Blue, Orange, Red, and White Trails – Maurice River Bluffs Preserve – Millville, Cumberland County, NJ
Distance: 5 miles. The map is a little confusing. We did 3.7 miles, skipping only some short bits of the orange trail and part of the non-alternate Blue Trail (which was closed). 5 miles is a best guess.
Type: Web of trails (many of them are loops, the orange trail loops back on itself several times)
Difficulty: 7 of 10 – your legs will feel these hills the next day!
Total score: 10 of 10.
Terrain – woodlands, riverbanks, lots and lots of hills.
Trailheads – 39° 21.200’N, 75° 2.179’W – all trails lead from the parking lot.
Directions: On Silver Run Road, 1 1/2 miles South of Dividing Creek Road.
Parking -Large, gravel lot
Standouts – views from the bluffs are well worth the ups and downs of the trail. Also bird blind, floating dock, awesome bridge.
Official Website – Nature Conservancy
Description – Get ready, this is going to be a good hike (thanks for the recommendation Mary!)! You’ll start by walking through the archway, which will immediately put you on the Blue Trail. Go right to head south. You’ll notice that there is quite a drop off to your left as you hike.
You’ll quickly hit a small road and lose the trail markers. This was one of only two spots were the trail wasn’t crystal clear. Turn left and follow the road. The road IS the Blue Trail (I promise). You’ll soon hit the intersection of the Blue and Orange Trails (as shown by the signposts). Hang a right onto the orange trail and travel halfway around the field. You’ll make your first available left, also onto the orange trail, and head into the woods.
Once into the woods, the orange trail will pass a sand/gravel pit with some buildings. This is off the edge of the conservancy, but at least you’re going the right way! The orange trail is going to make another weird loop soon where it will intersect itself. To the right – down the bluff to the bird blind. To the left, a sweet bridge.
Alas, these are loops, so you can walk the bridge AND see the bird blind. After crossing the bridge, we went right and headed down the hill to the water’s edge, where the blind is located.
Backtrack up the hill to the bridge, but stay right this time to complete the loop back to the field. At the next Orange/Orange intersection, stay right again to complete this edge of the field. You’ll quickly get to the second Orange/Blue intersection. Make a right onto the Blue Trail, forever leaving behind the confusion that is three interlocking loops of the same color trail.
This is the old road again. You’ll pass an old shell of a house (area closed!) and soon be able to see the river through the trees. Before you get there, the trail will leave the road on the left side, taking you around a bit of private property. You’ll come up on a picnic table, where the Blue Trail will split. The left continues the loop, we’ll come back to that. The right is a spur down to a floating dock. Go check it out!
When you’ve had you fill of floating, backtrack to the picnic table and take the Blue Trail past it, along the riverside. The trail is going to get really fun for the next mile or so. It’s a roller coaster of ups and downs, stairs, and down slopes. By this point The Pres was riding in the pack, and he loved the downhills, and laughed at me on the uphills. Thanks dude.
At the top of a flight of steps, you’ll see a sign that marks the Blue Trail closed further ahead (it’s closed between here and the intersection of the red and blue trail). It must have been closed for a while, because they have an alternate blue trail well blazed and is on the map. When you think “alternates”, you usually think boring, easy way around. That is not the case here, it’s more roller coaster, and even the rarest of all trail breeds, the South Jersey switchback. Whoa! The other slightly tricky spot is here, through a dense forest of very thin threes, where there are game trails all over the place. Just keep an eye on the trail markers and you’ll be fine. Eventually, you’ll reach a four way intersection (2 ways Blue Trail, 1 way Blue Alternate Trail, one way Red Trail).
At this intersection, you have two real choices. Left will take you back to the parking lot. Straight OR right will put you on the Red Trail loop (I know right says blue on the sign, just around the corned is the red trail). We went right, because that is the direction that we felt like going. Just around the bend is another intersection. Right is the other end of the closed section of the Blue Trail. Left will put you on the Red Trail loop (told you it would work out). Take the Red Trail.
FINALLY, no confusing intersections for a half mile or so! Just enjoy the ups and downs of some very bumpy terrain, the tiniest bit of marshland, the smell of salt in the air, and some nice marsh views.
When the Red Trail just can’t go any further north, you’ll hit a small dirt road. Left keeps you on the Red Trail. Right puts you on a short trail, the White Trail, which is an intense loop with some big ups and downs. Take the white loop, you will NOT be disappointed. I suggest heading right (off of the road) first, but that’s just me. Either direction will be grand. You’ll loop around, then come back down the road to this same intersection. Go straight down the road, onto the part of the Red Trail that you haven’t done yet.
We’re on the home stretch now, finishing the Red Trail loop, then just a tiny bit of the Blue Trail into the parking lot. Nice and easy, right? NO! The Maurice River Bluffs Preserve pulls no punches! You’ll have an easy water down this road for a very short time (keep your eyes open, The Pres and I spotted two deer), then you’ll turn left off of the road and head back into roller coaster country. This is a fun, exciting (and tiring) part of the trail to hike, so we loved it. You’ll also end up in some spots where the hills rise on either side of you. Eventually, you’ll come into that four way intersection that we finished the Blue Alternate Trail at. The only slightly disappointing part of this section is, for a little ways, you are in hearing distance of the road. It would be hard not to be at some point though, and the rest of the trail is far away from any other human noise (we only met one guy biking in the preserve and an AT section hiker in the parking lot in our 2 1/2 hours there… not bad!).
You’re almost back! Turn right onto the Blue Trail, one more sizable climb and you’ll complete the loop behind the gateway where we started. Head out to the parking lot and give yourself a pat on the back for an awesome hike.
Overall recommendation – Totally worth spending a day just to go visit and hike here. It’s awesome. I know when I need backpacking training for anywhere with hills (pretty much anywhere outside South Jersey), I’ll keep this place in mind.
Also in the area –
Harold N Peek Preserve – another Nature Conservancy preserve just on the other side of the river in Millville. Good if you need some more miles.
Wheaton Arts & Cultural Center – the reason most folks know where Millville is.