Carranza Memorial, cedar swamps, fire tower with views of Philly and Atlantic City.
Watch out for ticks.
Batona Trail – Carranza Memorial to Apple Pie Hill (and back) – Wharton State Forest, Tabernacle, NJ
Type: Out and back
Hours: Never closes
Updated: 11-26-2016 – As of Labor Day 2016, the fire tower is now fenced off, limiting access. You can still climb it when it’s manned, but it is not always manned. As awesome as this hike is, it is seriously less awesome when you can’t go up the fire tower.
Visitors to the fire tower can call NJ Forest Fire Service Division B Headquarters to find out of the tower is manned. The number is (609) 726-9010.
For more info on why the fire tower is closed, I recommend reading Brian Donahue’s article Why one of N.J.’s most cherished landmarks is now off limits from nj.com
Distance: 4.1 miles one way, 8.2 miles out and back
Difficulty: 5 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10. One of my favorites.
Terrain – Sandy trails, swamps with bridges, a hill to climb, and a fire tower at the end.
Parking – Plenty of parking behind the Carranza Memorial or at Batona Campground.
Trailhead – Parking lot off of Carranza Road in Tabernacle, NJ- 39°46’38.27″N 74°37’56.47″W. The parking is behind the memorial, turn on the dirt road to just after the memorial (if coming from 206 and pavement). If you are coming down Carranza and the pavement ends, you missed your turn.
Bathrooms?: Pit toilet at the campground
Stroller friendly?: Definitely not.
Dog Friendly? Yes. Batona Camp is a dog friendly campground if you want to make this a weekend.
Benches: No benches.
Markings – Pink blazes. NOTE: Pay attention to them! The Batona Trail is a fickle friend! (Updated: MUCH easier to follow than it was, thanks to some very hard work from the Outdoors Club of South Jersey)
Description: To start, this is (update: now only “is” when the fire tower is open) one of my favorite hikes in South Jersey, and I’ve done this section probably ten times (update: 15 times). If the pictures don’t line up with each other, that’s because they are over six or seven years in different seasons.
Park in the sand “lot” behind the Carranza Memorial. Walk through the woods and you’ll come in behind the memorial. This is dedicated to a Captain Emilio Carranza, a Mexican long distance aviator and contemporary of Charles Lindbergh. His body was found near here after he took off from NYC during a thunderstorm.
From the Carranza Memorial, you have two choices. One is walk up the road to the right (if the memorial is at your back and you are facing the road) until you see pink trail markers. Take them left into the woods The other is to follow the dirt road directly across Carranza Road from the memorial. You will quickly hit the Batona Campground (recognizable by the blue pump, fill your water if you need to!) The trail runs right through the middle of the campground (Note – it has been slightly rerouted to run more along the edge of the campground than it used to. It exits the campground by the outhouse).
For the first couple of tenths of miles, the trail will parallel the road through the swamps. Follow it, you’ll be able to see the road through the trees most of the time.
The trail will rejoin the road to cross a bridge over a small stream called Skit Branch. IMMEDIATELY AFTER THIS STREAM HANG A HARD RIGHT!!! Trust me, you won’t see the trail markers for the turn, no one ever does, but the trail cuts sharply off the road to the right about ten feet from the bridge.
The trail will now wind through a series of cedar swamps, crossing small boardwalks. It’s a very pretty part of the trail, and the boardwalks keep it interesting. You won’t see the road for several miles.
You’ll head up a small hill. This is either Mount Korbar (named for the kids of one of the folks that originally cut the Batona Trail) or Tea Time Hill. Each has a sign up on the hill, although sadly the teapot that was up on the tree is gone as of November 2016.
Eventually, the trail will cut across a road and head uphill. You’re now climbing Apple Pie Hill and nearing the end of the hike! The is a steep climb by South Jersey standards, which means it will take you less than two minutes to complete. At the top you will reach one of the highest points in South Jersey, Apple Pie Hill.
Apple Pie Hill also has a world famous fire tower. Go ahead and climb it. On a clear day, you can see both the Philadelphia and Atlantic City skylines from the top. On a not so clear day, you still have one heck of a view over the Pine Barrens.
Sad, sad update: The fire tower is now fenced off. You can still go up it, but only when it is manned during fire season. Call ahead to see if it’s manned to avoid disappointment –
Visitors to the fire tower can call NJ Forest Fire Service Division B Headquarters to find out of the tower is manned. The number is (609) 726-9010
Public Service Announcement: If you have brought a computer monitor with you on your hike, please refrain from dropping it off the top. It ruins things for the rest of us. Update: And it did ruin it. Thanks.
This is an ideal spot for lunch or a snack. Spend some time admiring the view from the top, it’s worth it. You might even be lucky enough to be there when the tower is manned, the spotters in the tower are usually happy to stick their heads down and talk to you, and I’ve only ever met interesting people here.
When you are done enjoying Apple Pie Hill, it’s time to turn around and head 4.1 miles back toward your car. The walk back is usually just as enjoyable as the walk there, sometimes more because it’s harder to miss the trail on the way back.