Red Trail – Franklin Parker Preserve – Woodland Township (Chatsworth), Burlington County, NJ
Distance – 6 miles total (maybe a bit over since there is a short detour onto the Green Trail where beavers have flooded the trail that we missed and had to backtrack to)
Type – Loop
Difficulty: 4 of 10 – hills, flooding, wind, and cold. Probably only a 3 if it was warmer.
Total score: 9 of 10
Updated: March 13, 2017
Note – This was initially a guest post by James. Thanks James! His beautiful shots are included together at the bottom of this post.
Website – Franklin Parker Preserve
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – hills, woods, swamps, bogs
Surface – Mostly sand.
Trailheads – 39°48’48.80″N, 39°48’48.80″N
Directions – Located on Route 542/Chatsworth-Tabernacle Road just across from Chatsworth Lake.
Parking – Decent size lot off of Route 542/Chatsworth-Tabernacle Road right across the Chatsworth Lake.
Dog friendly? I believe so, but can’t find anything one way or the other (although there were totally dogs out there when we hiked it).
Stroller friendly? Definitely not on the Red Trail. With a good stroller, should be able to do the Green Trail (not yet documented).
Benches? A few scattered through the preserve.
Standouts – forest, old cranberry bogs, giant chairs (seriously)
Map: Full size map here
Markings – red blazes
So after being tempted by Jame’s hike here for ages, The Pres, Tree Rider, and I finally picked a freezing, windy day in February to do this hike… whoops!
Still, it was awesome. It’s wilder than either the slightly longer Green Trail (6.7 miles) or the White Trail (2 miles) because it tends to go cross country, rather than stick to the old roads.
I’ve attempted to document the twists and turns of this one the best I can, but even with 96 pictures (oh my gosh, so much pretty) I don’t think I got everything! But its fun to try!
Anyway, from the parking lot, you can go right or left to start the trail. We opted for right. This took us through a nice bit of woods that paralleled the road, then climbed over a bit of hill, and put us at Bertha’s Canal, which we followed next to for about 1/3 of a mile.
After that 1/3 of mile, the trail takes a hard left and drops into a swampier area. Lots of nice views here of the wetlands, but pay attention to which way the trail heads, as there was a sharp left turn at one point. You’ll cross the old Jersey Central tracks and climb into some woodlands and, after about 1/3 of a mile from where you left the canal, you’ll emerge into a field.
After emerging into the open fields, you’ll make a sharp right. 0.1 of a mile will turn your right, back into the woods. You’ll loop around before emerging back into the open again. You’ll cross a little bridge and turn right, joining the Green Trail along the old roadway.
From here, the Red and Green Trails follow each other down to the watch tower. Climb and look for birdies! (or do what we did and freeze in the wind, so get down quickly and walk to warm back up)
Once off the tower, the Red and Green Trails will keep following the road through an “S” curve before parting ways, where the Red Trail leaves off to the right of the old road.
From here, the trail will curve around to the left, rejoin the road for a few dozen feet, and then leave the road to the left, heading far away from the ring of roads for a spell.
This next stretch is an interesting bit of stunted pine trees and reclaimed farm land.
You’ll rejoin the road, make a quick left onto another road, then a quick right back into the woods, where the trail will again loop around before crossing a road again and entering an area that part of a controlled burn. I am always fascinated walking through an area that was recently burned, because you can see what plants survived and what plants are already bouncing back.
The end of the burned area will have you cross another road. This one is also the Blue Trail. A turn to the right here would bring you down to the Yellow Trail in the Preserve. After crossing here, you’ll climb just a bit. Look off the trail to your right and you’ll spot two gigantic chairs. You must go look and get your picture taken, it’s a state law.
After this, the Red Trail will quickly rejoin the Green Trail on the road. You’ll follow for a bit, then head straight back into the woods. Here (at least this day), we bumped into a man setting up equipment to monitor the controlled burn that was being held the next day, so we talked to him for a minute, then continued into the woods.
On this stretch is where it gets odd, as you’ll hit a few puddles, then run into obviously flooded trails. This is not a good stretch to hike down, but you can backtrack a very short ways to the Green Trail, which you’ll use to detour around the flooded areas. This is due to beaver activity, and there are detour signs on the other side of the flooding, but none located here when we were hiking.
Now it was freezing, and Tree Rider had fallen asleep on my back, so I was sorely tempted here to use the Green Trail to make a more direct route to the parking lot. I am glad that I did not, because the next stretch of trail followed a stream of water down toward the Wading River, and featured some very pretty areas, plus a beaver dam.
You also don’t want to miss this section, because when you are done admiring the beaver dam, you’ll quickly come up on the finest trail bridge in South Jersey. This hike is worth doing for this bridge alone.
After this, the Red Trail will bounce off and on the Green Trail for the next little stretch, never straying more than a stone’s throw from each other as the trail parallels the last of the bog roads. Some very pretty views in this section as well.
Eventually, the Red Trail leaves the Green Trail for good and heads away from the bogs and into the forest. It’s just over a 3/4 of a mile home stretch once you exit the bog areas, but there are still a few pretty views to take in, plus another climb over the tracks of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
Then its just a few hundred yards more back to the parking lot. What a great trip!
James’s really, really nice shots from his guest post:
Overall recommendation: This trail is amazing, one of the best in South Jersey (and amazingly, maybe only the second best in the Parker Preserve, as I am still in love with the Batona Trail re-route through here). Stop what you are doing RIGHT NOW and go hike this trail.
Nearby: As previously posted, we’ve done the Batona Trail Parker Preserve Reroute and the White Trail at the Parker Preserve. And we still have to do the Yellow Trail and Green Trail here (Green Trail looks like its mostly along the old bog roads).