“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.”
– Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
With all the highways in this congested state, it’s easy to forget that New Jersey has some amazing bike trails that offer a respite from the traffic. On an unseasonably warm late-November day, a friend and I decided to check out a portion of the Henry Hudson Trail in Monmouth County.We began the day in Hazlet, where the northern branch of the bike route starts. There’s a small parking lot at Fireman’s Park across the street from the trailhead, which is off to the side of a gas station (quite a scenic start to the day). The entrance to the Henry Hudson Trail is well marked, and the entire route is paved.
As we got along the trail, I noticed my friend’s rear tire was flat. I suggested heading back to the parking lot as I had a pump in the car, and I hoped it only needed air and wasn’t a puncture. My friend said it was ok to keep riding while searching for a gas station or mechanic who could help. It wasn’t until about 7 miles along the route that we came across Belford Engine Company — the volunteer fire department. They were happy to help out, and we were grateful for the assistance. The bike ride sped up after that.
Much of the bike trail isn’t particularly scenic, though it is pleasant as it crosses into small towns near the Jersey Shore. It is surrounded by trees through much of the northern section — having the shade on a sunny day makes it easier to ride facing the sun. It mostly runs parallel to Route 36, which is the main road between Sandy Hook and the Garden State Parkway, so it can get hectic with traffic during Shore season.
Between Union Beach and Keansburg there’s a little more to enjoy and stop for pictures — rivers and wetlands surrounding the trail make for a relaxing scene. We stopped for a bit to watch the ducks before continuing on (they were gone on our way back).The only section of the Henry Hudson Trail that got a little confusing was in Atlantic Highlands — the trail ends at Avenue D and then picks up again a few blocks later off Center Ave. There were some signs pointing in the direction, but it helped that I checked the map prior to the day’s ride.At the reconnection point, the bike trail got more crowded. Atlantic Highlands is a more popular town and the trail turns along the coast, making it more appealing for everyone to walk through. It then ends again at Popamora Point, a park with beach access.
We continued our ride along Shore Drive — through a little Shore town — until we came upon Huddy Park in Highlands, which had a farmer’s market. We stopped in Water Witch for a sandwich before turning around to finish our bike ride.
After resting with our light lunch, we were ready to bike back to Hazlet — the ride out was flat and not strenuous. Mileage becomes a factor on the return ride.
I knew it’d be a bit over 20 miles total, and I thought I would be prepared after months of regular biking at 10 to 15 miles. It was about halfway back that exhaustion set in. We rode a little slower and took closer notice of every bump in the road — there are a lot of them that are unavoidable. We peddled on, checking the map every now and again to see how much farther it was to the parking lot.
As we came to the finish line, my friend said, “I kind of hate you right now, but I’m glad I came along.” To which I replied, “It’s ok; I kind of hate me, too, right now.”
Overall, it was an enjoyable bike ride, and I would recommend the northern branch of the Henry Hudson Trail for the views alone. The difficulty of biking 26 miles on a flat trail reminded me of how my Dahon folding bike isn’t meant for such rides — it would be faster and less tiring on a different bike.We averaged about 8 mph along the trail, likely due to stopping to enjoy some scenery (slower than my usual average of 10-12 mph around Jersey City), so the entire trip took over three hours. Through much of the ride, there are roadway crossings that cyclists need to be aware of — many have traffic lights.The southern section of the Henry Hudson Trail runs from Freehold to Aberdeen/Matawan. The only facilities, such as restrooms, along the northern section are on the eastern end in Atlantic Highlands and Highlands.