Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve – Woodland Township, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – 13 miles of trails (we did 5 1/2 miles of hiking here, including some backtracking on trails when necessary. ANY hike here will require at least some backtracking to complete loops or to get back to trailheads)
Type – Web of trails
Difficulty: 3 of 10 – downed trees near the intersection of the Yellow and Green Trails were tricky, but the rest of the trails were pretty easy
Total score: 6 of 10
Website – njconservation.org
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – pinelands, swamps, and spungs!
Trailheads – Official – 39°51’49.80″N, 74°36’40.95″W
There also may be trailheads on Soutside Fire Road (parallel to Rt 70) close to the 70/72 Circle, and also there seems to be a 0.6 of a mile sand road outside the preserve that runs over to Route 72 across from Brendan Bryne State Forest, between the Headquarters Road and the circle.
Directions – Located on the north side of Sooy Place Road, very close to the intersection of Johnson Place Road, in Woodland Township.
Parking – Roadside parking (no lot)
Dog friendly? Yes (or at least nothing posted against it on their website or at the trailhead)
Stroller friendly? Sandy, so might be tough to negotiate with a stroller
Benches? No benches
Standouts – some beautiful swamp, lovely pitch pine forests, and a spung (which, sadly, we didn’t get to see)
Markings – Painted or plastic markers on trees.
Map – Current map on njconservation.org
If for some reason that it’s not working, here is the trailmap (as of 8/20/16):
Quick trail descriptions:
Description – Somehow, some way, I managed to leave the greatest state in the nation (South Jersey) for six whole weeks this summer. Now, I love gorgeous mountain views, grizzly bears, bison, and prairie dogs as much as the next guy (all things a bit scarce in South Jersey), but I simply can’t go too long without pitch pines and Atlantic white cedar. Simply put, I was dying to get back to the pine barrens.
In steps Kelly, (who runs a hiking group I’m in, but hadn’t managed to hike with yet) who wanted a Wednesday hike. Hey, presto, pine barrens hike at the Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve in Woodland Township with the family and a new friend.
This New Jersey Conversation Foundation preserve was just what I had been hoping for – a slice of pine barrens. We hiked up the White Trail (which acts as a spine for the system, connecting all of the other trails with each other) for it’s short 1/4 mile entrance into the preserve, then turned right to take the Blue Trail.
For about 1/3 of a mile, the Blue Trail winds through typical pitch pine territory, which was just what I was looking for.
The trail then takes a hard left (it looks like a curve on the map, but it’s really more of a turn. You aren’t supposed to go right here) onto what was also a road at some point. The trail will travel another 1/3 of a mile until it splits, with the Blue Trail going left (joining the White Trail) to loop back around to the start, or to the right, taking the White Trail deeper into the preserve.
Being only 0.8 miles in, we opted for more adventure (of course)! We took continued on the White Trail, past the bright red gate, and over the bridge. Afterwards, the trail goes through the typical forest terrain we’d been seeing, then turned a bit swampier. We followed until we hit the intersection with the Yellow Trail, 0.4 of a mile from the split.
The Yellow Trail isn’t very spectacular, it seems to have been built largely as a connection for the Green and Red Trails. It narrowed down to normal trail size, and definitely wasn’t an old woods road. After a half mile, it connects with a Green Trail spur that connects to the Green Trail loop.
After joining the Green Trail spur, we immediately crossed a stream on a little bridge. This is where the here-to wonderfully kept trail system quickly went wrong. There were several down trees, the markers got a bit hard to find, and you had to bushwhack around fallen trees to figure out where you were going. We poked around, figured out which way to go, found an old washed out bridge (pretty good consolation prize), and found where the Green Trail could go right or left. We opted for right toward a spung marked on the map.
Once on the loop part of the trail, the hiking became easy again. We flew the 0.3 miles down to where the Green Trail intersected with the White Trail. The Green Trail turned left to follow the White Trail for about a hundred feet, then immediately left the White Trail to turn right into the woods. Here, we met another frog.
After the turn, we followed the Green Trail up to where it intersected with the Red Trail, another 0.6 miles (including a left turn at one point). Here, the spung was off the trail to the left, but sadly, we couldn’t really see anything. Oh well. 2.8 miles into our day, we stopped for a rest and a snack.
It was hot and late at this point, so we decided to call it a hike and start heading back. We backtracked down the Green Trail to it’s intersection with the White Trail, turned left onto the White Trail, and this time continued straight when the Green Trail split off (staying on the White Trail). Our immediate reward was a gigantic puddle! Luckily, there was a bridge to the right to go around it.
Another half mile of the White Trail brought us back to where we had left it to take the Yellow Trail earlier in our hike. We continued straight, back onto the stretch of White Trail that led to the bridge and the red gate.
We recrossed the bridge, went around the gate, and at the intersection of the White and Blue Trails, opted to head right to stay on the White Trail/Blue Trail overlap (avoiding the part of the Blue Trail that we had taken on the way into the preserve). After a third of a mile, the Blue Trail went off to the right, but we stayed on the White Trail. 0.2 of a mile further on, the White Trail crosses the Blue Trail again (this is where our first turn of the hike had been), before taking the 0.2 mile spur back out to the cars.
Sound a bit confusing? A bit, but a copy of the map and well blazed and marked trails (except for the downed tree section) make this one not too difficult to follow if you keep an eye on the map.
We said goodbye to our new friend Kelly, hopped into AIR CONDITIONING, and headed off to find some Jersey corn. Good hike!
Big thank you to Kelly for helping get us out in the woods, and for being super awesome to The Pres and Tree Rider!
Overall recommendation – A beautiful walk through the pine barrens, well worth doing if you are looking for a longer hike. We’ll definitely be back at some point to check out the spung on the Red Trail.