9/11 Memorial Trail – Chestnut Branch Park – Mantua, Gloucester County, NJ
Distance – 1.1 miles total round trip
Type – Lollipop
Difficulty: 2 of 10
Total score: 6 of 10
Website – Mantua Parks
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – small hills in a wooded area
Surface – paved (entrance trail) and dirt (woods trail)
Trailheads – 39°46’17.92″N, 75° 9’49.80″W
Directions – 579 County Hwy Alt 553, Mantua, NJ 08080. When you are in the park, take the first exit off of the circle for the large parking area. Drive all the way down to the end of the parking area (the woods will be in front of you) and take a left to drive into a smaller, dirt parking area. Park immediately to the left when you enter this parking area to be closest to the trail, which is the paved pathway that your car just crossed a crosswalk for.
Parking – Two very large parking lots, parking is not a problem
Dog friendly? No
Stroller friendly? Yes
Facilities?: Yes -bathrooms
Standouts – 9/11 Memorial, some nice sized trees.
Markings – None, but easy to follow path.
Tree Rider and the Wife have been taking a toddler class on Saturday mornings this Fall, which has given The Pres and I a number of Daddy-Pres Adventure Mornings! Sadly, this day was to be the last class of the year, and The Pres had a party to go to for his little cousin.
We had some time before the party, so I hopped onto my handy-dandy Future Adventures Google Map and saw that Chestnut Branch Park was less than ten minutes from the party.
I hadn’t done this trail yet, because it seemed to be mostly paved pathways through soccer and baseball fields, with a few bits of trail in the woods next to the fields. I wasn’t wrong about the paved paths, but I was to be pleasantly surprised by the trail – The 9/11 Memorial Trail.
Use the direction in the driving directions section above to get to the correct part of the park, and then walk a few steps from the parking area to the paved walking path next to the butterfly garden. You’ll need to walk down this paved pathway, past the butterfly garden, and along the edge of the woods until you reach the sign marking the start of the trail.
Note that when you reach the sign, you’ve actually just missed the start of the trail. While facing the sign, look right, and you will clearly see the dirt path heading down into the woods. I STRONGLY recommend going right first, because this will saved the 9/11 Memorial and Reflection area for the end of the trail.
Entering the woods on some lovely dirt (hooray for dirt trails!), the trail will gradually drop down toward Chestnut Creek, which is a decent number of feet below the playing fields area of the park (well, decent for South Jersey). The trail will curve down until you shortly reach the first intersection of the trail.
At this split, we opted to go right, which was a good choice. With the party coming up, I opted NOT to walk every inch of the trail system, but I’d bet large amounts of money that the trail left is just a shortcut through toward the end of the trail system. Looking at the GPS track laid out over Google Earth later, I’d double down on that bet.
To the right, the trail will continue toward Chestnut Branch. The trail never quite gets there, but meanders through a lovely stretch of peaceful woods. Maybe it was just a quiet day at the fields, or maybe it was the 10 foot drop in elevation, but we didn’t head any field noise on this stretch of trail, which was lovely.
You’ll keep following until you reach a bench at another intersection.
At the second trail intersection, we opted for right. The trail quickly came to a small wooden bridge, then climbed out of the woods, back up to the paved concrete walking path.
When you reach the pavement again, it’s a T intersection. To the right will take you past a small pond, through a bit of woods, and then to the sections of the paved walkways that meander through the playing fields of the park. You can totally opt this way to lengthen your walk or hike, BUT FIRST…
Go left to the 9/11 Memorial. Walk the 30 or 40 feet down to the flag, turn right, and sit on the benches for a while and reflect. It’s a peaceful little spot that is very well put together, and is dedicated to three locals who lost their lives that day, as well as to all the victims of 9/11.
After a few minutes of sitting quietly, we walked back to the flag, made a right onto the paved walking path, and soon passed the trailhead for 9/11 Memorial Trail where we had started the trail. We backtracked down the paved walking path that we started on, the only difference being that we walked through the butterfly garden this time instead of around it. It wasn’t much to see in December, but it must be lovely other times of the year.
Then it was back into the car to thaw out! The whole walk with the approach, the trail itself, and the walk back was 1.1 miles. You can also expand the walk by doing more of the paved paths through the fields.
Overall recommendation: With just the trails, this was a nice stroll through the woods, but nothing special. But combine the 9/11 Memorial Trail with the memorial itself, and this is a special little corner of Gloucester County. Well worth coming to for a short hike, or combining with other nearby trails for a longer day.
Nearby: For those looking for that longer day, plenty of beautiful trails within 10 minutes of this park, like Ceres Park, Tall Pines State Preserve, and Wenonah Woods East of the Tracks and West of the Tracks.