If you live in Morristown, NJ and you’ve never been to Jockey Hollow, you’re missing out on some great New Jersey hiking only 5 minutes from the town green. Our hike today was embarrassingly short; combining the entire lengths of the red and yellow trails, we hiked just under 3.5 miles, but the brief hike was packed with action. With 10 brook crossings, 3 bears, 5 reconstructed Revolutionary War huts and an apple orchard that once fed George Washington, Jockey Hollow, though easy on the legs, was vibrant in attraction.
We took the Yellow Grand Parade trail into the Red Primrose Brook trail and then hiked the rest of the Yellow trail back. The Primrose Brook trail is a 1 mile trail weaving in and across the brook 8 times. Most of the crossings were easy enough–I do think children could do it– but a few required more attention. Nellie had to be carried across two crossings and fell into the brook once when she misjudged a jump. We saw a more experienced hiker using a pole to help him cross over.
After mastering the art of brook-crossing, we crossed Jockey Hollow Road to reach an information booth and the start of the Yellow Trail. Sara and Meredith had water, while I took out a sandwich from my pack. About twenty paces in from the head, while I’m stuffing my face with peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, we heard a rustling in the brush to our left. Meredith and Sara both yell, “Bear!” “No, three bears!” “Shea, get rid of that SANDWICH!” Grabbing at my backpack to dig out one of Nellie’s poop-bags to hid my sandwich in, I looked up and saw two black bear cubs climbing up a tall tree, one after the other. Below I could see branches and leaves shaking and moving about–the signs of a larger bear, but I feared making eye-contact. Instead, I snapped a picture of the second bear cub before Sara, Meredith, Petrified Nellie and I hurried on.
Shortly after, we arrived at Grand Parade Road where we dutifully warned an approaching family and Boy Scout troop of the black bears. The family was grateful for our warning. Two of the Boy Scout Leaders said “Cool, Bears. Let’s Go!” and rushed on in the direction we came from. Another laughed saying “No worries, we can out-run these boys.” A sensible leader in the group eventually re-directed the troop down Grand Parade Road instead of to the bear family. We bid them good-bye.
This hut, along with several others, was reconstructed to resemble huts in which the Continental Army would have stayed as they waited for the British Army. It’s interesting to imagine what it would have been like eating and sleeping in those bunks. Throughout Jockey Hollow, we read plaques and signs with historic information. We even learned about the Irishmen who served in the Revolutionary War.
Jockey Hollow certainly wasn’t a rigorous hike. Granted, we only hiked the Red and Yellow trails which added up to be about 3 miles. I’d love to hike the 6.5 mile White Trail next time. That one promises New York City views and bigger brook crossings.
I’d recommend Jockey Hollow to history nerds and people looking for wildlife. Besides the bears, we saw more birds and chipmunks than on any other northern New Jersey trail. The hikers in 50 Hikes in New Jersey wrote that they came face to face with a deer in Jockey Hollow!
Lastly, I’ll mention that the trails were incredibly well marked. Not only are the trail blazes clear, at every junction you can find a printed trail map with an arrow saying “You are Here.” I heard from other Morristown hikers that JH had previously been confusing to hike. No Longer.
That completes hike #6. Have you hiked Jockey Hollow? Did you encounter a deer or bear? Is the White Trail better than the Red and Yellow? Let me know!