Mt Misery Trail – Brendan Byrne State Forest- Woodland Twp, NJ

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Mount Misery Trail – Brendan T. Bryne State Forest (formerly Lebanon State Forest) – Woodland Township, Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 8.5 trail miles for trail. With the connection to complete the loop, it’s around 9.75 miles.
Type: Horseshoe shaped trail.  This trail must be completed as a loop though, using the Cranberry Trail and Batona Trail.
Difficulty:  3 of 10 (a few spots with tricky footing, sugar sang, molehills, or tricky trail blazing)
Total score:  8 of 10

Website – Brendan T. Byrne State Forest (formerly Lebanon State Forest)
Open – Sunrise to Sunset (unless camping overnight).

Terrain – Pinesland forest, swamps, old bogs

Trailheads – East trailhead (next to Pakim Pond) –  39°52’51.77″N,  74°32’0.99″W
West Trailhead (connection with the Cranberry Trail) –  39°53’13.19″N,  74°32’53.23″W

 

Directions: Enter Brendan Byrne State Forest off of Route 72 (across from the New Lisbon facility across the way).  Make a right at the first paved intersection (there will be a sign for Ranger Station/Campgrounds/Pakim Pond)

Parking: You’ll park at the Pakim Pond parking lot.

Plenty of parking.

Plenty of parking.

Standouts – Lebanon bogs, mix of pinelands habitats, lots of deer, and cedar swamps.

Markings – white blazes

Mostly clearly marked.

Mostly clearly marked.

Map – Official map can be found here
Just the section we’ll need:

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Description:

Back on Good Friday, I went hiking with James, a long-time internet friend via the njpinebarrens.com forums that it only took about ten years to actually meet up to hike with (whoops!  Won’t be that long before the next hike).  In approximately the 17,000 hours we wandered around Black Run Preserve, James talked up his recent hike on the Mount Misery Trail.  Well, when the babies went to visit their godmother, seemed like the perfect time to get this longer hike in.

My automatic wake up got me up ridiculously early, so I was on the trail by 7:30.  The thermometer in my car read 33 degrees when I started, but hiking warmed me up quickly.  From the parking lot (back, left side), head in until you see the sign for the Cranberry Trail.   Turn left onto the Cranberry Trail (red blazes).  After only 20 or 30 feet, the trailhead for the Mt. Misery Trail will be on your right side.

Parking lot entrance.

Parking lot entrance.

After a few feet, the Cranberry Trail heads left.

After a few feet, the Cranberry Trail heads left.

Head down the Cranberry Trail no more than 20 or 30 feet.

Head down the Cranberry Trail no more than 20 or 30 feet.

Not here long.

Not here long.

The Mt. Misery Trailhead will be on your right side.

The Mt. Misery Trailhead will be on your right side.

The trail will start out following the Batona Trail (pink blazes) along the west side of Pakim Pond.  The trails will run together over the dam and past a pretty nice swamp.  When the Batona turns to continue following the lakeshore, the Mt Misery Trail stays straight and heads through the swamp.

Swamp.

Swamp.

Beautiful early morning view of Pakim Pond from the dam.

Beautiful early morning view of Pakim Pond from the dam.

Other side - more swamp.

Other side – more swamp.

I love the early morning.

I love the early morning.

Split in the trail.  Batona goes right.  Mt. Misery Trail continues straight.

Split in the trail. Batona goes right. Mt. Misery Trail continues straight.

Congrats!  You’ve made it through the confusing first 1/4 mile.  For the rest of the trail, you are more on your own.  This trail required you to keep your head up and to stay alert!  The trail often dives off of the main pathway to head in another direction.  Nearly every turn was clearly marked, but better to be alert than lost!

Anyway, the trail continues through some swampy ground and follows along some old dirt roads.  One of the things that I love about this trail (which is especially apparent in this first few miles) is that it’s really varied.  Sometimes, you’re walking on a paved road.  Sometimes you’re walking along an old dirt road.  Sometimes you’re on a well spaced trail.  Sometimes it looks like a game trail.  Keeps you alert!

Across the boardwalk.

Across the boardwalk.

Past the bench and onto some fairly standard pine barrens type paths.

Past the bench and onto some fairly standard pine barrens type paths.

Nice stretch of trail.

Nice stretch of trail.

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Getting swampy again.

Getting swampy again.

I've always assumed that these stupid molehills are made by dirt bikers, but maybe dirt bikers just enjoy them and they have another purpose.  Whatever the reason or purpose, this was the only part of the trail where my knees hurt.  Stupid molehills.

I’ve always assumed that these stupid molehills are made by dirt bikers, but maybe dirt bikers just enjoy them and they have another purpose. Whatever the reason or purpose, this was the only part of the trail where my knees hurt. Stupid molehills.

The trail narrows down, I love trails like this.

The trail narrows down, I love trails like this.

Well, we know we're headed the right way.

Well, we know we’re headed the right way.

Another great thing about this trail was the QUIET.  I didn't see another person (outside of two kids shooting basketball at the Methodist camp) for the first 2 1/2 hours of my hike.  I could actually hear the wind blowing in the trees.  Also, Fort Dix was either practicing or the Soviet invasion had begun.

Another great thing about this trail was the QUIET. I didn’t see another person (outside of two kids shooting basketball at the Methodist camp) for the first 2 1/2 hours of my hike. I could actually hear the wind blowing in the trees. Also, Fort Dix was either practicing or the Soviet invasion had begun.

After a good stretch of the legs, you’ll reach the first road crossing.  You’ll turn left onto the road and follow it for a while.  The trail passes through some gorgeous stands of white cedar and passes over a stream.  Keep heading down the road.  After you emerge from the cedar, you’ll see a conveniently placed bathroom by the side of the road.  Last one until we get back to Pakim Pond!  Just after the bathroom, the trail heads right off of the roadway.

Go left young man.

Go left young man.

Down the road through...

Down the road through…

a cedar swamp!

a cedar swamp!

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Down the road some more.

Down the road some more.

Bathroom... right.  Trail... right.

Bathroom… right. Trail… right.

Back on track.

Back on track.

After you leave the road for the first time, the trail heads into an area filled with small hills.  I have to imagine that these are manmade, left over from a sand mining operation or something similar.  Some cinderblock walls out there only make me more certain.  This is a tricky bit of trail to stay on, as the pathway isn’t always the clearest.  Stay alert.  Once you climb up onto the “ridge”, it’ll be more apparent again.  From there, it isn’t far until road crossing #2.

Weirdo hill place.

Weirdo hill place.

Climbing out of a small basin.

Climbing out of a small basin.

Proof of people.

Proof of people.

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The second road crossing is short.  Come out onto the road, make a right, and then very quickly make a left back into the woods.

Out and to the right.

Out and to the right.

Walking down the road.

Walking down the road.

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The trail leaves the road on the left side.

The trail leaves the road on the left side.

It’s a very short stretch until our last road crossing before Mount Misery.  Just a short bit through the woods.

Fun trail.

Fun trail.

Here already.  Turn left.

Here already. Turn left.

Trail quickly leaves off the right side of the road.

Trail quickly leaves off the right side of the road.

It’s now almost a straight shot down the trails to Mount Misery.  The trail is very straightforward until just before the camp, where it will make turns into fire breaks and jump right out again.

Only muddy stretch I saw the whole day.  Lasted maybe 1/8 of a mile, if that.

Only muddy stretch I saw the whole day. Lasted maybe 1/8 of a mile, if that.

What most of this stretch is like.

What most of this stretch is like.

Small outbuidling right before the firebreak parts start.

Small outbuidling right before the firebreak parts start.

In and out of the ditches.

In and out of the ditches.

Made it to Mount Misery!

Made it to Mount Misery!

Mount Misery, aside from being a forgotten pine barrens ghost town, is now a Methodist retreat spot.  I know generations of kids from the Cherry Hill School system went there.  The camp is private property, but the trail skirts right along the edge of the buildings. Just follow the blazes and wave to the kids shooting hoops on the basketball court.  The trail will turn away from the camp, then turn away again and make a beeline south.

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Go left.

Go left.

Make a sharp left soon after.  This is a shot back toward the camp from the turn.

Make a sharp left soon after. This is a shot back toward the camp from the turn.

I was getting excited now, because I knew the trail was headed for the old Lebanon bogs.  The trail mostly follows an old dirt road, but cuts off after a good stretch and loops around to cross pavement again.  This stretch of trail had a bazillion deer.  I saw at least six or seven of them.

Old road.

Old road.

Gets off into something more narrow for a little bit.

Gets off into something more narrow for a little bit.

Road crossing.  No following the road this time, just go straight across.

Road crossing. No following the road this time, just go straight across.

After the road crossing, you’ll follow another old road through some boggier territory.  The trail then makes a sharp left and follows between two old bogs.  This stretch is REALLY overgrown, and the plants aren’t even showing many leaves yet!  I didn’t get a tick today, but if I did, this would have been where it happened.  The trail will loop around the old bogs before emerging at another old road.

Bit of a pond.

Bit of a pond.

Trail goes off almost immediately after the water.

Trail goes off almost immediately after the water.

The fields were pretty today.

The fields were pretty today.

Coming out onto a road.  We'll head straight here (bearing right).

Coming out onto a road. We’ll head straight here (bearing right).

Now comes the highlight of the whole trail… the lakes!  LOTS of birds out here, and some nice views.  Easily the nicest stretch of the trail, and with only about a mile to go from here!

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From here, we’re running out of Mt. Misery Trail.  The trail will bear right and head around a replanted cedar area.  Down a bit of road, through some more cedars, past the gate, and you’ll end up at the end of the Mt. Misery Trail where it meets the Cranberry Trail.

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Made it!

Made it!

Alright, so made it is not 100% true.  This trail is a horseshoe, so while you’ve finished the Mt Misery Trail, you’ll be making a left on the Cranberry Trail.  It’s another mile down this trail until you see the Mt. Misery Trailhead that you started at, just a few steps before you’d hit Pakim Pond.

1 mile to go!

1 mile to go!

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The Batona merges with the Cranberry Trail here, so you can start following the pink blazes.

The Batona merges with the Cranberry Trail here, so you can start following the pink blazes.

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Crossing the road.

Crossing the road.

You'll walk along the side of that barrier down toward the pond.

You’ll walk along the side of that barrier down toward the pond.

Mt. Misery sign where we started!

Mt. Misery sign where we started!

While you’re all done your almost ten mile stroll, Pakim Pond is a nice spot to eat a snack and enjoy the pond.

Overall recommendation:  I loved this trail.  If the pine barrens aren’t your thing, this trail won’t be that exciting.  But if the pine barrens are your thing, this is a great trail through some diverse areas, enough twists and turns to keep you alert, and a good amount of deer running around.  I highly recommend it.

Nearby – Plenty to do in Brendan Bryne, especially in terms of other trails. The Cranberry Trail/Batona loop is a lovely six mile hike, the Batona Trail in Brendan Bryne is nine miles (one way) of forest awesomeness, and Whitesbog Village with it’s Old Bog Trail is within the park boundaries as well.

In addition, my favorite hike in South Jersey starts literally across the street from Brendan Bryne. That’s right, you can hike the Batona Trail reroute through the Franklin Parker Preserve starting only thirty feet or so from the park boundary.

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1 Comment

Filed under Hiking, History, Outdoors., Wildlife.

One response to “Mt Misery Trail – Brendan Byrne State Forest- Woodland Twp, NJ

  1. Pingback: 2015 – Year in Review – 10 Favorite Trails! | South Jersey Trails

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