Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
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.
- Distance: 21.1
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.
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.
Location: 40.4269078, -73.985062
With the Visitor Center to the right veer L for about 20 feet.
Location: 40.426979, -73.985211
Bear R @ Old Dune Trailhead.
Location: 40.430963, -73.984928
Go straight @ four-way junction.
Location: 40.431914, -73.984958
Bear L @ the platform to access the observation blind at Nike Pond.
Location: 40.432006, -73.9853668
Reach observation blind. When finished, retrace steps to the trail.
Location: 40.432054, -73.9842308
Bear R @ Y-junction.
Location: 40.431246, -73.983841
Turn L @ T-junction and walk toward the ocean.
Location: 40.4311628, -73.9828563
Turn R and walk south along the shore. Manhattan is to the north in the distance.
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.
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.
Location: 40.4330208, -73.987617
Pass Nike Missile Site on right.
Location: 40.45525, -74.003249
Enter Fort Hancock. Great bay views across the street to the left.
Location: 40.466268, -74.003743
Continue straight @ L-junction.
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.
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.
Location: 40.4023243, -73.9777601
Location: 40.4293253, -73.9857531
Location: 40.4319856, -73.9850959
Location: 40.4319713, -73.9853883
Entrance to the beach
Location: 40.4312281, -73.9836502
Location: 40.4307218, -73.9827383
Location: 40.4299378, -73.9826524
Location: 40.4268793, -73.9842483
Nike Missile Site
Location: 40.4330901, -73.9876279
Location: 40.4482146, -73.9958355
Sandy Hook Bay
Location: 40.4634112, -74.0057757
Location: 40.4681659, -73.9971739
Verrazano Bridge in the distance
Location: 40.4681944, -73.9971873
Location: 40.4682189, -73.997072
Location: 40.461846, -74.0014279