Far and away, the birding. Also great views of Atlantic City.
Bugs are reportedly bad in the summer, and I'd believe it.
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge – Galloway Township, Atlantic County, NJ
Distance – 4 miles of dedicated hiking trails, plus you can hiking along the 8 mile scenic road to create trail loops.
Type – Loops and out-and-backs.
Difficulty: 3 of 10 – trail (especially on road) very exposed to sun, wind, and the elements.
Total score: 8 of 10
Terrain – marshland, woodland, and meadow.
Directions – 800 Great Creek Road
Galloway, New Jersey 08205
Brochure – Edwin Forsythe Brochure
Map – Hiking Trails Map (PDF)
Make sure to visit the Visitor’s Center!
Description – We went a lovely Hikesgiving Day (the day after Thanksgiving, obviously) working off that pie and turkey by spending a lovely six hours or so at the Edwin Forsythe National Wildlife Preserve
Length – 0.25 miles.
Type – Fork trail (one trail from Visitor’s Center, forks and puts one path toward Leed’s Eco Trail and one toward the loop road)
Trailheads – 39°27’52.38″N, 74°26’59.33″W
Description – This very short trail begins at the front door of the Visitor’s Center. Duck in, grab some maps, and then hit the trail!
The trail, which is paved, heads down from the visitor’s center toward the bay. Just follow along through the high grass.
You’ll continue on and hit a wooden tower pretty quickly. Sadly, you are not allowed to climb this tower (there are sensitive instruments at the top… like a tuba…), but they’ll be plenty of towers to climb later.
The trail then quickly bottoms out at East Lily Lake Road. You can follow this onto the loop road, which is open to drive, bike or hike. We’ll be back here momentarily, but lets go down the other part of the grassland trail first.
Back to the split, we can head right. This is another short spur that leads down to the Leed’s Eco Trail, which we’ll cover next.
Length – 0.25 miles one way, 0.5 miles out-and-back (right trail). A few hundred feet out-and-back (left trail).
Type – Fork trail – The left trail is a short boardwalk (out-and-back). The right trail is a finished trail (crushed gravel) that goes out and back to a bird blind.
Trailheads – 39°27’49.28″N, 74°26’55.59″W (both forks immediately leave from this trailhead)
Parking – very small parking lot (half a dozen spaces) right at the trailhead.
Description – This trail immediately splits into two right at the trailhead. We’ll start heading left, out onto the boardwalk (which is where most of any other hikers out there will be heading).
The boardwalk goes a few hundred feet out into the marsh, where you can catch good views of Atlantic City, as well as have a great perch from which to look for birds out on the marsh. The trail doesn’t branch from the boardwalk (despite the steps you see heading down in a few spots, those are gates off), you simply walk out, then walk back.
After getting back from the boardwalk portion of the trail, you can head right and check out the nature trail portion. Tree Rider had had enough walking by this point, so he sat down with The Wife to play with gravel. The Pres and I pushed onward.
The trail heads through some open areas, then plunges into full tree cover. Along the way, you’ll enjoy educational signs about the local plant life and benches to sit on to enjoy the nature around you.
The trail eventually turns and heads back toward the bay. You’ll start catching glimpses of the larger bay…
At this point, it’s a dead end, time to turn around and head back the way that you came…
Wildlife Drive – Driving/Biking/Hiking Loop Road
Length – 7 mile loop (nowhere to get off, must complete loop or backtrack). Can also walk to loop backwards 0.75 miles (walking only, cars and bikes are one way in the other direction) to the Songbird Trail (which we’ll cover next) to create a shorter loop
Type – Loop road.
Trailheads – Beginning – 39°27’54.24″N, 74°26’51.62″W. Here starts the driving/biking/hiking/portion.
End – 39°27’55.29″N, 74°27’7.41″W (cars and bikes CANNOT start here, but hikers can hike the road in reserve here to get to the Songbird Trail)
Parking – Park in the Visitor’s lot if biking or hiking the whole thing.
Description: Forsythe’s main attraction is the seven mile Wildlife Drive, which is open to driving, biking, and hiking. This road is built up and over the marsh, so is an amazing spot for bird watching, which is what the majority of folks were doing on this beautiful 60 degree Black Friday.
Obviously, the majority of people drive this road, but there were many runners and a few bikers out the way we went. We were attempting to do the backwards hike from the Visitor’s Center to the Songbird Trail, but ended up hiking the wrong way down the loop road for a mile…
Of course, the highlight for many people are the migrating birds that show up here. I’m not much one for birding, but my wife said there were some impressive amounts of different birds out enjoying this day after Thanksgiving. The types of birds, of course, change with the seasons.
At this point, we reached the viewing tower, a mile from the start of the road. We climbed it, to take in the views from the top. Totally worth the climb.
At this point, we realized that we had walked the wrong way to get to the Songbird Trail, so The Wife, Tree Rider, and The Pres hung out at the tower checking out the birds, while I walked the mile and a quarter back to the parking lot. With the temperatures in the 60s, I didn’t mind any.
We then finished the loop in the car, stopping frequently to admire the birds and snap pictures.
At this point, we pulled over at the first trailhead for the Songbird Trail/Jen’s Trail…
Songbird Trail/Jen’s Trail
Length – 2.5 miles one way, or 3.6 mile loop if you walk down the road on the way back.
Type – One way, can be made a loop by walking the Wildlife Drive back.
Trailheads – Jen’s Trail/Songbird Trail – 39°28’44.08″N, 74°26’6.10″W
Jen’s Trail – 39°28’46.75″N, 74°26’17.66″W
Two more small lots at different exits for the Songbird Trail.
Parking – Three small lots, or park at the Visitor’s Center and walk 3/4 of a mile to the start of the Songbird Trail (About 5 miles total if you take this option)
Description: Our second trail of the day, but our final one for our post here! At 2.5 miles, this is the longest hiking-only trail in the refuge. With a 1.1 mile roadwalk, this makes for a very nice loop. We stopped our scenic drive at the first trailhead on the Wildlife Drive (about 5 miles into that loop). a shared trailhead with the Songbird Trail and Jen’s Trail. This trail (really a firebreak cut that they kept clear once people shared how much they liked hiking it)heads straight out from the road, then curves and climbs 25 feet to a bench. At some times of the year, I’d imagine there is a view here, but we didn’t see much through the trees this day.
At this point (0.3 miles in), Jen’s Trail will head straight (about another 0.3 miles to its other parking lot (a 0.1 mile road walk will bring you back to the car) and the Songbird Trail will turn right and head down a long hill. We opted for the Songbird Trail.
After about a 1/4 from the trail split, the trail will take a sharp turn to the left, traveling another 0.75 miles from there, most of it along a wire fence that marks the boundary of the Wildlife Refuge.
The trail will pass a side trail on the left, which will take you back to the Wildlife Road. It was so nice, and The Pres was still hiking well, so we opted to continue. The next 0.8 of a mile saw the trail cross two good sized meadows, which broke up the woods in a nice way.
The trail will come to another side trail, which will again carry you out to the Wildlife Drive. At this point, The Wife and The Pres opted to take this 0.1 side trail. Tree Rider and I opted (well, being in the pack, he had little say in it) to do the last 0.4 miles of the Songbird Trail, which would come out on the road just a dozen paces or so from where the side trail would emerge.
As soon as we turned off the side trail, the terrain turned into pine barrens-esque terrain… I mean, it looked like we were in Chatsworth. This was very different than anything we’d been through so far, so I was glad we’d opted to finish the trail out. The trail very quickly reached the road.
At the road, we headed left, which would take us 1.1 miles along the road back to where we parked the car. We soon caught up with The Wife and The Pres. We walked together for a while, but with about a half mile left, Tree Rider and I took off for the car on our own.
Once we got the car, we picked up The Pres and The Wife (who were practically at the car anyway), and off we went to explore the Leeds Eco-Trail and boardwalk, which was covered previously in this post!
Nearby – The is right next to Leeds Point, reputed birthplace of the Jersey Devil. Stop by and say hi to him, he’ll offer you a cup of coffee and chat by his yard fence with you.