North Branch Preserve- Pemberton, NJ

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North Branch Preserve – Pemberton, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – 1.1 miles total
Type – lollipop
Difficulty: 3  of 10 – Beginning of the trail was overgrown, trail markers sometimes scarce
Total score: 4 of 10

Website – Rancocas Conservancy
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – woods and creek

Trailheads –  39°57’44.44″N.  74°39’20.85″W (located off the parking lot, no trail sign)

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Directions – Located on the Pemberton Bypass, directly across the street from the intersection with Duck Island Road

Parking – Small lot for 6 or 7 cars

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Dog friendly? Yes
Stroller friendly? No (blow downs and trails not well cleared)
Benches? No

Markings – Yellow diamond markers nailed to trees
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Map –

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GPS track

Description – Last Friday, I got out of work early, YAY!  So I went home, grabbed The Pres and Tree Rider and headed for the North Branch Preserve in Pemberton.  Finding the trailhead was easy since I had scouted it out before (it was not easy the first time), and we loaded up and headed in.  Yay!

The first 50 yards or so, I had flashbacks of our cut-very-short hike at the nearby Cowan Nature Preserve, as the trail was narrow and not always obvious, which left The Pres confused on which way to go. We soon hit a power line clearing, after which the trail widened out to old road.  This trail could use some TLC, but after that first, short stretch, we never had to worry about it being too narrow.

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Initial trail can be a bit confusing, just keep an eye on the markers.
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You’ll soon cross a power line cut filled with tall grass.
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After which, the trail becomes much wider and easier to follow.

After crossing the power line cut and reentering the woods, we followed the old road for a stretch until our way was blocked by a blow down.  We opted to take a hard right through the sticker bushes and down to the creak, then come back up again.  We figured out on the way back that this wasn’t the shortest route, but we enjoyed the view of the river anyway.

We then climbed back up to the other side of the blow down, where the trail again became very clear and obvious.  We continued onward.

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Trail looking much better.
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Until this.
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But we made it around.

The next obstacle was a yellow arrow at a split.  To the right, the trail is blocked by a fallen tree (remember this, it’ll be important later).  The arrow pointed left.  We were unsure if it meant to take the left fork, or whether the trail somehow made a sharp turn here into the woods.  It meant take the left fork.  Now you know!

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This tree is splitting from the bottom!  You can see the light coming through.
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Beautiful final colors of Fall.

Soon after this, the trail gets weird.  Again.

It splits left and right.  Right is blocked by (you guessed it), a downed tree.  There are no markers to indicate which way to go.  Being the good outdoorsman that I am, I decided to let my four year old decide which way to go.  He opted to go right over the dead tree (of course).  We walked down a ways, past a cool little bog area that I didn’t get a picture of, through some head-high brush, and were just about to give up with this being the wrong way when… a marker!  It was quite  a ways down the trail, which was not very helpful.

I didn’t even get picture of this stretch, because I was convinced it was the wrong way.  A few more yellow markers would have been infinitely helpful here!

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Getting tight in the brush.  Notice the grass growing on the trail.  But this is the trail, we just didn’t know it until right after this picture when we made it through the brush.

However, this was the last major area of uncertainty for the hike (coincidentally, it was also pretty much exactly halfway through the hike).  The trail, now well marked with markers, headed straight back to the creek, then turned right to head back in the direction that we had come.

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We then came upon the scant remains of some old buildings.  Maybe they were a small house?  There wasn’t enough there to tell what they had been.  It was pretty cool, and unsuspected, find.

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In the last picture, you can see the way the trail headed (pretty much a straight line from the way we’d come in), which led down what I could only think of as an old. overgrown driveway.  It followed the edge of the creek, and had a few small views of the water.  We ended up back at that downed tree by the yellow arrow marker that I told you to remember.  Yay!  At this point, we discovered the trail was a lollipop.

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At times like this, I miss daylight savings.

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Slowly losing the light.

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Last new view of the creek.
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Over (or for us non-kids, around) another log.  It wasn’t until we were around this one that I realized we’d rejoined the trail where that yellow arrow had been.

We made the slight left and headed back toward the car.  We had to go back around the first blowdown that we’d encountered (which we found a shorter, more direct route over this time) and across the power line cut.

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Back to the first blowdown.
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It looks more complicated to navigate than it was.
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Clear sailing from here!
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Back across the power line cut.

We arrived back at the car with about 20 minutes of daylight to spare.  Good adventure!

 

Nearby – The Pemberton Rail Trail and the Pemberton Wildlife Management Area are each nearby with trails, although we haven’t done the second quite yet!

One thought on “North Branch Preserve- Pemberton, NJ

  1. In May 2023 this trail has had recent work and is now clearly marked. It also now connects to a white blazed trail, which brings the total mileage now to 2. Also, the old building remains were a boy scout camp.

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