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Rocky Point Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take the Garden State Parkway south to Exit 117. Bear left beyond the toll booths and continue on NJ 36 for 12.3 miles. Just before the Highlands-Sea Bright bridge, turn right at a sign for "Bay Avenue/Highlands." Continue ahead on Portland Road for 0.8 mile to the park entrance, which is straight ahead where the road curves very sharply to the right.
This hike circles the Rocky Point area of the park. During World War II, this area was part of the Atlantic Coast Defense System, with concrete fortifications facing the ocean. The military abandoned the facility in the 1970s, and it is now a Monmouth County park, but many of the old fortifications still exist. You will have the opportunity to visit one of these fortifications at the end of the hike.
Most trails in Hartshorne Woods Park (including the those that make up this hike) are open to hikers, joggers, bicyclists and equestrians, and are heavily used by bicyclists. Although park regulations provide that bicyclists must yield to all other trail users, hikers should be alert for approaching bicycles on narrow trails. Hikers must yield to equestrians.
To begin the hike, return to the entrance to the parking area and turn right onto a gated but paved park service road. In about 100 feet, you will see a signpost on the left marking the start of the Rocky Point Trail. The park has designated this trail with a black diamond, indicating that it is rated as “challenging”; however, the rating system is designed primarily with bicyclists in mind. For hikers, the trail is of no more than moderate difficulty.
The Rocky Point Trail begins by descending on a winding path through stands of holly to cross a bridge over a stream. It continues through dense vegetation. About half a mile from the start, the trail approaches the Shrewsbury River, with homes on the Sea Bright peninsula visible through the trees across the river. Several short side trails lead downhill to the right, but any views they once afforded are now obscured by vegetation.
The trail continues ahead, parallel to the river below to the left, reaching a paved service road in another third of a mile. To the left, the road leads in about 250 feet to a grassy area with picnic tables overlooking the confluence of the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers – a good place for a break.
Continue ahead on the Rocky Point Trail, which climbs a rise. At the top of the rise, you’ll notice some ivy-covered trees to the right. The trail descends past a dense stand of holly to reach another paved service road. To the left, this road leads downhill a short distance to the Black Fish Cove fishing pier, with excellent views over Navesink River (there are also picnic tables and a privy here). The Rocky Point Trail turns right, follows the service road for 50 feet, then turns left and reenters the woods.
The trail descends to cross a footbridge over a small stream, climbs gradually, then levels off. About half a mile from the second service road crossing, it ascends quite steeply on a switchback. At the top of the climb (marked by a large fallen tree on the left), an unmarked side trail to the left leads in 500 feet to a viewpoint over the Navesink River, with the view partially obscured by the trees.
The Rocky Point Trail now begins a gradual descent, passing through some dense stands of mountain laurel. About two miles from the start, it crosses another paved service road (to the left, this road leads to an abandoned bunker). The trail now climbs through holly and mountain laurel to cross a small bridge. It descends briefly, continues through dense holly trees, then climbs on switchbacks to reach yet another paved service road – this one marked by two concrete pillars on the left.
Cross the road, then immediately turn right onto a wide path that heads uphill (following the sign “to Cuesta Ridge”). You’ll soon reach the crest of the rise and descend to a gravel fire road – the route of the Cuesta Ridge Trail. (Take the right fork just before reaching this junction.) Turn right onto the Cuesta Ridge Trail, then immediately bear right at the next fork. Soon, you’ll reach a paved service road. Turn left on the road, following a sign for the Battery Loop, then bear right at the next fork to return to the parking area, which is just ahead.
If you have a little more time, you might also want to visit Battery Lewis – a large concrete fortification overlooking the ocean, built in 1942. To reach this interesting feature, continue ahead at the end of the parking area (blocked off by logs) and turn right onto a paved service road. The battery is a short distance ahead, on the left. Interpretive signs explain how and why this imposing fortification was constructed during World War II.