Like many other Jersey hikers here, we're also in an "elevation-challenged" area which requires us to travel at least a good hour (preferably 1-1/2hrs.) to hike above sea level. :( But that hasn't stopped us from ferreting out as many hikes as possible that afford some good elevation changes, views and some challenging trails, too, and are within an hour's drive time.
Hartshorne Woods in Middletown (Atlantic Highlands) fills the bill in all those areas. We've been back twice now and because of the great trail network, a myriad of loops and out & backs can be put together. First time we racked up 9+miles and most recently a couple of weeks ago we clocked a little over 12. Trails range from easy. Some even paved if your knees need a break. But most are moderate to more challenging like The Rocky Point Trail and The Grand Tour. Thanks to the non-stop rains they both have some significant gouging & erosion which IMO made them decidedly more interesting and an even better workout.
The place is a mecca for mountain bikers and nearly all trails are multi-use. We've never had an unpleasant experience w/any biker we've encountered. All have been courteous, friendly and professional. (That last aspect, we've found, is the single most important difference between "bicycle riders" and "cyclists". If you've been barreled down upon w/nary an "on your left" or some warning or had to literally step off into the brush because two or more "bicycle riders" simply had to ride side by side...then you know what I mean.)
An additional interesting feature of Hartshorne is its historical significance. During WWII the location was home of several pivotal air defense bunkers/lookouts (like this one, Battery Lewis) directly overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The massive bunkers still exist and are quite impressive although overgrown. Kind of eerie, but somewhat comforting to know they were there.
The right and central entrance to the main bunker. The third is out of frame shot off to the left.
Hawk watching is great here too. There were no less than two dozen hawks riding the thermals all around the crest this day. These two nearly knocked DH off that picnic table before they perched in a nearby tree.
All in all a good hike which can be repeated and done differently each time; historical interest; views and a good workout. Not too shabby for a good hike within an hour's drive of us.