The Batona Trail – Backpacking Day 4 – Brendan Byrne Campground, Brendan Byrne State Forest (or Lebanon State Forest for us old folk) to Ong’s Hat, NJ
Type: One way
Hours: Open 24 hours
Updated: December 10, 2016
Distance: End to end is 53 miles, plus side trips for campsites (our total was 57.2 miles). This is section 4 – Brendan Byrne Campground to the end of the trail at Ong’s Hat – 9 miles.
Section 1 – Bass River to Buttonwood
Section 2 – Buttonwood Campground to Lower Forge
Section 3- Lower Forge to Brendan Byrne
Difficulty: 8 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10
Terrain – Pine forests, cedar swamps, open areas, dirt roads, rivers, swamps, hills.
Trailheads – The day starts at Brendan Byrne Campground ( 39°52’20.65″N, 74°31’20.04″W) and ends at Ong’s Hat (39°54’40.21″N, 74°37’14.47″W)
Standouts: forests, hills, trees, Pakim Pond, Lebanon Fire Tower.
Markings – Pink, usually on trees. Sometimes disappear or hard to follow, but much improved the last few years, especially this section.
Description: Day 4 – the final day – 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.
Brendan Byrne Campground to Ong’s Hat – 9 miles, although this might be short. I really can’t wait for the new map.
Last day on the trail! You’ll probably float down the trail this last day! You start with the 3/4 mile road walk back up to where we left the trail yesterday. Turn right and head into the woods. You’ll immediately pop out at Pakim Pond, which you’ll be walking around. Enjoy the lovely views.
After the pond, the trail will turn right. From here, it’s a little more than three miles to turn for the ranger station. You’ll follow along with the Cranberry Trail (red blazes), then the Batona turns left while the Cranberry Trail continues straight. The next section of trail is usually a little muddy, and boards have been placed down to help with that. Enjoy the small hills you’ll be climbing, as well as the more open forest than most of what you’ve seen so far.
After this section, it’s a short walk to the Lebanon Fire Tower. Take a break here and climb as far up the fire tower as your dare. The stairs are more spread out, which always made this fire tower scarier to climb than the one at Apple Pie Hill.
From the tower, it’s 0.8 of a mile to Route 70, you’re getting close to the end! This is probably the hardest road crossing, so be careful. 0.9 more miles will bring you to Deep Hollow Road. You’ll turn left on the road, pass the lovely Deep Hollow Pond, then cross the road to continue down the trail (the trail does NOT circle the pond! Even through there is a worn path there!).
You’re on the home stretch now – 3.5 miles to go! You’ll wind along the tops of some hills overlooking cedar swamps, cross over Deep Hollow Road again, wander through some interesting bits of trail, and cross Four Mile Road by the Rutgers Field Station. This is your last paved road crossing! The final stretch of trail seems to be the least used, as you meander through pine groves, take short stretches of dirt roads, use Turkey Buzzard Bridge Road to cross a swamp, and eventually emerge from the woods at Ong’s Hat at Magnolia Road.
You did it! You finished all 52.7 miles of trail!
I hope this trail guide inspires you to give part or all of the Batona a try! It’s really an awesome experience to go end-to-end on it!
– No camping tonight, go enjoy your bed!