rd.
1.0 – Turn RIGHT to a viewpoint, then retrace your steps to this point and turn right to get back on the trail. [Views are limited by trees, if there are leaves on the trees you may want to skip it... we had a better view a little down the trail anyway.]
2.2 – Come to a T-intersection. Turn RIGHT onto the Grand Tour trail. [LEFT is Laurel Ridge and will take you back to the lot]
2.6 – Bear LEFT as the trail splits. The right leads to a cabin and maintenance area.
3.1 – Turn RIGHT at a T-intersection. This is the mid-point connector of the Grand Tour figure-8 loop. [To the left leads to the Cuestra Ridge trail and back to the lot if you've had enough.]
The trail curves to the LEFT as you pass a sign for the road on your right (you’ll be able to see the road)
3.6 – Turn RIGHT. Not very obvious what to do here… there is a sign that says “trailhead” pointing the other way and if you look to your left there are two hearts carved into a tree trunk.
3.7 – Arrive at an intersection with park roads, with two stone pillars on the right. Cross the road and continue straight on the path.
[The gravel road on the left leads to the Rocky Point lot and Battery Lewis. Or you can take the hiking trail on your left to Cuestra Ridge which is a shortcut back to the lot if you've had enough.]
[We took the Command Loop road to the right but don't bother, there is nothing but a small bit of foundation and piles of dirt to see. If you look at the park map, there is no "battery/bunker" pink square in this loop... indicating there is nothing to see here... something I overlooked.]
4.0 – Bunker Loop junction. This short loop is worth a look, as there is the remains of a bunker. Turn RIGHT on the paved path and follow the loop around. The cement entrance is visible under a huge mound of dirt. Arrive back where you started and turn RIGHT to continue on the Rocky Point trail.
Somewhere along this part is a sidetrail to the Rocky Point Overlook which we managed to totally overlook by being too busy chatting. Our best-guestimate is that it should be around 4.7 miles.
5.2 – Turn RIGHT onto the paved path to head towards Black Fish Cove. There is a pier, picnic table and porta-john. Return via the paved path and look for the continuation of the trail on your right. Turn RIGHT, continuing on the Rocky Point trail.
There are a couple trails here, so it’s a little unclear… but basically you are heading toward the water and not inland.
5.7 – The Rocky Point trail arrives at a paved path. Turn RIGHT onto the paved path and walk a short ways down to a overlook and picnic table.
5.8 – Houses on Sea Bright and the ocean are visible from this area.
Retrace your steps to where you turned on the paved path. [Here, the Rocky Point Trail will now be on your right, which you can take if you want to skip the Battery Loop]
Continue straight on the paved path as it goes up to a overlook on the left.
6.0 – Overlook of the ocean, and picnic table.
From here, head towards Battery Lewis. We took the dirt path. There is also a paved path on the right which will take you to the bunkers as well. [it's not entirely obvious here]
6.3 – Arrive at a paved path t-intersection, with a bunker in front of you to the left and one to the right. Near the right bunker is a plaque that explains the historical significance and a photo of what the bunker looked like when it had a gun in it. A Very Big Gun.
You can wander around however you like… but we went into the right bunker first. Once inside the bunker we couldn’t walk through to the other side as it was gated.
Walking back out of the bunker, we turned right and took the path up the hill which is on top of the bunkers for more views. We came back down the path, turned right and walked across the grass to check out the other bunker (which just had a big pile of dirt and a big puddle in it).
Walk though the bunker to the paved path.
6.8 - Turn RIGHT onto the paved path and walk toward the Rocky Point parking lot. [There is a porta-john opposite the lot.]
7.0 - Arrive at a T with another paved path, with the parking lot immediately on your left. Turn LEFT onto the path and walk toward the stone pillars, with a sign “Authorized Vehicle Only”.
Continue down the woods road.
7.1 – Turn RIGHT onto the Cuestra Ridge Trail. This is a easy, mostly level woods road. Follow it straight all the way back, ignoring trails crossing it, until it becomes the Laurel Ridge Trail, and that will take you back to the parking lot.
Hiked: 12/29/11 - Trailblog: “Hartshorne Woods Park“