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Gravitas: Hiking: Proximity:
Much less well known than Valley Forge, Jockey Hollow was where Washington’s army spent the winter of 1777, following its victories in Trenton and Princeton. There’s a beautiful, Intermediate hike through this area that climbs a ridge, and passes the camp site of the NJ Brigade. After about a mile or so you descend into the valley and cross the headwaters of the Passaic River (which is here a lovely, tiny, wild trout stream), and then climb gradually towards the visitor center for the Morristown National Historic Park (better known as Jockey Hollow) where there are miles of additional hiking trails, reconstructed huts, and a small museum.
The suggested route takes advantage of the parking lot on Hardscrabble Road and some trails belonging to the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary of the NJ Audubon Society, which abuts the National Park. This parking lot is a few hundred yards past the the main entrance/driveway to the Sanctuary. The suggested Audubon trails are marked in red in the map below (the Brigade Trail itself is green). The Brigade’s campsite is in the area of the loop at the southern end of the Brigade Trail.
The basic route is more or less a straight line hike, though you can use the northern and southern connectors from the Audubon system to provide some variation. More adventurous hikers can bushwhack along the western bank of the Passaic River to connect to the Audubon trail system in the heart of the Sanctuary. Note the only bridge is the one for the Brigade Trail, so unless you feel like wading across the stream, make sure you’re on the western bank before turning south. There’s no blazed trail along that part of the river, but a pretty clear pathway has been worn by hikers and fishermen over the years, until you reach the clearly blazed Dogwood and River Trails (a download-link to a trail map of the preserve is provided above). Note, however, that dogs are not allowed on the Audubon trails, even on a leash.
Also, be prepared, that the steepest part of this hike is the climb out of the parking lot. The trail’s been rerouted recently, with switchbacks added to ease the gradient somewhat (it used to be insanely steep), but it’s still pretty intense for an Intermediate hike. However, the rest of the trail is reasonably moderate and footing is generally good.
If you’ve got the time, it certainly makes sense to visit the exhibits in the National Park north of Tempe Wick Road. However, you may want to do it after you complete this hike. This hike is roughly 3 miles one-way from Hardscrabble Rd to the Visitor Center, which makes it 6 miles round-trip, before you do any sight-seeing in the main park, which is fairly spread out. An alternative route, which you could do as a loop, would be to walk the Brigade Trail as far as the river, turn south, and connect to the Audubon trail system. After exploring any of those trails, you can hike back to the parking lot via the return loop of the Dogwood Trail, avoiding the steep descent above the parking lot.
For bird lovers, the Scherman-Hoffman preserve is well worth a visit. If you drive up the main driveway you’ll come to another parking lot, providing easy access to a variety of bird habitat. The Society operates a store with bird feed, bird feeders, books, and probably the best selection of fine optics for birdwatching available in NJ.
Driving tip: Pick up Elm Rd/Great Road in Princeton. Follow it to the end (in Montgomery) and continue on 206N to the Somerville Circle, then I-287N to exit 30B. Avoid rush hours.