Red Trail – Parker Preserve – Chatsworth, NJ

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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.

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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.
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Facilities?: None

Standouts – forest, old cranberry bogs, giant chairs (seriously)

Map: Full size map here
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Markings – red blazes

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Description –

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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Watching for birds.

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This is all too pretty to come up with terrible jokes for it.  I’m all bogged down in my joke making.

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Up!

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A view from the top.

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.

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Leaving the trail to the right.

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.

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Likely an old pump house.

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Rejoining the road very temporarily.

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Turn right and you can already see where we’re leaving the road to the left.

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Off-roading for a while.

This next stretch is an interesting bit of stunted pine trees and reclaimed farm land.

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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.

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Melted trail marker.

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Gets a little hilly in this stretch.

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.

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Crossing a road here that doubles as the Blue Connector Trail.  A right here would take you down to the Yellow Trail.

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Everyone’s favorite photo op in the Parker Preserve.  

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.

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Getting ready!

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Back into the trees.

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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.

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29 degrees is great for swimming.

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Back up on the Green Trail/road.

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Make a right at the intersection of the old roads.

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Then duck back into the woods at the end of the detour.  

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Warning sign was missing on the other side, but here is where we picked the Red Trail back up.

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.

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One of the few places the trail wasn’t completely clear, extremely well maintained system.

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We do love these little bridges.

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Found why its flooded!

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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.

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The Pres loved it so much, he did it twice.  If it was warmer, he would have done it ten times.

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.

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Red.

 

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Green.

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Red.

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Red.

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Red.

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Green.

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Red!

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I haven’t played Red Light-Green Light this much since I stopped heading up the six year old crew at CER Summer Day Camp.  Oh, how I miss those eight summers of being in charge of 2nd graders.

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Last of the little bridges.

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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.

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Then its just a few hundred yards more back to the parking lot.  What a great trip!

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James’s really, really nice shots from his guest post:ppred04

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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).

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10 Comments

Filed under Hiking, History, Outdoors., South Jersey, Wildlife.

10 responses to “Red Trail – Parker Preserve – Chatsworth, NJ

  1. Pingback: White Trail – Parker Preserve – Chatsworth, NJ | South Jersey Trails

  2. I just walked this one today. It was fun! i was surprised by all the different scenery, plus the fall colors are starting to scatter the trail with bright red and orange. I still have to return to finish the other ones.

  3. Tomoldguy

    The Red trail is very good! It was like several different hikes in one, thanks to a section that had a controlled burn within the past week. I definitely want to got back to check out the blueberry farm section in July. Just before mile 4, the beavers built a dam, essentially flooding out the trail for about a hundred yards. That section would be more fun in the 70 degree weather we had on Saturday as opposed to the 40 degree weather on Sunday. It is one of the few trails in South Jersey that match up to the Franklin Parker section of the Batona Trail, which is phenomenal.

    • Did this right after you did, luckily saw your comment about the flooded trail and didn’t try push through (it was 28 degrees, so a bit colder than those lovely February days)!

      Controlled burn area was really interesting, and it should be larger now as they did another one the day after we hiked there.

  4. Reblogged this on South Jersey Trails and commented:

    One of the finest trails in South Jersey, we finally managed to hike this one a week and a half ago! We added our photos and descriptions onto this guest post by James, who had shared these with us back in 2014. If you’ve never been, go now. This second.

    I love that The Pres is to the point where he can do longer hikes like this, very proud of him for doing this six miler!

  5. Jim Ryan

    Excellent job! I did this one back in May 2013; I believe I hiked in the other direction though. I don’t remember the “Warning” sign or the “Resume Red Trail” sign…I sort of figured out the “Green Re-route” myself! I’m surprised they don’t just merge the trail with Green for the section of Red that has water flowing through it; it seems to be flowing through there full-time! Either that or just leave small rafts on the trail for hikers to use in that section. 😉

    Everything else is pretty much as I remembered it; although, I’m not sure if I remember the two big chairs. I loved the “Red Light – Green Light” comment; I never thought of things in that way, but that’s _exactly_ what this trail does! Oh, and of course, the prize comment of the day: You were “bogged down”… Congrats — you get the “Groaner of the Year” award for 2017 for that one! (And I am pretty confident to give this out to you this early in 2017, because I seriously doubt anyone will top the comment!) 😉

    Finally — kudos to The Pres for doing 6 miles! I haven’t started my hiking “season” just yet, but I hope _I_ will be in good enough shape to do 6 miles when I finally get started!

    Looking forward to your next adventure!

    — Jim

    • I second the rafts, luckily we knew from another comment on here to go around the flooding, 28 degrees was not a temperature to be messing with wet feet! Maybe they are holding out hope that the dam will wash out and return the Red Trail to normal?

      The Pres did really well. The baby (Baby? He’s almost 3) was tired and grumpy, so every time we stopped moving, so we ended up doing the whole trail with only one five minute break. I’m lucky, I can’t imagine many almost-five year olds could handle that, let alone handle it without complaining.

      I’ll see if I can get some even worse puns in this year, the year is young!

  6. Alice Gallagher

    As usual, I LOVED THIS POST! I relocated to South Jersey a year and a half ago and have still not hiked this place officially, though I have been there twice! 🙂 Thank you for your time, photos and helpful tips!

  7. Tony Infante

    Thanks for your awesome review of red trail at Parker preserve. I really have to get there soon. Very impressed with the Pres doing the six mile hike. He has a great dad and role model teaching him about the beauty of nature! Always enjoy your blog and posts.

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