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Ceres Park – Mantua Township/Pitman, Gloucester County, NJ
Distance: We did 1.6 miles missing some official trails,
There are a ton of unoffial trails back here, which wind through the park and connect to county owned land next door.
Type: Lollipop (officially), but lots of side trails to explore
Difficulty: 2 of 10 (blow downs that used to be a problem are clear)
Total score: 9 of 10
Updated – April 17, 2017

Website – Mantua Township Parks Site
Official Facebook – Ceres Park
Save Ceres Park Facebook – Save Ceres Park
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – woods and cedar swamp surrounding lakes that were marl pits.

Trailheads –  39°44’54.11″N,  75° 8’49.16″W
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Directions – Located on Main Street in Mantua, just north of where it crosses Rt 55 (no exit from highway) and a little more north of Lambs Road.  Note – Google Earth will take you to the wrong side of the park.  Look for the park sign, which has a short driveway leading into the parking area.

Sign at entrance.

Sign at entrance.

Parking – Good sized parking area.
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Dog friendly? Yes
Stroller friendly? Yes (if using main trail)
Benches? None
Facilities?: None

Standouts – Cedar Lake and Emerald Lake, plus a stream, are the highlights of this gem.

Markings – None.  LOTS of side trails too, so keep your head about you.  We didn’t get lost, but one of the joggers we met said “Oh yea, everyone gets lost here their first seven or eight times”.  Her hint – ask a guy on a bike, they always know where they are.  Also HIGHLY recommend printing and taking a map with.  Checking for number posts will help keep you on track and help you figure out where you are on the map.

New best friend.

New best friend.

 




Map – Can be found at – Mantua’s website

When desperate, look at small version here.
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Description – This is beauty of park, named after that goddess that appears on the New Jersey state flag.*  It’s wild, the lakes are great, and we spotted frogs and turtles.  Go right now!

Wait, not yet!  Read this first.

The parking lot was a bit tricky to find, because Google Maps was wrong about where the entrance was.  We found it after circling.

The trail used to look like this (2014), but now you’d never know trees came down:

Another one.

Another one.

 

 

The good news?  After the five piece obstacle course (which does get progressively easier), the trail is pretty easy going.  And more scenic.  Side trails will come in, but ignore them and stay on the obviously main treadway (Later edit: Lies, go exploring!).  Use the map!

The trail will curve around, then reach the outskirts of Cedar Lake.  This lake, and Emerald Lake, are the filled in holes that remain after marl was mined here for many years.  The trail will skirt Cedar Lake, you’ll have to walk down a side trail to get a look at this, the smaller of the two lakes.



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Coming back to the main trail, you’ll continue a short way until you hit the highlight of this park, the trail that goes between a cedar swamp (on the right) and Emerald Lake (on the left).  The trail will follow the lake edge for quite a while.  At some point, a side loop through the swamp will come in on the right side, but The Pres was having too much fun at the lake to attempt the swamp this time.  Maybe next time!

Keep an eye out, we spotted two frogs and a turtle on this stretch.

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Dragonfly. Or Damselfly. I didn't get close enough to check.

Dragonfly. Or Damselfly. I didn’t get close enough to check.

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Frog.

Frog.

Also frog.

Also frog.

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Eventually, the pond peters out into a brook.  You’ll reach an intersection with a trail labeled “Right of way” on the map.  There is a manhole cover here.  Just on the other side is a nicer stream.This was as far as we made it (about 3/4 of a mile in), and the right of way disappears off each side of the map, so I’m not sure where the other parts of the trail head.
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Tree at the intersection.

Tree at the intersection.

Right of way looking left (toward Rt 55).

Right of way looking left (toward Rt 55).

Right of way looking right. I do know that, this way, the right of way forms part of the cedar swamp loop part of the trail.

Right of way looking right. I do know that, this way, the right of way forms part of the cedar swamp loop part of the trail.

Nice stream. We hung out here for a while.

Nice stream. We hung out here for a while.

Happy for a break.

Happy for a break.

We could have looped back through the swamp, but I let The Pres decide, and opted for the lake way (so he could throw more rocks in).  So we backtracked the way we came.  The highlight of the way back was a large turtle sunning itself on a log.  And, of course, we had to go back through the obstacle course, although Tree Rider and I went around one of the big falls (The Pres went right through it, crying “I won!”).

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Tree Rider is just starting to toddle around for real, so he hiked part of the lake. Then he got down to try to eat rocks. *sigh*

Tree Rider is just starting to toddle around for real, so he hiked part of the lake. Then he got down to try to eat rocks. *sigh*

First picture The Pres ever took. We're going to practice so we can have some Dad pictures occasionally too.

First picture The Pres ever took. We’re going to practice so we can have some Dad pictures occasionally too.

Overall recommendation – One of my new favorite places to hike in South Jersey, this place is amazing.  Even more fun with blow down obstacles, but even without, a lot of bang for not a ton of work.  Okay, you can actually go over there and start hiking now.

Also, you can apparently also mountain bike here (Note: Soundtrack would not be my first choice).  One guy called it “the best place below I-195”.

* Source – http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2012/04/whats_in_a_name_ceres_park_man.html

The Good

Turtles (counted 14 on one log one time), swamp, lakes, beavers (spotted one swimming)... lots and lots to discover here.

The Could Be Better

Extremely popular for mountain biking, but usually use different trails than the hiking ones, just keep an eye out!

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Bottom Line

One of my new favorite places to hike in South Jersey, this place is amazing. Even more fun with blow down obstacles, but even without, a lot of bang for not a ton of work. Okay, you can actually go over there and start hiking now.

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  • Jim F.
    July 8, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Excellent pix of the park! Seems you’ve been hitting quite a bit of parks & trails lately…while I’m not from the area (I’m down at the shore in Brigantine), I could make a trip out there sometime and perhaps do two or three of the parks you have done in the (Gloucester County) area! Nice shots of the frogs and turtle too!

    By the way — the insect was a dragonfly. (When at rest, dragonflies’ wings are straight out, as opposed to damselflies, whose wings are in the “up” position when at rest.) Both are cool-looking insects, but I have to give damselflies the “edge” when it comes to fascinating colors! I also love to hear the sound of cicadas in the summertime…bet you heard plenty of them as well today; it was quite steamy out!

    Anyway — thank you for all your posts lately; I’m getting the itch to try some of these parks/trails myself! (Particularly, Ceres Park, and Wenonah Woods.) Happy hiking, and I look forward to your (and The Pres & Tree Rider’s) next adventure!

    – Jim

  • July 10, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Hey Jim! Yep, the wife is working this summer, and I’ve become stay-at-home-dad for the month of July, so we’re hiking every day!

    Ceres and Wenonah are definitely worth the drive. If you wanted to mix it up some, Red Bank Battlefield in National Park (also Gloucester County) would be a good one too throw in there too.

    Thanks for the dragonfly/damselfly info. I had a chart somewhere on the differences, but I never quite committed it to memory! Nature identification is definitely something I need to work on 🙂

  • March 31, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I’m a big fan of your blog. It has become my main resource for finding trails to hike in south Jersey with my family since most hiking guides are for north Jersey. I live about 2 miles from Ceres Park, so I can be found hiking there about once a week. We also love the trail system in Wenonah which is not far from us too. Do you know about the access to Ceres Park from Pitman Road? The entrance is on your right about half a mile northwest of the Pitman golf course. It is a big place for mountain bikers, but you can hike there too. It is not as much change in elevation as the other side of Ceres Park but there are tons of trails to wander around and get lost on.

    Mike

    • April 7, 2016 at 6:17 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for reply, glad you are enjoying the blog! I did hear about the other entrance to Ceres, but I haven’t gone looking for it yet.

      Wenonah is definitely one of my favorites 🙂

  • Alice Gallagher
    August 28, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to share! Some of us really appreciate that. God bless you!!

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