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Jakes Branch County Park Loop
Take a pleasant hike on level packed sand, pine needle covered trails through the New Jersey Pine Barrens with views from the 5-story observation deck at the nature center.
Allowed on leash
Driving DirectionsFrom the North: Garden State Parkway South to Exit 77, end of exit ramp, make right on to Double Trouble Road. Park is approximately 1.5 miles on the left. From the South: Garden State Parkway North to Exit 77, end of exit ramp, make left onto Pinewald-Keswick Road/County Road 618. Follow C.R. 618 across for about 0.5 miles. Make a right at light onto Double Trouble Road. The park is approximately 2 miles on left.
Park at the nature center parking lot. Facing in the direction of the nature center, turn right towards the kiosk and information boards. Although you won’t see a blaze yet, the trail starts behind the kiosk, confirmed by a blue blaze a few trees in. You will find this trail to be very well blazed with signs at intersections showing which “road” you will be crossing. Don’t worry, you won’t find any cars on these roads, they are merely old sand roads with names.
A short distance ahead the blue-blazed Tindey Trail splits. You can go either way but for this hike veer to the right. The pleasant pine needle covered sand trail meanders along pine trees, which provide greenery even in the dead of winter. You will soon cross over several of the named sand roads - Tamarack Road, Chestnut Street and Daisy Road – within the first half mile. Another half mile later, cross over the red-blazed Spruce Street. A left turn on Spruce Street would bring you back to the parking lot in .3 mile for a truncated version of this hike, but keep straight on the blue-blazed Tindey Trail.
Shortly after crossing a bridge, keep straight through the intersection with Sugar Sand Road. Pine Street will be the last crossing for a while. A right turn on Pine Street would bring you into the backside of Double Trouble State Park where you would find a network of unmarked sand roads, all eventually impassable due to swamps flooding over the roads or dead ends. This area is predominantly used for hunting so unless it’s a Sunday during hunting season, it would not be a good idea to go exploring in that area. Jakes Branch County Park does not allow hunting.
Continuing straight ahead on the blue-blazed trail, watch for a white-blazed side trail around the 2.65-mile point. Turn right on this trail, cross over a bridge and arrive at a small creek in .2 mile. This is a new trail, not shown on the online map, although it is represented on the hard copy map available at the kiosk or in the nature center. Retrace your steps back to the blue trail and turn right.
Traffic sounds will become louder and for a brief stretch you will be able to see the Garden State Parkway to the right through the trees. Cross over two consecutive bridges as you veer away from the parkway sounds. The nature center will soon come into view, looming above the pine trees. Cross over the other end of the red-blazed Spruce Street continuing on the blue-blazed trail.
At 4 miles, arrive at the fork where the hike started, veer to the right and head back to the parking lot.
Do take a moment to visit the 5-story high observation deck at the nature center. Interior steps pass interesting displays as you ascend to the top. An elevator is also available. From the viewing deck observe the endless sea of pine trees where you hiked, a glimpse of historic Hangar One at Lakehurst Air Naval Station - a site perhaps most notorious for the Hindenburg tragedy of May 6, 1937, and the Forked River Mountains on the horizon with the highest “mountain” at 184 feet above sea level.
Turn by turn description[ 0.00] Start at the kiosk at the end of the parking lot closest to the nature center; right at fork [ 0.10] Cross Tamarack Road (sand road)[ 0.20] Cross Chestnut Street (sand road) [ 0.40] Cross Daisy Road (sand road) [ 0.95] Cross red-blazed Spruce Street (sand road) [ 1.10] Cross Sugar Sand Road (sand road) [ 1.30] Cross Pine Street (sand road) [ 2.65] Turn right on white-blazed trail; cross foot bridge [ 2.85] White trail ends at creek/swamp; retrace back to blue trail [ 3.05] Cross foot bridge; turn right on blue Tindey Trail [ 3.35] Cross two bridges [ 3.80] Cross red-blazed Spruce Street (sand road) [ 4.00] Arrive back at parking lot