In 2016, I hiked 32 new trails in South Jersey! Why not take a look back at the highlights of an awesome year?
Elephant Swamp Trail – Elk to Elmer, Gloucester and Salem Counties, NJ
This 6 mile (one way) hike stretches down an old railroad right-of-way between Elk and Elmer in Gloucester and Salem Counties. Highlights include beautiful views of farms and of some amazing swampland. This is also the only trail in South Jersey where you have a theoretical chance of seeing an elephant, as one escaped into this swamp back in the 1800s and hasn’t been spotted since. Dun dun DUN!
Lizard Tail Swamp Preserve – Cape May Court House, Cape May County, NJ
This beautiful Nature Conservancy Preserve down in Cape May County has two major trails that combine for just over three miles. These wind through both mature and young forest, past wetlands, and along small meadows, great variety for so few miles. The trails are all well maintained and marked, and have lots of little bridges (we all know what a sucker I am for little bridges), so well worth the trip down to Cape May Courthouse!
Glades Wildlife Refuge – Downe Township, Cumberland County, NJ
This Cumberland County preserve has four trails (totaling 5 miles) in the marshes along the beautiful Delaware Bay. Anywhere we can go to potentially spot osprey or bald eagle is a great spot in our book, just pack the bug spray in the warm months! Nice views of the Delaware Bay and marshes and a variety of other bird life are just icing on the cake.
Cameron Wildlife Sanctuary (Cape May County Park North) – Palermo, Cape May County, NJ
Another BEAUTIFUL park in Cape May County, this 1 1/4 mile of trails winds through a property that has served in the past as the exit point for the railroad heading to Ocean City, as a sand mine, and as a private hunting preserve. Now it’s small lakes (the old sand pits) covered in lily pads and birds, generously surrounded by benches (including swinging benches!) and pavilions. A short, but beautiful, hike, I fell in love with this one this summer and hope to visit whenever I’m at the shore.
Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge – Medford, Burlington County, NJ
This one is one of the coolest place in South Jersey even without the hiking – Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge. But the hiking – around the lake, through the animal housing area, through a nice patch of pinelands – just makes the trip that much nicer. This is a GREAT hike with kids in particular, and the $5 entrance fee goes to keep the place helping animals. Some nice birdwatching too!
Parvin State Park – Elmer, Salem County, NJ
Parvin State Park is a beauty- 15 miles of trails through the woods, through wetlands, and around the lake. The Parvin Lake Trail in particular is a real winner, with lots of birds, flowers, and lake views to keep you constantly happy with your views! Get bored with hiking? You can go fishing, swimming, canoeing, or camping here too!
Jake’s Branch Park – Beachwood, Ocean County, NJ
These 8.6 miles of trails here are what the pine barrens are all about. The best part of hiking here is that this park has had a series of fires and controlled burns over the past decade, which means that you get very different views of pine barrens forest succession as you hike along. There is also a really nice nature center here, which you can climb to the top of to get a birds eye view of the preserve, as well as of the airship hangers at nearby Lakehurst Naval Air Station.
Tall Pines State Preserve – Mantua Township, Gloucester County, NJ
When New Jersey’s newest state park was announced (and was only 15 minutes away), we here at this absurd blog became absurdly excited. We made it there three times in 2016, and I can promise you that it’s a beauty. The trails may be paved old golf cart paths, but we managed to see a snake every visit, the variety of trees is awesome, there are plenty of birds around, and you can pretend that you are in “The Walking Dead” as you walk past falling apart relics of when this was a golf course (at least until someone walking their dog comes into view). Big thank you to loyal reader Roger for acting as tour guide our first trip and to Jeff at GetOutsideNJ.com and my buddy Mike and his little guy (even littler than my little guys) for exploring this one with us!
Wells Mills County Park – Waretown, Ocean County, NJ
14.5 miles of trails (plus a three mile bike trail) in the beautiful pine barrens of New Jersey, it doesn’t get much better than this. Tree Rider decided he was going to hike, so we didn’t get as many miles in here as I would have liked, but what I saw in the two miles that we managed to cover was completely awesome – pinelands, a beautiful lake, and some wonderful cedar swamp. This recommendation isn’t just for you, it’s a kick in the pants to me to get back and do the 8.6 mile Penns Hill Trail, because this is easily one of the finest parks in South Jersey.
And saving the best for last…
Cattus Island County Park – Toms River, Ocean County, NJ
I’d been hearing about this park over and over and over again since I started this blog, and I finally managed to make the drive across South Jersey in December. All I can say is, how in the world did I wait so long!? The 7 miles of trails here are phenomenal! As they wind along the marshes fronting Barnegat Bay, the Blue and Orange trails presented beautiful view after view of the marshlands, with a few bird blinds thrown in along the way to help you spot the birdies without them spotting you. Even the roadwalks between trailheads were wonderful. The best part? I have it on good word from loyal reader Jim Ryan that the Red and Yellow Trails that we didn’t get to are just as good, if not better!
Hopefully this gives you some great ideas to start your 2017 hiking plans! While I HAVE TO run out of trails in South Jersey at some point, I don’t think that 2017 will be the year. Full speed ahead!
Happy 2017 everyone!
Best Canoe Trip of the Year –
“The Forks” of the Rancocas – 8 miles of awesome starting in Mt. Holly
Hardest Trip of the Year –
55 Miles in Two Days on the Batona Trail … never again!
Coolest Animal Spotted (in New Jersey) –
A beaver – spotted on a hike with the Gloucester County Nature Club AND at Crows Woods in Haddonfield
Coolest Animal Spotted (not in New Jersey) –
a mountain goat at Glacier National Park
Spot hiked most often-
Crows Woods – 9 times.