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.
Standouts – Lebanon bogs, mix of pinelands habitats, lots of deer, and cedar swamps.
Markings – white blazes
Map – Official map can be found here
Just the section we’ll need:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
It’s a very short stretch until our last road crossing before Mount Misery. Just a short bit through the woods.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.