Over the Ridge and Through the Marsh Loop


Forested hills, lush marshes, and steep ravines make for diverse terrain that feels interestingly out of place in the generally flat Coastal Plain. 

1.25 hours
1.6 miles
Route Type:
Allowed on leash
Views, Waterfall
First Published:
Dan Ciarletta


Stairway leading down a forested slope [photo by Dan Ciarletta]


View Holmdel Park in a larger map

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
Driving Directions

From the Garden State Parkway, take Exit 114.  If coming from the north, make a right onto Red Hill Road.  If coming from the south, make a left.  After about 0.5 mile make a right on Crawfords Corner Road.  Follow Crawfords Corner Road for 1.1 miles, and then make a left at Roberts Road.  Continue on Roberts Road for 0.8 mile, and make a right at Longstreet Road.  Travel 0.1 mile on Longstreet Road and then make a left into Holmdel Park.  Continue along the park driveway for 0.6 mile, past other parking areas, to reach Hill Top parking lot.


Proceed to the entrance of Hill Top parking area.  Facing down the road providing access to the parking area, look to the left and locate Fit Trail exercise station 20 (where an overhead workout ladder is installed).  Examine the trail post here.  In addition to pointing the direction of the Ridge Walk trail, it also points out the direction of the Fit Trail, paralleling the road.  Follow the Fit Trail for about 500 feet to a junction where a trail splits off at an angle to the right.  Another trail post shows the direction of the Fit Trail (forward) and the Ridge Walk trail (reverse).  Continue ahead, and the trail begins to turn to the left.  After 400 feet, arrive at an offset four-way intersection at Fit Trail station 26 (look for a workout vault bar).  Continue forward through this intersection, ignoring the left and right trail options.  The trail now descends gradually, curving to the right, with water bars installed to minimize erosion.

Near the bottom of the hill is a junction with a trail post.  The post displays a white arrow on a blue background pointing the direction of the Ridge Walk trail (right).  Ignore the arrow and make a left instead, moving uphill through a pine grove.  The trail curves to the left and heads along the side of a ridge for 500 feet or so before reaching a four-way intersection.  Make a right here, travel downhill, curving to the right for about 200 feet before encountering a puncheon bridge crossing a tiny, muddy stream.  Possibly due to the presence of the puncheon, the flow of water, not much more than trickle, follows the route of the trail.  After maneuvering another 100 feet downhill, the trail curves to the left, reaching a wooden bridge with railings crossing a running stream. 

On the other side of the bridge is a triple fork, with options to go left, ahead, or right.  Take the left fork, which immediately begins an uphill climb for about 850 feet.  At the end of the uphill section is a T-intersection.  A post points the direction of the parking area (left) and a blue trail (right).  To the left, there is also a concrete square on the ground with a white and orange placard labeled “11 K.”  Turn right, and begin walking down a trail running along the spine of a forested ridge.  After approximately 300 feet, a trail breaks off to the left at another ground-level concrete marker labeled “6 R.”  (Marker is about 15 feet to the left of the main trail.)  Ignore this trail and continue forward.  Over the next 350 feet or so, the trail makes an S-curve as it leads downhill to reach a T-intersection behind Holmdel Park’s Activity Center. 

The T-intersection features a ground-level marker labeled “12 W.”  To the right is a picnic area.  To the left, the trail almost immediately comes to a fork.  Turn left, then bear left at the fork and descend rather steeply along the side of the hill, with wooden steps placed to aid in the descent. Towards the bottom of the slope, the trail goes around a switchback, and ferns become the dominant ground cover.  The trail turns left at the base of the slope and continues for about 100 feet before reaching a T-intersection along the edge of a sluggish stream bounding a marsh.

Make a right and travel parallel to the stream.  On the right will be a steep embankment.  In about 150 feet, a trail which descends the embankment joins from the right.  Bear left here, and after about 100 feet, make a left onto a bridge crossing the stagnant stream.  The trail continues on a plank walkway and soon reaches a T-intersection.  Turn left and follow another 200-foot section of plank walkway, crossing boggy terrain.  At the end of the plank walkway, the trail curves to the right, paralleling the same sluggish stream from earlier.  This trail section features many exposed tree roots, with abundant skunk cabbage on both sides. 

Ahead is a T-intersection with a ground-level marker labeled “1 B.”  Make a right and travel a short distance, reaching a plank walkway.  The boardwalk makes a slight turn to the left, passing through a boggy forest with an understory of skunk cabbage and ferns.   About 250 feet ahead on the right is a side walkway which immediately leads to a loop in the midst of what can be described as a sea of skunk cabbage.  Beyond the loop, in another 175 feet or so, the plank walkway reaches a slope and cuts right.  Another ground-level marker here is labeled “2 X.”

After cutting right, the pathway again changes back to dirt.  It wraps to the left for a short distance and then makes an abrupt right, crossing a bridge and coming to an intersection with a trail on the left.  A post indicates this is the High Point Trail.

Ignore the High Point Trail and continue ahead for about 250 feet, passing over a low hill.  The trail then turns left and begins paralleling a branch of Hop Brook.  The brook has carved a four to five foot deep trench into the lower Red Bank Formation, a local geologic layer deposited along the ancient coastline of New Jersey near the end of Cretaceous Era about 68 million years ago.  While the cliff-like banks of the stream have a seemingly clayey composition, the streambed is gravelly to rocky.  This is because the rocks, mostly cemented sands and chunks of ironstone, are left behind as surrounding softer material is washed away.

Continue parallel to the brook for about 600 feet until reaching a tributary stream which comes in from the left.  The trail turns left here, and the sound of falling water is evident.  Just before the small tributary joins the brook, there is a small double waterfall; the second  drop is about two feet high.  A close inspection reveals its origin.  As the stream cuts down through the lower Red Bank Formation, it appears to encounter a very thin layer of slightly harder, reddish soil resistant to the stream’s erosive force.  The result is this unexpected little fall line.

Making a gradual ascent, the trail follows the smaller stream for about 150 feet, reaching an intersection with another trail coming down the side of a hill on the left.  Continue straight for another 600 feet, passing a high bridge on the right.  Note that the stream is gradually deepening into a ravine.  At the end of a wooden rail fence approximately 300 feet ahead, the trail reaches a fork.  Take the right fork, which continues to parallel the stream.  As the trail begins a gradual turn to the left, a section of it has been shored up, apparently due to a previous collapse of the pathway into the stream.

Over the next 250 feet beyond the shored-up section, the trail climbs a set of wooden steps.  The trail then comes to a T-intersection.  Make a right, and continue uphill for a short distance where the trail slowly levels out and makes an S-curve.  At the end of the S-curve, the trail emerges into a grassy field behind a set of tennis courts.

Look slightly to the left and locate the walkway along the side of the tennis courts.  Go straight, and connect with the walkway, following it for 250 feet to the far corner of the tennis courts before making a right turn.  Follow the walkway to the right for about 375 feet, heading towards the parking lot. The trail ends back at the beginning of the hike, just a dozen feet or so from Fit Trail exercise station 20.    

Turn by turn description

1. ~500 ft: From Fit Trail exercise station 20, at entrance of parking area, begin following trail downhill as it parallels the road.  The trail will encounter a junction with a path breaking off to the right.

2. ~400 ft: Continue ahead at trail junction and reach 4-way intersection at exercise station 26.

3. ~500 ft: Continue forward and travel downhill, reaching a junction with a trail marker.

4. ~500 ft: Turn left, passing through a pine grove and then traveling along the side of a hill before reaching a 4-way intersection.

5. ~200 ft: Turn right and follow trail until reaching a small puncheon bridge. 

6. ~100 ft: Continue ahead, crossing a small brook.  The trail then encounter s a triple fork, with options to go left, straight, and right.

7. ~850 ft: Take the left fork and travel uphill, reaching a T-intersection at the top of the ridge.

8. ~300 ft: Turn right and follow trail along ridgeline until reaching junction with trail breaking off to left.

9. ~350 ft: Go straight through junction as trail slowly descends until reaching T-intersection behind Activity Center.

10.  8 ft: Make a left at the T-intersection, and then travel a few steps to stand in front of an immediate fork.  Make a left here.

11. ~200 ft: Follow the trail as it snakes down the side of the hill.  When it reaches the bottom, it meanders a short distance over level terrain before reaching a T-intersection.

12. ~150 ft: Turn right, following stream on left.  The trail will reach a skewed intersection with a trail merging in from the right.

13. ~100 ft: Bear left and continue paralleling stream until reaching a bridge on the left.

14. ~50 ft: Turn left at bridge and follow trail as it converts to a plank walkway and reaches a 4-way intersection.

15. ~200 ft: Turn left and follow plank walkway as it goes straight and then hooks left.

16. ~125 ft: Follow trail as it hooks right, converting back to dirt

17.  ~250 ft: Turn right at T-intersection and follow trail as it switches from dirt path back to plank walkway.  A side trail will appear on the right leading into a small loop surrounded by skunk cabbage.

18. ~175 ft: Continue forward and reach a slope where trail makes a sharp right.

19. ~50 ft: Follow trail as it wraps to left and then turns right to cross a bridge.  A junction with the High Point Trail (left) occurs after the bridge.

20. ~250 ft: Continue straight ahead, crossing over small hill.  The trail then comes to a stream, turning left.

21. ~600 ft: Follow trail as its parallels the stream.  The trail then turns left as it encounters a tributary merging with the stream from the left.

22. ~150 ft: The trail makes a gradual ascent, paralleling the stream.  It then reaches a junction with a trail coming in from the left.

23. ~600 ft: Continue straight through junction and reach a high bridge on the right.

24. ~300 ft: Pass the bridge and keep moving forward until encountering a fork in the trail.

25. ~275 ft: Take the right fork and follow it to a section of trail that has been shored up to prevent collapse into ravine on right.

26. ~250 ft: Follow trail as it ascends a hill, curving to the left.  The trail reaches a T-intersection near the top of the hill.

27. ~100 ft: Turn right and follow trail until it comes to an open field with tennis courts.

28. ~250 ft: Look slightly to the left and locate walkway traveling behind tennis courts.  Go straight, and follow the walkway to the far corner of tennis courts where it makes a right.

29. ~375 ft: Follow trail until it reaches entrance of parking lot, a dozen feet or so from Fit Trail exercise station 20.

Trail maps can be obtained from the Monmouth County Park System’s website. Maps are also available for viewing at an information board in the Pond View parking area, which is the first parking lot on the left after entering the park. Monmouth County Park System trails are identified by level of difficulty, not unique blaze markings.

Date of Hike:  4/30/2011