The Batona Trail – Backpacking Day 2 – Buttonwood Campground to Lower Forge Campground, Wharton State Forest, NJ
Type: One way
Hours: Open 24 hours
Last updated: September 22, 2017
Distance: End to end is 52.7 miles, plus side trips for campsites (our total was 57.2 miles). This is section 2 – Buttonwood Campground to Lower Forge Campground, with a side trip into Batsto to pick up permits. – 12.0 miles
Look here for:
Section 1 – Bass River to Buttonwood
Section 3 – Lower Forge to Brendan Byrne
Section 4- Brendan Byrne to Ongs Hat
Difficulty: 8 of 10.
Terrain – Pine forests, cedar swamps, open areas, dirt roads, rivers, swamps.
Trailheads – This day starts at Buttonwood Campground ( 39°37’43.59″N, 74°37’4.35″W) and ends at Lower Forge Campground ( 39°43’33.23″N, 74°40’23.90″W).
Markings – Pink, usually on trees. Sometimes disappear or hard to follow, but much improved the last few years thanks to the hard work of the Outdoor Club of South Jersey.
Description: Day 2 of the Batona Trail…
I’ve been fortunate enough to backpack the whole Batona Trail three times (2011, 2013, and 2016), as well as to have done a few one night trips on it previous to those years. Each time was as an adult with a group of Scouts (five of whom finished in 2011, 13 of whom finished in 2013, and 2 who did the whole thing in 2 days in 2016). I’ll present here our 2013 hike plan, which covered the two new reroutes. If you plan to do the whole thing, you might be faster (2 or 3 days for some folks) or slower (you can space it out over 5 days if you wanted to), but this plan is for four days.
Buttonwood Campground to Lower Forge Campground (with a side trip to Batsto) – 12 miles
Day 2! You get up, feel really sore, and call for a ride home… no! Don’t worry! Today will be the second easiest day of the trail, only twelve miles!
The first part is to head right back the way you came, one mile out of Buttonwood Campground, back to the Batona Trail. This road doesn’t look like it’s maintained anymore, so expect lots of mud puddles to walk around.
When you get back to the trail, turn left to head north. It’s 3.2 short miles from the camp turnoff until the turnoff for Batsto. You’ll cross a few roads, walk across the Washington Pike, go up and down some small hills, and eventually see the huge fields of Batsto ahead to your left.
Resist temptation to walk up the road to Batsto, you’re only take a few dozen feet off the trail. Continuing up the trail a few hundred more feet, you’ll see a sign and a path to the left.
Take the left here and you’ll emerge in the picnic area at Batsto, cross the parking lot, and end up in front of the Visitor’s Center. Congrats, you’ve gone 1/3 of the distance for the day!
While at Batsto, you have to pick up your camping permits. I also suggest grabbing a penny stick or two and dropping your pack for a tour of the complex (especially if you haven’t been here before). This is an old bog iron town turned glass town turned summer home for Joseph Wharton (who has the Wharton School of Business at Penn named after him) turned lovely state park. Take a look around and check out the workers homes, the blacksmith shop, barn, and the mansion.
At some point, you’ll have to tear yourself away from Batsto and get walking again. Head back the way you came and turn left to continue on the Batona. Your next landmark is Quaker Bridge, 6.1 miles away. You’ll parallel (but not see) Batsto Lake for a while as the Batona shared the way with the Batsto Lake Trail. Eventually, the other trail will turn left as the Batona continues up and down a few more small hills, goes through some swampland, and meets up with the Batsto River. This is where we usually stop for a lunch break, as it’s such a nice spot (maybe 2-3 miles outside Batsto).
After lunch, you’ll walk the long way around a stream to cross over at a bridge (the old map had this marked as a hilariously short distance), then walk mostly between Goodwater Road and the river until emerging onto Goodwater Road and the five way intersection at Quaker Bridge. Turn left toward the river and check the bridge out, it’s a great place for a short break.
Get back onto the trail and head into the woods. It’s a 1.2 mile walk through the pine trees to the turnoff for Lower Forge Campground. Eventually, the trail will turn right, but you’ll go straight. Just follow the sign (straight, straight, and more straight) into Lower Forge Campground.
Once you hit Lower Forge, you’re done for the day! For those looking to push on, Batona Campground is about 6 miles up the trail.
– Lower Forge Campground, Wharton State Forest – 9.5 trail miles from Buttonwood’s turnoff (Trail mile 25 on paper, about 26 with the reroute). This camp is great (my favorite on the Batona) – walk in only (no cars!), quietly sits on the Batsto River, miles and miles and miles from any paved road. There is supposedly a spring, but I’ve never managed to find it, but you can filter out of the river that’s right in camp. There is a pit toilet here. Most isolated campsite on the trail. You can even swim if it’s nice! $3 per person per night, plus registration fee. Next non-filtered water is six miles or so away at Batona Camp.
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Forests, cedar swamps, Batsto, Quaker Bridge.
Walking out of Buttonwood in the morning is not fun.