Jakes Branch Park – Beachwood, NJ

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Jake’s Branch Park – Beachwood, Ocean County, NJ
Distance – 8.6 miles of trails (incl a 2.6 mile bike trail).  We did just over 4 miles on the Blue and White Trails
Type – Loops
Difficulty:  3 of 10 – a few uphills, shorter pines leave you exposed to the sun in hot weather
Total score: 8 of 10

Website – Ocean County Parks page
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – Small hills (remains of ancient sand dunes), mature and new pine forest, and a bit of swampland

Trailheads –  39°55’45.61″N,  74°12’52.32″W
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Directions – 1100 Double Trouble Rd, Beachwood, NJ 08722

Parking – Large lot

Dog friendly? – Yes (must be kept on leash)
Stroller friendly? – Offroad strollers should be fine
Benches? – A few, spaced about a mile apart on the Blue Trail.
Bathrooms/Changing table – Yes and yes.

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Standouts – The recently burned out areas and the variety in the maturity of the pine forests is really neat.

Markings – Painted blazes, signs at major trail intersections.
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Map – An up-to-date map can be found here

Description – Another Saturday, another day with the kids while my wife went to work.  We’d had this one on our list for a while so….. Jakes Branch County Park it was!  Hopped in the car for the hour and fifteen minute ride to this park.

When we got there, we checked out the visitor’s center (see the bottom of this post), then set off to walk the Tindey Trail (aka, the Blue Trail), the longest trail in the park, circling the outside of the parkland to the tune of four miles.

We started at the trailhead next to the visitors center, opting to take the blue Tindey Trail around the perimeter of the park.  The trail leads a few feet into the woods, then splits.  We opted for left, to start.  You’ll finish the loop back at this point in four miles or so.

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Once on the trail, you immediately hit some burned over areas.  Actually, my favorite part about this whole hike was the various fires and/or controlled burns along different sections of the trail that resulted in very different maturities of the pitch pines that you walk through.  It’s really neat.

Anyway, you will wind around a bit under the base of the observation tower and pass the intersection with the red Spruce Street Trail.

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A short while after, you’ll pass the intersection with the 0.7 mile green Interpretive Trail.  This is a lollipop trail that comes right back to this point, so it’s a great way to add an extra 3/4 of a mile to this hike if you’d like some extra hiking.  Unsure yet of how The Pres was going to be hiking, we passed it by and kept going.

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Intersection with the green trail.  Stay left to stay on the blue trail.

Shortly after this, you’ll have playground equipment come into view and start crossing the new, 1/2 mile purple trail, which is not yet on the maps.  It was officially closed when we were there, but folks seemed to be on it (and the equipment) anyway.  It’ll be awesome when its open, but for now, we kept marching onward.

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Equipment in the distance.

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Crossing the purple trail.

The trail winds around near the equipment before reaching it’s southernmost points.  This part was definitely my least favorite part of the hike, because the road noise from the Garden State Parkway was pretty bad here.  You can even see the cars for a short stretch.  Fortunately, this noise dissipated later in the hike once the trail headed back North away from the highway.

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This seems to be a shared trail, as we saw numerous bikers on it.  Just be aware!

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Hello car on the road.

Fortunately, just as I reach my most frustrated point with road noise (I couldn’t hear what The Pres was saying), the hike started to get really good.  The trees shrank down to “The Pres sized” (as he called them) and closed in on the trail, creating an awesome feeling as you walked through their tunnel.

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We soon reached the split off for the 0.2 mile white Swamp Trail.  The Pres was moving pretty good, so we let Tree Rider out of the pack and figured he could hike for a while on this out-and-back spur trail.

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This turned out to be a mistake, as Tree Rider got about 2/3 of the way down the spur and decided he no longer wanted to hike.  After five minutes time and about eight feet of progress, back in the pack he went, and back to the blue trail we went.

We turned left and continued down that blue trail.

Soon, we were near the purple trail again for another brief glimpse at playground equipment, but, crossing the yellow Bike Trail for the first time, we settled into the quieter, less peopled section of trail

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This stretch also had the coolest burnover area of the hike.

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More than halfway into our hike, we opted to stop at the bench to eat a snack in the shade of the trees.  Good call.

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After ten minutes or so, it was back to work.  We soon crossed the yellow trail for a second time, which at this point lines up with the dirt Pine Street.

The trail curved, crossed Sugar Sand Road, crossed a small bridge, and wandered out to the other end of the red Spruce Street Trail.

We walked a bit further, then took a break at the second bench in the loop.  It was on this stretch that we also began seeing wilderness area signs, so be extra careful to stay on the trail here!

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At this point, we were getting close, and Tree Rider wanted out again, so he walked about a half mile on this back stretch, even insisting on wearing his pack.  The trail has a long unbroken stretch, wanders near some swamps, and then hits the yellow Bike Trail again.

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I believe this is false Reindeer lichen, but I could definitely be wrong.

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Once reaching the yellow trail, you’ll cross it three times in rapid succession as the hike comes to a close.

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As you get to the end, you’ll first spot the cars in the parking lot, then the familiar tower of the visitors center.  You’ll turn left onto the tiny spur of the blue trail that you started on, then emerge next to the Visitor’s Center.

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This is a convient spot to emerge because you totally need to check out…

The Visitor’s Center!  

Check out the exhibits and live animals, and don’t miss the view from the top of the tower.

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No visit here is complete without heading up to the roof for a bird’s eye view of the park.

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The building in the distance is the hanger that The Hindenburg was kept in at Lakehurst Naval Air Station.  Loyal readers will remember that the whole family took a field trip there in 2015

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Overall recommendation – This is a very cool trail is a very nice park, and I highly recommend that you check it out.  Thank you to the multiple folks who have insisted that I needed to get here, you sure weren’t wrong!

Nearby – The Hindenburg went down at nearby Lakehurst Naval Air Station. You can also hike at nearby Double Trouble State Park.

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6 Comments

Filed under Hiking, History, Outdoors., pine barrens, South Jersey, Wildlife.

6 responses to “Jakes Branch Park – Beachwood, NJ

  1. Jim Ryan

    Excellent post! (Yes, I am, to the best of my knowledge, one of those folks who highly recommended this park.) Glad it didn’t disappoint! You did what I did when I first came to this park back in 2011 — take the longest trail there is to get an overview of the park. Of course, back in 2011, there were only 3 choices: the Blue (Tindey) trail, the Red (Spruce Street) trail, and the White (Swamp Spur) trail. Then I went again in 2014, to discover the newer Yellow (Bike) trail, the Green (Interpretive) trail and the Plant Discovery trail (which features the nice little pond near the parking lot; I believe it’s color-coded orange on the trail map.) After reading your post, it looks like there’s a new Purple trail added — talk about a park one has to keep visiting to see the latest trails…they just keep on adding new ones!

    I also want to say, that The Pres did an *extraordinary* job hiking the full 4 miles of the Tindey trail! (You might say I was im-PRES-sed! 🙂 But seriously — 4 miles on a smooth (paved) trail is no small feat…let alone on sand, which can be “sugary” in spots! As for Tree Rider — give the guy another year or two, and he’ll be complaining that the White trail is WAY too short for him! (Of course, the way things seem to be going at JBP, they’ll probably extend that trail at some point!)

    Anyway, great pix (as always), and if you do go again, I would highly recommend the Green (Interpretive) trail, and (of course), the new Purple trail, as you may see that one before I do!

    Keep up the great work, and Happy Hiking to you all!

    — Jim

    • Jim, you have officially won the award for Worst Pun Yet Used On This Site, and I salute you for it :).

      I definitely loved this one, so thank you for the recommendation! We will be back for the Purple Trail, because it’s covered with playground equipment everything 100 feet 🙂

  2. Robert Ojamaa

    Hello, I was another one that suggested this park. Its one of the best hiking parks in my area (If not the best). I go there quite regularly on my lunch break to do a nice hike. I work for Ocean County Government who owns and maintains this park. I do not however work for the Parks department. The county originally wanted to clear most of that land and make a golf course out of it. That did not go well with the public so it just became a park. Some of the dirt roads you cross on the trails used to part of the Beachwood grid system of roads before the Parkway was built. Some even had houses on them well after the Parkway was constructed. If you go to Historicalaerials.com and do a search for Beachwood NJ you can see aerial maps of the area going back into the 1930’s I believe. I actually liked the hike more before they started adding the children’s jungle gyms etc this past year. I am sure if I had kids I would feel differently though. Anyway I am glad you had a good time and got some awesome photos!!

    Best Wishes,
    Bob

  3. My sister lives near beachwood and now I totally want to go drop the kids off to her & take a hike! Thanks for this! (PS I’m so impressed your son did this. Mine are older than he is (10 & 7) and would probably complain.

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