The Painted Rock is a roadside piece of artwork located on the magnificent Route 539, one of the best roads for savoring the magic of the Pine Barrens. It was once painted to match the season or holiday, but after 9/11 it has been decorated with America’s colors and has stayed that way since. If heading north on Route 539 from Route 72, the Painted Rock will be on the left at these coordinates: 39° 52′ 40.20″ N 74° 22′ 35.84″ W
The highest coastal landform in the Unites States south of Maine is located right here in good ol’ Jersey. Mount Mitchill of Atlantic Highlands in Monmouth County is 266 feet and has one of the best views in NJ of Manhattan, as well as the Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook. The Monmouth County 911 Memorial graces the top of the mount. The memorial is an experience in itself, taking visitors through a timeline of the tragedy, including first impacts and the moments when the towers fell. A plaque explains that people had come to Mount Mitchill after the attacks to witness for themselves the smoke rising from the ruins of the towers. Monmouth County lost 147 inhabitants in the attack. The centerpiece of the memorial is an eagle clutching a beam which had once been a part of the towers.
Mount Mitchill is located on Ocean Boulevard, Atlantic Highlands, NJ. Parking coordinates are 40°24’26.8″N 74°00’18.0″W
While you’re nearby, you might be interested in visiting the Navesink Twin Lights.
Thompson’s Beach was a secluded beach town on the edge of the Delaware Bay. Back in the day, its location made it the epitome of peace and isolation with a long, singular road through thick marshland as the only means of access. However, a devastating tidal wave occurred in 1950 and destroyed almost the entire town. Although some of the homes were rebuilt after the disaster, most of the residents abandoned the location and by the late 1990s only several houses remained. The long marsh road soon became too much to maintain for so few living there, and the town was bought out and demolished.
What remains there today is an eerie shell of a long lost beach haven. At the very end of Thompsons Beach Road off of CR 616, located not far from the Heislerville Wildlife Management Area and the East Point Lighthouse, there is a small parking lot with a boat launch and lookouts for bird watchers (Parking Coordinates: 39°12’10.2″N 74°59’36.7″W). Here you’ll see the road that cuts through the marshland and leads to the beach. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the road was no longer a crumbling mess of asphalt, mud, and marsh grass, as reported by people who visited the site years ago. Now, the road is slightly elevated and covered in gravel. There is a fence to prevent vehicles from driving back there, but it’s an easy 3/4 mile walk.
At the beach you’ll find the remains of a long wooden bulkhead and piles of cement slabs and pillars where houses once stood. There are wires and pipes sticking out of the sand and the skeletons of huge wooden docks jutting out of the water. One of the biggest things still in tact is an old chimney that stands looking out towards the bay. It’s quite a big area to explore. Once you’re out there, you will really get a sense of why this place has been tucked away so far and forgotten.
Constructed in 1862, the Navesink Twin Lights overlook the Sandy Hook bay in Highlands, Monmouth County, NJ. It was where the Pledge of Allegiance was first given and also the site of wireless telegraph experiments in 1899. Today, the lighthouse is no longer operational and is a museum that offers a beautiful view of Sandy Hook and the Atlantic Ocean as well as a tour of the lighthouse and north tower. The Twin Lights are located at the end of Lighthouse Road, which is a sharp turn off of Highland Road. Coordinates for parking: 40.396541, -73.986191
A great link for tons of detailed information about the history of the Twin Lights, as well as hours and directions- http://twinlightslighthouse.com/
High Point State Park of Montague in Sussex County boasts the highest point in all of the Kingdom of New Jersey. A 220-foot-tall war veteran monument has stood proud over High Point since 1930. Visitors may climb to the top and catch views of the surrounding mountains in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. High Point State Park also includes the beautiful Lake Marcia and part of the Appalachian Trail. This link provides information on hours and fees of the park.
The Apshawa Preserve of West Milford in Passaic County, NJ was a hike that offered a variety of interesting stops along the way. Our goal was to find an abandoned dam that we had read about, but along the way we not only encountered breathtaking views of the Butler Reservoir, but also babbling brooks and ruins of an early 20th century water purification plant. We continued on and finally found the abandoned dam, a stunning ending to our fascinating adventure.
Some general tips for this hike include keeping a close eye out for trail markers, because trails will sometimes turn suddenly and could be easily missed. Also, you will be passing through several deer fences, which are a part of a reforestation effort. Just unlatch the gate and make sure to close it behind you. Some parts of the hike are steep climbs and descents, so bring water and be prepared to pause for some time to rest.
Park at the the Northwood Drive Parking lot, which is located off of Macopin Road in West Milford, NJ (Coordinates for parking: 41.025310, -74.373784) We started on the blue trail, passed the purple and orange trails, and continued until it connected to the green trail. We turned right onto the green trail and soon got our first glimpse of the dazzling Butler Reservoir. The green trail forked and we went left, following the now green and red trail. Soon a gravel road ran perpendicular to the green and red trail. We turned right onto the road and continued until the green and red trail split. Go left onto the green trail, which will lead you to the ruins of the water purification plant. We were looking real hard for hints that we were close to the “rusted water tanks,” little did we know how conspicuous these tanks would actually be. There were also ruins of small buildings near the tanks.
We continued down the green trail until we finally arrived at the concrete dam. It hadn’t been too rainy, but the dam was still dazzling as the sun set behind the water spilling onto the rocks below. The green trail will continue from there, and we eventually made a right onto the orange trail, then another right onto the blue trail, which led us back to the parking lot.
This is the very helpful trail map that we used to navigate- Apshawa Preserve Trail Map
We learned about the Tuckerton Shell Mound while reading the book Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens by Barbara Solem-Stull. It is a huge deposit of shells that covers about one-tenth of an acre and it is believed to be about 1,500 years old! The mound was thought to be a burial site for Lenape Indians who lived in the area, and other sources say it was used as a landmark for navigation purposes. From the road it looks like a large clump of trees in the middle of the marsh, but when you get up close you can see that the entire mound is made up of shells. If you turn onto Great Bay Boulevard (also known as Seven Bridges Road) off of Route 9 in Tuckerton, Ocean County, the mound will be in the marsh to your right, before you get to the first bridge.
HELPFUL TIP: When looking for anomalies that are located on the side of a road, always look for places in the shoulder where it looks like people pulled over.
Right before the bridge, past the shell mound, there is also a pull-off and a small sign with a map showing the location of the shell mound.
Also located nearby are the Mystic Island Blocks.
Mary Ellis, born in 1750, lived in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, NJ along the Raritan River. She fell in love with a sailor and visited the same spot along the Raritan everyday with hopes that his ship was coming in and he had returned to her, but he never did. She is buried, along with two family members, at the same site that she had gone to each day while waiting for her love. Today, a movie theater parking lot surrounds the grave site, which now sits high above ground level after development of the property leveled the hill it originally was placed on. The address is 17 US Hwy 1, New Brunswick, NJ and the coordinates are 40.489199, -74.416589. It is situated behind the movie theater in a fenced in plot.
Click here for a link to more detailed history.
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We made several attempts to get to Hampton before we actually found success. The first time we scoped it out, it was nighttime in late September and we were almost eaten alive by bugs. After getting a face full of spiderwebs, we came across just one of the house foundations and a big cement cylinder so we knew we had to try again in better conditions. In March, we had the pleasure of attending the 9th Annual Lines on the Pines Convention in Hammmonton, NJ where we met none other than Barbara Solem-Stull, the author of Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Her book gives a detailed history of the Hampton furnace and includes a hand-drawn map with the location of all the ruins. That same day, we attempted to follow her directions to the abandoned town by following Hampton Road off of Route 206, just before the Atsion Ranger Station. However, this road gets really muddy and I had to turn around for fear of getting stuck.
About a week later, we took an alternate route by making a right onto Glossy Spung Road off of Carranza Road. After about two miles we finally emerged to find the ruins of the old town. The Hampton Furnace was built in 1795 and the town was initially an ironworks village. It was later converted into a cranberry bog and packing facility that operated through the turn of the 19th century. The ruins and foundations are mostly from the cranberry era, but you can still see the site of the furnace by the bridge on the Batsto River. The waters of the raceway are full of iron and it is said that an old furnace wheel lies buried deep below. This town has a fascinating history including a robbery that occurred in 1916. Andrew Rider, former president of Rider College and owner of Hampton Park during the cranberry era, was returning to the town with $4,000 in cash to pay his cranberry workers. As he turned onto Hampton Road, he was followed by a car that was parked at the Atsion store. The bandits fired upon Rider and his party, fatally wounding his brother Henry. Rider and his group made it to Hampton with the money intact, and the bandits were later found because a neighbor was able to note the license plate number of the car. Hampton is a wonderful place to visit and I highly recommend using Stull’s book for a walking tour reference.
The Palisades Interstate Park is a fabulous area that has a ridiculous amount of spectacular views, fascinating history, and trails for all levels of hiking. The Palisades are cliffs that stretch along the Hudson River from Jersey City, NJ into NY state.
During our trip to the Palisades, we were excited from the beginning simply after driving up the Palisades Interstate Parkway, the stunning road that travels through the park. We had our minds set on seeing Peanut Leap Cascade and on taking the challenge of the Giant Stairs, which is an insane hike that takes you through a very strenuous boulder trail. The Giant Stairs would only be appropriate for those who have proper footwear and a few hours to spend in case you need to take time to rest. There is a stone monument marking the separation between New Jersey and New York. Be prepared for a perfect view of the Tappan Zee Bridge as well as Manhattan. We also stumbled upon ruins of an Italian Garden that was built circa 1900. There were a set of swings tied to a tree, which was a magical touch to an already magnificent hike. All in all, out trip to the Palisades were breathtaking (in more ways than one,) and we already can’t wait to return. There are just too many sights to see in just one day.
Coordinates for parking- N: 40.98919, W: 73.90711
These sites were very helpful in planning our trip:
And here are some sites that are informative concerning the extensive history of the Palisades:
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