Red and Blue Trails – Atsion Lake, Atsion Recreation Area, Wharton State Forest, Shamong, Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 1 mile
Type: Figure 8 trail
Difficulty: 1 of 10
Total score: 7 of 10
Website – Wharton State Forest
Open – Hours are seasonal
Entrance fee – $5 on weekdays, $10 on weekends (so you might as well bring your swim trunks and enjoy the lake while you’re here!)
Terrain – flat lakeside forest and marsh
Trailhead – 39°44’18.87″N, 74°43’57.51″W
Directions: When you enter the parking lot, go down to the left side as close to the lake as you can get. There will be a concrete path there along the edge of the field that people play in. Look for the sign toward the end of that path that shows where the trailhead is.
Parking – Large lot, but VERY popular area in the heat. If the lot fills, they close the gates until some people leave. On hot summer days during swim season, the lot fills early.
The gate is often (always?) locked during the off-season.
Standouts – Blueberry bushes, beautiful lake views.
Description – It was Troop BBQ and Swim Day at Atsion Lake, so I took this opportunity to tackle one of the last trails in Wharton that I hadn’t done – the Atsion Lake Trial. There are two trails here, the half mile Red Trail and the full mile Blue Trail. Every inch of the Red Trail is also part of the blue trail. The Pres, two of my Scouts, and myself set off to conquer the Blue Trail.
The trailhead is a little tricky to get to, because it’s not directly off the parking lot (check trail head information above), but we found it without a problem and got started. The trail starts in on a stick, then splits into the Red Trail loop. We opted to go left, which was not immediately marked with a trail marker, but we knew must be the way before this is an improved trail using stone.
The back end of the trail features the usual array of pine trees and occasional swampy bits. The highlight at the moment, though, is the ripe blueberries that line good stretched of the back section of trail. The Scouts had a bunch, but The Pres wouldn’t try one. Maybe next year!
You’ll come to the center where the trail goes four ways. The furthers right choice takes you the rest of the Red Trail back to where you started. The other two are the Blue Trail continuing further along the lake. Either one you choose, you’ll loop back to here. We opted for left again to save the the lake.
A gate blocking further ways along the lake signifys the furthest point of the Blue Trail. We now turned and headed toward the lake. The lake side of the Blue Trail loop back to where the Red Trail is, then continues back to where we started. Warning: beautiful views of Atsion Lake ahead.
Overall recommendation – I’m not sure how accessible this hike is at all times, but it’s a good one, especially with the blueberry bushes providing a trailside snack! I’ve done nearly every trail in Wharton, this one is different than the other lakeside trails that I’ve done.
Nearby – This area has everything! You’re at Atsion Lake and you paid, go for a swim in the cedar water. Just expect your clothes to change color.
Canoeing and boating are also options at the lake, there is a boat concession right at the dock!
Right across the street, you can park at the ranger station lot and do a nice walk through Atsion, featuring historic buildings and an old railroad bridge. This is also the kickoff point for the Mullica River Trail that stretches ten miles (one way) to Batsto. Using the same approximate route is the Mullica River Paddle that can be done in one day or as an overnight. Rentals for that run or the Batsto River run are available from the new Pinelands Adventures run by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, which is located behind one of the houses directly across the lake from the swimming area at Atsion Lake.
A few miles down the road in Shamong is the Racocas Conservancy’s Pipers Corner Preserve, which will always hold a special place in my heart because I saw a fox there.