Patriots' Path (Bernardsville to Morristown)

Overview

This relatively level hike passes through Morristown National Historical Park and follows a portion of the route of the former Rockaway Valley Railroad, with access by NJ Transit train to each end of the hike.

Details
Time:
6 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate
Length:
14 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Views
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Morris
State:
NJ
Publication
First Published:
06/27/2002
Submitter:
Daniel Chazin

Photo

Parking


View Morristown Natl Hist Park in a larger map

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
40.775732,-74.558544
Driving Directions

Take the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 14, and continue on I-78 West. Get off at Exit 48, and continue on NJ 24 West to the first exit (Millburn/Springfield/Summit). Keep right at the fork in the ramp, and merge onto Broad Street. After 0.4 mile, turn right onto Springfield Avenue. Continue for 0.8 mile, and turn left onto Summit Avenue. Proceed for two blocks, then turn right onto Union Place. The station is to your left. Metered parking (free on Sundays) is available in front of the station; parking (free on weekends) is also available in the municipal parking garage at the corner of Summit Avenue and Broad Street.

Train

Take an NJ Transit Gladstone Line train to the Bernardsville station.  From New York City, you can take a Midtown Direct Morristown Line train from Penn Station and change at Newark or Summit to a Gladstone Line train.  From Bergen County, you can take a train on the Main, Bergen County or Pascack Valley Lines to Secaucus Junction or Hoboken and change there for a Gladstone Line or Morristown Line train.  For more information, contact NJ Transit, (973) 762-5100, www.njtransit.com.

Description
From Summit, take an NJ Transit Gladstone Line train to Bernardsville. On weekends, trains run hourly, departing at 14 minutes after the hour. (Be sure to buy your ticket from a machine at the station; otherwise, you may be charged a penalty by the conductor.) For more information, contact NJ Transit, (973) 762-5100, www.njtransit.com. From the Bernardsville station, proceed north on Claremont Avenue. At the intersection with Mine Mount Road, bear right onto Seney Drive, and continue ahead to its end at Chestnut Avenue. Turn right onto Chestnut Avenue -- a very lightly traveled road, lined with large homes, which passes through a pleasant wooded area. After crossing a stream, Chestnut Avenue ends at Hardscrabble Road. Turn left on Hardscrabble Road for a few hundred feet, then turn right at a gate to the right. A short distance ahead, you will reach a junction with the southern spur of the Patriots' Path, marked by a distinctive tree-and-path logo. Continue straight ahead on the Patriots' Path, which climbs steadily. You'll soon pass a white-blazed trail on the right that leads to the Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary of the New Jersey Audubon Society, and just beyond, a side trail on the left leads to the Public Gardens of the Cross Estate. After passing another side trail to the Cross Estate, the Patriots' Path descends to cross the Passaic River (which, at this point, is a rocky brook). It climbs out of the river valley, levels off, and then descends to join the white-blazed Grand Loop Trail. Both trails cross a stream and then paved Tempe Wick Road, about two miles from the start of the trail (four miles from the Bernardsville station). A short distance beyond, the joint Patriots' Path/Grand Loop Trail crosses a dirt road, known as the Mendham Road Trail. After twice crossing the red-blazed Primrose Brook Trail, the Patriots' Path and Grand Loop Trail turn left onto the route of the blue-blazed Old Camp Road Trail. At the next intersection, the Grand Loop Trail leaves to the right, but you should continue straight ahead, following the Patriots' Path and the Old Camp Road Trail to Jockey Hollow Road. Here, the Patriots' Path turns left, passes a hikers parking lot, and turns right onto the Aqueduct Loop Trail, twice crossing Primrose Brook. It then turns right onto the unmarked Soldier Hut Trail, soon reaching the reconstructed huts (visible on a hill to the right). This was the site of Washington's encampment during the winter of 1779-80. After crossing a paved road, the Patriots' Path climbs briefly and then turns right, rejoining the white-blazed Grand Loop Trail. It turns left at the next intersection, leaving the Grand Loop Trail and entering Lewis Morris County Park. The Patriots' Path follows a blue-blazed trail through the county park. It descends to a Y-intersection, where it bears right. After turning right to cross a stream on a wooden bridge, it passes a small water impoundment and reaches a covered pavilion with picnic tables. You've now hiked about seven miles from the Bernardsville railroad station, and this is a good place to stop for a break. From the pavilion, the Patriots' Path bears left and continues along Sunrise Lake. It briefly joins a yellow-blazed trail which leaves to the left at a Y-intersection and then turns right to reach a gate at NJ 24. The Patriots' Path crosses the highway, goes through a parking area on the opposite side, and continues ahead, crossing a wooden bridge over the Whippany River to join the main part of the Patriots' Path, on which bicycles are permitted. On the opposite side of the river, turn right onto a gravel road. For the rest of the route, the Patriots' Path is marked primarily with white blazes, rather than the tree-and-path logo used for its southern branch. It soon bears right at a Y-intersection and briefly runs high above the river. After curving away from the river, the trail begins to ascend. It again bears right, continues through an area overgrown with wild rose and honeysuckle thickets, and soon turns right onto a winding dirt road. Upon reaching the crest of the hill, the trail turns right onto another dirt road, then immediately turns left onto a footpath and descends steadily. After leveling off and passing through a wet area, the Patriots' Path reaches paved Whitehead Road at a small gravel parking area. It turns left, crosses the highway bridge over a stream, then turns right and reenters the woods. It soon joins the right-of-way of the former Rockaway Valley Railroad. Built in 1888 and abandoned in 1913, it was dubbed the "Rock-a-Bye Baby" because of its rough railbed. The trail continues through wooded wetlands, which are often flooded after heavy rains. At the next road intersection, Washington Valley Road, a blue-blazed branch of the Patriots' Path leaves to the right, but you should continue straight ahead, following the white blazes along the abandoned railroad right-of-way. East of Sussex Avenue, the next intersection, the trail is paved, and it continues through higher ground. After crossing Lake Valley Road, the Patriots' Path detours to the right to bypass a water treatment plant, then curves left and passes an historical marker commemorating the Rockaway Valley Railroad. Upon reaching Lake Road, the trail turns right, crosses a bridge over a stream, and then bears right and follows a gravel path parallel to the road. After crossing the Whippany River on a highway bridge, it bears left and follows a gravel road along the south shore of Speedwell Lake to Speedwell Avenue in Morristown. You've now hiked over 10 miles on the Patriots' Path (in addition to the two miles from the Bernardsville railroad station to the trailhead). To reach the Morristown railroad station, turn right onto Speedwell Avenue and follow it to Spring Street. Turn left onto Spring Street, then left again on Morris Street, which leads to the station. Take an eastbound Morristown Line train back to the Summit station, where you began the hike. (On weekends, trains depart at 23 minutes after the hour.)