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Hike NJ: Rocky Point Trail (Hartshorne Woods Park)

Hartshorne Woods Park is a beautiful little gem tucked away in Atlantic Highlands and boasts the longest trail that I've managed to find in Monmouth County. That trail*, however, is not the topic of today's post. Like many other avid outdoorspeople, I took to the trails last year as we hunkered down and did our best to avoid indoor spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Doing so gave me a lot of time to traverse some new local trails in the area, one being Rocky Point Trail at Hartshorne.

By the Navesink River at Black Fish Cove

The brochure provided by the Monmouth County Park system describes this trail as a "challenging 2.3 mile (3.7 km) natural surface trail to explore the forest and scenery of Rocky Point." You can add a bit of length to your hike by visiting the pier at Black Fish Cove. To the left of the pier you will find a small beach alongside the Navesink River. This is a great spot to stop and have lunch. Black Fish Cove also has bathrooms and a couple of picnic tables, if you prefer not to sit on the ground.

Having a reactive dog, in addition to preferring to have the trails all to myself, I typically hike early in the day on weekdays. We started this trail after 10AM on a Thursday and did not encounter much in the way of other hikers or dogs. It wasn't until after spending what must have been a couple of hours on the small beach by the pier that other people began to file in, at which point we decided to resume our hike.

Photo credit to my dear hiking pal who is a considerably better photographer than me

Rocky Point Trail has a couple of great outlooks for seeing the Navesink River and surrounding area, making it a great trail for photo ops. It can be narrow at times, so there is not always a good place to pull over when hiking with your reactive dog, but I find this to be the case with pretty much every trail I do.

I agree with the rating of "challenging" for this trail, and wouldn't advise it for folks who are not regular hikers or dogs who aren't up to the challenge. Though the shorter length of the trail makes it somewhat forgiving in that regard. If you're not up to the entire hike but are still interested in seeing Black Fish Cove and visiting the pier, you can always take the Battery Loop down instead - a shorter, paved walking trail. Just be aware of the steep incline on the return portion of your trip, as advised by the park map.

At the pier at Black Fish Cove

I'm not sure this is a park worth investing considerable travel time getting to, but if you're located in Monmouth County or the Atlantic Highlands area, it's a must see. I liked this trail enough to go back and do the first portion again several days later and will certainly rehike it again the future.

So how did this trail stack up on our paws rating system? We give it 4 out of 4 paws!

Pros: Easy to navigate, includes scenic overlooks and a nice place to stop, rest, and eat lunch, a good trail for seasoned hikers and in-shape doggos, not busy at nonpeak times. Bear in mind that the nonpeak time at which I hiked this was midday on a Thursday in October.

Cons: Has the potential to be very busy, especially in the summer, noise pollution from nearby speedboats, and a bit short for my taste!

We're introducing a reactive dog rating system as well, with Rocky Point being the first trail to receive this rating at 3 out of 4 paws.

Pros: Not busy at nonpeak times, generally enough space to pull over if needed, leashes required.

Cons: Leashes not always used, potential to be very busy, there's not a total guarantee you will find a spot to pull over when encountering other hikers and their dogs, and you'll also be sharing the trail with cyclists - something to bear in mind if bicycles tend to overwhelm your dog.

Gear used during this hike:

  • Roamer Bungee Dog Leash by Ruffwear - Go hands free by fastening it around your waist. I like the Roamer because it's longer than your average leash and includes the bungee portion in the event that my dog makes a quick move. You can also shorten the waist portion to be used as a regular handle. The bit that goes around your waist is also padded.

  • Quencher Packable Dog Bowl by Ruffwear - Always make sure to bring extra water for your dog and keep them adequately hydrated on hikes, especially during warm weather. This bowl is lightweight and well made. I've been using it for a couple of years now after my old Outward Hound bowl sprung a leak. Mine is in Tumalo Teal, a very cute color!

  • Zuke's Mini Naturals - I love these treats because they are small, soft, and only a few calories. Perfect for taking on outings. They have a variety of meat options which is great for dogs with typical allergies like chicken and beef. I most often purchase the rabbit variety. My dog is also allergic to apples and potatoes, which seem to be in almost every dog food and treat known to man. When I find a good product that doesn't contain these ingredients I stick with it! You also can't beat the price point, as many natural treats can be cost prohibitive.

  • Rapid Rewards Treat Pouch from DogGone Good! The Clicker Company - You've gotta have something to put those treats in after all. I love this treat pouch and just retired my first one which I used for 4 years. The new version has a buckle instead of velcro strap, a big improvement in my opinion! This pouch also has plenty of room for poop bags and keys, though my iPhoneX does not fit in the back zipper compartment. I've also always been a fan of the magnetic closure in the main compartment of this pouch. Using a treat pouch around your waist as opposed to a plastic baggie ensures that you have those treats handy in a pinch, no fumbling through your pockets to find them! My new pouch is in lime green and I love it! Note that the link I provided does not include the belt strap, which can be found on a different page of their website.

Pictured: Roamer Bungee Dog Leash by Ruffwear

As always, be sure to check with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is in good enough health to be your hiking companion. We hope you enjoying checking out Rocky Point Trail at Hartshorne Woods Park. Please share your photos and impressions of the hike in the comments below!

Happy hiking, friends!

*If you're interested, the trail I'm referring to is the Grand Tour Trail, with a length of 3.1 miles.

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