Batona Trail – Carranza Memorial to Apple Pie Hill – Tabernacle, NJ

Section of the trail map from the State of New Jersey.  Get one at the Atsion or Batsto Ranger stations.

Section of the trail map from the State of New Jersey. Get one at the Atsion or Batsto Ranger stations.

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.

Standouts: Carranza Memorial, cedar swamps, fire tower with views of Philly and Atlantic City.

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)

Pink marker.

Pink marker.

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.

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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.

Swamps.

Swamps.

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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.

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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.

Typical Batona Trail.

Typical Batona Trail.

It's snowing!

It’s snowing!

Crossing a swamp on boardwalks.

Crossing a swamp on boardwalks.

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.

Climbing.

Climbing.

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

View from the bottom of the tower... not bad.

View from the bottom of the tower… not bad.

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View from the top of the tower... even better!

View from the top of the tower… even better!

AC from the tower.

AC from the tower.

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.

Jerks.

Jerks. Update: Major jerks.

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.

Obligatory

Obligatory “We’re awesome” pose at the end of this hike.

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9 Comments

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

9 responses to “Batona Trail – Carranza Memorial to Apple Pie Hill – Tabernacle, NJ

  1. I like this hike a lot. I have never bumped into anyone manning the tower, that would be neat though. I saw some strange signs on a tree one time when i wandered out there. One of the said “tea time hill” i think on a sign shaped like a tea pot. Great post!

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  4. Frank

    Great tips to follow for navigating this trail. I would also mention my calculations for the hike were bit longer (starting at Carranza Memorial to fire tower on Apple Pie Hill 6.5 miles. Also, watch out for wasps and bees on the tower.

  5. This is such a great description. It lead the way perfect. This was a great little hike. When you come from 206, stop at that Nixon General Store before or after. The food is incredible and menu extensive. We were hugely surprised.

  6. We hiked this section today to test out our rain gear. It was nice and quiet and we only saw two other hikers. The blazes on the trees are freshly painted so finding our way was easy. After the hike we stopped at Pic-a-lilli Inn for some warm food.

  7. Reblogged this on South Jersey Trails and commented:

    Sadly updated this hike for the worst of reasons, the fencing off of the fire tower on Labor Day weekend.

    Lots of bad info on this one – you still can access the tower, it is NOT completely closed off. However, you can only go up when the tower is actively being manned, which is during times of drought during the day.

    To not be disappointed, 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.

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