New York City: Sandy Hook

Explore bayside birding spots, forest-lined beaches, a historic army base, and the nation's oldest standing lighthouse on this 13-miler at Sandy Hook.
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Explore bayside birding spots, forest-lined beaches, a historic army base, and the nation's oldest standing lighthouse on this 13-miler at Sandy Hook.

This 13-mile out-and-back tours grassy dunes, maritime forests, bay coves, and preserved shoreline along a narrow peninsula in Raritan Bay. From the park entrance, follow the multi-use path north. To the left is Spermaceti Cove, a rocky lagoon full of shorebirds, and Sandy Hook Bay. A boardwalk accesses the cove, allowing for prime bird-watching. Protected dune areas and untouched beaches are to the right.
At 2 miles, the path reaches the Visitor Center and the Old Dune Trailhead. Take the sandy singletrack through dense stands of American holly, red maple, black cherry, red cedar and pitch pine. Nike Pond sits in the middle of the loop with an observation blind for birders hoping to catch a glimpse of migrating waterfowl. The path turns back toward a wide-open shrubland area with views of the forest and Visitor Center.
Go west through the tall dunes for a stroll beside the Atlantic. Terns, seagulls and piping plovers are a frequent sight along these shores. The Manhattan skyline is visible in the distance to the north.
Loop back to the Visitor Center. The multi-use path continues north to Fort Hancock, a historic army base, and the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory. Link: It crosses over to the peninsula's bay side then turns east toward North Beach. The farthest coastline at Sandy Hook, the quiet North Beach showcases panoramic vistas of the Verrazano Bridge and New York City. After enjoying the scenery, make a short detour to the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. Retrace steps back to the park entrance. Park link:
-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan

Mass transit NYC: Starting May 23, SeaStreak ferry offers shuttle service from East 35th Street and Pier 11 to Sandy Hook. Prices vary, with roundtrip tickets generally costing $40 for adults and $16 for kids. It is an additional $5 to bring a bike on the ferry.

From New York City: Take the Lincoln Tunnel to NY-395 West. At 4.2 miles, merge onto I-95 South. At 20.6 miles, take exit 11 to merge onto Garden State Parkway South. At 12.3 miles, take exit 117 onto NJ-36 toward Keyport/NJ-35/Hazlet. At 13.9 miles, exit onto Ocean Avenue. Continue onto South Hartshorne Drive to the park entrance. Day use fee is $10.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 21.1

Waypoints

SAN001

Location: 40.399763, -73.976606

Begin walking north on the multi-use path. The entrance station is up ahead on the left. To the right is an unguarded beach.

SAN002

Location: 40.4247888, -73.98361

Pass Sea Gull's Nest Oceanfront Deck, Restaurant & are on the left. Services available. Beach access is to the right.

SAN003

Location: 40.4269078, -73.985062

With the Visitor Center to the right veer L for about 20 feet.

SAN004

Location: 40.426979, -73.985211

Bear R @ Old Dune Trailhead.

SAN005

Location: 40.430963, -73.984928

Go straight @ four-way junction.

SAN006

Location: 40.431914, -73.984958

Bear L @ the platform to access the observation blind at Nike Pond.

SAN007

Location: 40.432006, -73.9853668

Reach observation blind. When finished, retrace steps to the trail.

SAN008

Location: 40.432054, -73.9842308

Bear R @ Y-junction.

SAN009

Location: 40.431246, -73.983841

Turn L @ T-junction and walk toward the ocean.

SAN010

Location: 40.4311628, -73.9828563

Turn R and walk south along the shore. Manhattan is to the north in the distance.

SAN011

Location: 40.427689, -73.983237

Head into parking lot from beach. Follow the access ramp next to the bus stop and continue toward the Visitor Center.

SAN012

Location: 40.4268772, -73.9841545

Turn R @ four-way next to Visitor Center. After a short distance, turn R and merge north onto the multi-use path.

SAN013

Location: 40.4330208, -73.987617

Pass Nike Missile Site on right.

SAN014

Location: 40.45525, -74.003249

Enter Fort Hancock. Great bay views across the street to the left.

SAN015

Location: 40.466268, -74.003743

Continue straight @ L-junction.

SAN016

Location: 40.4681985, -73.9970505

Reach North Beach. Services available. When finished, retrace the way back to the last L-junction and turn L. Continue to the lighthouse.

SAN017

Location: 40.461651, -74.0015668

Reach Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the oldest standing lighthouse in the nation. A board on the front lawn indicates tour hours for each day. The park headquarters are across the street. When finished, retrace steps back to the start of the multi-use path.

Entrance

Location: 40.4023243, -73.9777601

Holly

Location: 40.4293253, -73.9857531

Wildlife Blind

Location: 40.4319856, -73.9850959

Nike Pond

Location: 40.4319713, -73.9853883

Entrance to the beach

Location: 40.4312281, -73.9836502

The Atlantic

Location: 40.4307218, -73.9827383

Seagulls

Location: 40.4299378, -73.9826524

Visitor Center

Location: 40.4268793, -73.9842483

Nike Missile Site

Location: 40.4330901, -73.9876279

Memorial

Location: 40.4482146, -73.9958355

Sandy Hook Bay

Location: 40.4634112, -74.0057757

Protected Dunes

Location: 40.4681659, -73.9971739

Verrazano Bridge in the distance

Location: 40.4681944, -73.9971873

North Beach

Location: 40.4682189, -73.997072

Lighthouse

Location: 40.461846, -74.0014279