Elephant Swamp Trail – Elmer to Elk Township, Gloucester and Salem Counties, NJ
Distance – 6 miles
Type – One way (12 miles out-and-back)
Difficulty: 1 of 10
Total score: 8 of 10
Website – Elk Township Website
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – Large open fields and farmland, large sections of swamp.
Frank Stewart Memorial Park, Elk Township – 39°40’1.82″N, 75° 8’26.58″W
Rt 538 and Railroad Ave, Elk Township – 39°39’9.06″N, 75° 8’55.45″W
Baseball Fields in Elmer, NJ – 39°35’55.22″N, 75°10’4.66″W
Beginning of trail – Located at the very back of the Stewart Park on Recreation Drive (Just off of Whig Lane) in Elk Township, NJ
End of trail – located at the back left corner of the baseball fields off of Harding Highway (Rt 40) (near the intersection with Main Street) in Elmer
Parking – Parking located at Frank Stewart Memorial Park in Elk (Recreation Ave) and the baseball fields off Harding Highway in Elmer
Standouts – Large tracts of beautiful swampland. One short section is designated as a nature trail, and has educational signs.
Markings – None, but impossible to get off of once you start because of its location atop an old railroad bed.
Trail brochure for nature trail section of trail – Elk Township Website
“Legend has it that in the 1800’s, while the circus was traveling by train through Elk Township along the rail line from Monroeville, an elephant got loose in the swamp, and was never seen again.” ~ Kevin Callahan, Courier-Post
When this prestigious blog began oh so many years ago (like, 2 1/2 years ago), one of the first suggestions that I received was to hike the Elephant Swamp Trail. I knew this was a good suggestion, because the fella that suggested it (jbracciante) had a blog solely dedicated to pizza in Glassboro.
When I heard the story about the escaped circus elephant in the swamp, I knew I just had to go. Then I found out it was six miles long in a straight line (12 miles out-and-back). This hike obviously required some planning and forethought, something I’m pretty terrible at. I often thought of Elephant Swamp often over the next few years, but never carefully enough to work out a plan.
So, when 2016 hit, I decided I just had to it. I called up a few folks, hoping to get a friend to go. Instead, I ended up with four friends (Tom, Chuck, Skunk, and Pat). And a dog (Bert – for elephant protection, of course). This was gonna be an awesome hike.
We stashed an end car at the baseball fields off of Rt 40 in Elmer, then backtracked to the start of the trail at the very, very, very back end of Stewart Park in Elk Township. Having found the trailhead (it’s a little tricky, check out Google Maps ahead of time with the coordinates in our trailheads section up top), we loaded up and set off down the trail.
Right off the bat, there is some nice swampland to the side of the trail.
You’ll quickly notice that this trail is very wide, very level, and very straight (you actually turn for a while… over the course of a mile or so). That’s because this trail was created out of railroad right-of-way. Nothing will change about this aspect of the trail throughout its length. But what the trail lacks in challenges, it will make up for in scenery on either side. Like the farm on the left side of the trail in this first stretch, the first of many that you’ll pass.
The trail will parallel Railroad Ave in this section, and the frequent cars passing by made sure that this was not my favorite section of the trail.
After just over a mile, you’ll come to the end of this first section of trail when you hit Elk Road. You’ll cross the road into the main parking area for the trail. If you google maps Elephant Swamp Trail, this is the parking lot that the GPS will take you to.
The next stretch of trail is 1.7 miles to Monroeville Road. 1.2 miles into that stretch, you’ll cross from Gloucester County into Salem County. There is a stone here marking the border, but we didn’t think to look for it until later.
This stretch is also the nature trail portion of the trail, complete with education signs.
At the road, you’ll discover a gate, then immediately the Monroeville Fire Company.
The trail continues (surprise!) straight across the road, where it continues to go straight.
It’s a mere 1.2 miles to the next crossing at Pinyard Road. This might have been the coolest stretch that we hiked on this trail.
Pinyard Road is the final road crossing for this one! It’s just about a mile exactly to where we parked the cars at the baseball fields in Elmer!
Overall recommendation – I loved this hike, one of the first of the year and already a serious contender for a top spot on 2016’s Top 10 Trails list. This despite the fact that this trail is pretty much a straight, flat line the whole way.
The only detraction (hence, an 8 of 10) was the quads and dirt bikes that flew down the trail. It looks like another place where these are very regular. Don’t let that keep you away though, this is a great one!
Further reading and pictures – As with all awesome places in the great state of South Jersey, Yummygal’s South Jersey History and Adventures beat us here. Well worth checking out her pictures and write up here.