National Park Service Free Entry Days For 2021

2021 will see the following days where entry is free:

January 18th – Martin Luther King’s birthday

April 17th – First day of National Park Week

August 4th – One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act

September 25th – National Public Lands Day

November 11th – Veterans Day.

See the press release here.

Fire on Mt. Tammany

Attention New Jersey hikers, and those hikers from the surrounding areas headed to the Delaware Water Gap:

News broke today of a fire on Mt. Tammany in the Delaware Water Gap.  Numerous sources have plenty of information:

Lehigh Valley Online


The Daily Record

At this time I did not see anything on the Worthington State Forrest page, nor did I see anything on the Delaware Water Gap National Park page.

It is reported that the fire was contained this afternoon.  Trails to the summit have been reported as closed, though sites are reporting that the Appalachian Trail remained open.

Sandy Hook – South Beach Dune Trail – Multi Use Path

Park Site

Trail Map

Hike Distance: 3.99 Miles

Tails:  South Beach Dune Trail, Multi Use Path

My Map:

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.

  1.  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.
  2.   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.
  3. 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.

Ticks:  0

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.)

Hiked:  1/5/2020


National Parks Free on Veterans Day

I was checking the National Parks Service page on Free Days and I see that on Monday, November 11, 2019, Veterans Day, National Parks will be free.

Those of you with National Parks near by will be able to take advantage of free trails for the day.

Here in New Jersey, we have the following National Parks:

  • The Appalachian Trail  (multiple states)
  • Crossroads of the American Revolution
  • The Delaware Water Gap
  • Ellis Island
  • Gateway National Recreation Area (Sandy Hook, in New Jersey)
  • Great Egg Harbor
  • Lower Delaware
  • Morristown National Historic Park
  • New Jersey Pinelands
  • Patterson Falls
  • Thomas Edison National Historic Park
  • Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route  (multiple states)

There are many miles of trails to walk and lots of history to absorb.

Jockey Hollow – Blue Trail

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  3 Miles

Trails:  Blue Trail (which included parts of the Patriot Path)

Map:  No map, I couldn’t upload it (see below)

There are two lessons learned from this hike:  1:  If the weather says there’s a potential for flash floods, believe it.  And 2:  If your printer won’t print out the trail map, take the time to fix it, find another map, or ensure there is adequate cell service at the place you’re hiking.

The weather called for thunderstorms and a potential for flash flooding throughout the day.  It rained early in the morning, yet by the time I walked the dog it was sunny and the ground was dry.  I thought, perfect day for a hike, as long as the rain will hold off.  Hockey season starts next week, I don’t know what my schedule will be like, so I had better make the most of the free time.  A quick glance at the weather map showed rain in the area I was hiking, but it was moving out.  So, off to print a trail map and head up so as not to waste time.  Except the printer wouldn’t print the map.  Rather than spend some more time, I figured I would grab a map at the visitor’s center, or worst case, use All Trails on my phone.

I drove up in bright sunshine and chastised myself for not bringing sunglasses.  As I pulled into the parking lot, clouds were just starting to build, but nothing serious.  And it would be all down hill from here, so to speak.

First stop is the visitors center in order to pick up a trail map.  But what’s this?  Closed, on account of no power.  I knew rain had blown through earlier, could it have knocked out the power?  Possible, I guess.  It took a few minutes to find the trail head, I ended up driving the Grand Parade Road and parking at the Trail Side parking lot, where most of the trails terminated.  Fortunately, I drove by the Soldiers’  Huts, which I planned to hike to.

As I got out of the car and loaded up All Trails..whamo.  Nothing.  I could record, but no trails.  Funny thing, you need cell service to interface with the maps (GPS ran fine.)  And there wasn’t cell service here (at least, for Verizon.)  Well, I got all the way here, I was at least going to walk.

I headed for the Blue Trail.  And it starts out on an old “road” used by the soldiers while camped here.

Today the trail was soft, spongy in some spots, with water pooled every so often.  But the trail was wide and soft dirt with infrequent rocks, and pleasant to walk.  Not having a map was a little unsettling until I came to the first trail junction.

They have a trail map ON THE POST at the actual junction.  So, I took a quick picture so that I would have some reference if needed.  My plan was the Blue Trail, cut over to the Orange, and go by the Soldiers’ Huts.  I saw the typical fauna:  squirrels, chipmunks, some birds.  Fortunately, no bears.

I passed a couple more junctions, each with a map, AND a “you are here” marker, and thought, this should be a pretty nice hike for not having a map.  Heck, even the sun came out.

It wasn’t as hot and humid as last week, 75 or so, with a lower humidity.  My plan was to do about six miles, and with this terrain, that didn’t figure to be so bad.  I noticed clouds were starting to build, and I didn’t see the sun as much.

There was a bench and table at this overlook, which must look absolutely fabulous on a clear day.  The marker at this spot indicated that Stark’s Brigade camped here  during the Revolutionary War.  The sign at this spot was very informative.  And, there was a monument to the occasion built from stones from the officers’ chimneys.

After snapping a picture, I headed off.  The trees were real tall with a thick canopy and as I walked, I noticed it started getting dark, real dark.  At one point I thought I might get out my headlamp.  It was 1:30, yet it felt like it was night, almost like when I hiked the Brisbane Trail at Allaire last year when the sun set faster than I thought.  And then I heard it, it sounded like wind, yet when I looked up, the leaves were not moving enough.  Sure enough, it was starting to rain.  But under the canopy, I wasn’t really getting wet.  I did think that I wasn’t going to do all of the trails I wanted to as I had a small bit left of the Blue Trail.

You can see the drops hitting the pond.

After the pond, the trail wandered through open space.  And then the rain really started coming down.

By the time I reached the road where the next junction was, it was pouring.  Torrential.  By far the hardest rain I’ve hiked in.  The signpost said .4 miles back to the car, most of it downhill – and off I went.  Not even a quarter of a mile in, water was cascading down the trail I was on.  How I didn’t slip on any of the rocks is a miracle.

Suffice to say, no more pictures after the pond.

I cut it short, reached the car, changed into dry clothes, and decided to head home.  I’ll have to come back to do the other trails I wanted to hike, and to see the visitors center.

Ticks:  0 – surprising.  I wore shorts, which I don’t normally do, and there were a couple of spots where the trail was overgrown.

Hiked:  8/11/2018