Hike Distance: 3.99 Miles
Tails: South Beach Dune Trail, Multi Use Path
Sandy Hook is the closest National Park to me, and almost the closest set of trails to me as well. Sandy Hook is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and the only piece in New Jersey; with the rest in New York. I have been on Sandy Hook quite a bit, I have documented over 500 hours as a tour guide at the Sandy Hook lighthouse. But, in going to the lighthouse, I stayed on all the major roads, never really seeing the rest of the park. Of course, I have frequented the beaches many many times. Today was supposed to be windy and rainy, yet when I woke up, it was partly cloudy with no rain in the forecast. True, it was below 40 degrees when I started out, the wind would be the bigger factor.
A variation of this hike is in 50 Hikes in New Jersey, though my version of the book is really really old; old enough that the Multi Use Path is not on the maps in the book. The hike in the book is a four-mile straight shot, using a shorter South Beach Dune Trail, and ending up in the Fort Hancock historic district. I opted for a loop, starting on the South Beach Dune trail and returning on the Multi Use Path. I parked just south of E lot, at the visitor’s center (closed) and started out on the Multi Use Path for a very short distance.
At the first junction, I made a right onto the South Beach Dune trail.
Most of the South Beach Dune Trail is all sand (as expected,) sometimes walking out on the beach. When the trail headed into the Holly Forrest it became dirt, with a lot of sand.
The holly looked awesome.
There was a side trail that led to Nike Pond, a freshwater pond. However, it looked like I would not be able to visit today.
A short distance a way, it would be beach walking. One qualm I had is there are not many blazes to really mark the trail. I ended up on the beach before I should have, I could have stayed on the trail longer. It’s tough when you find markers like this:
So, it was on to the beach. Weather was beautiful: sun most of the time, with small clouds. The wind was brutal. On the beach it was a little colder, in the holly forest – you could hear the wind but it was quite protected.
So…here’s the tricky part. The map shows a short walk on the beach, then a left turn into the forest. However, there are NO blazes or signs to show where to turn left. Here are my notes.
- This is where I came out on to the beach. The trail headed east from Nike Pond sort of disappears in the dunes and deposits you on the beach.
- At this point, there should be markers/signs/blazes to let you know to make the left hand turn back onto the trail and off the beach. I, obviously, missed this. It should be obvious, as you walk past the Nike missile installation.
- At the road, I made a left, knowing that I missed the turn. By making the left here, I know I missed part of the trail. A shot of the road is below.
A washed-out pillbox and old fortifications.
Shots of the forest.
Eventually the trail ends at the Multi Use Path, an asphalt path that runs the length of Sandy Hook. Immediately, I came upon the Nike missile base radar installation.
I decided to turn around at the Hallyburton memorial. In the picture below, you get a good sense of the wind.
At this point I turned around and took the Multi Use Path back.
The wind on the bay side:
The Multi Use Path goes by the missile launch area.
Finally, before the parking lot, I jumped back on the South Beach Dune Trail, where I passed a grove of cactus.
This was a great hike on a nice day (despite the wind.) I was dressed appropriately so was comfortable the whole way. I imagine this could be a brutal hike on a hot and humid July or August day. This was the perfect hike to start the new year. I did not hike as much as I wanted to last year (stats to come) and I vowed to get out more in the current year – starting out locally was a good start. I would have liked to have seen more signs and blazes, for a National Park, that was a little surprising.
Blazes (sort of):
(I don’t know what that reflector was for…)
(At the end of the trail, I found this marker; I never saw another number.)