Melvin and Florence Levin Nature Conservancy – Mt. Laurel, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – a little over 2 miles of trails (we did 2 1/4 miles with some backtrack and only missed one cut-through trail) total
Type – Loop with a cut-through and a spur
Difficulty: 1 of 10
Total score: 5 of 10
Website – None
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – woods and swamp with a bit of grassland
Surface – some parts are boardwalk, some parts crushed stone dust, and some parts grass and dirt (or in our case, mud. Thanks rain)
Trailheads – 39°56’51.50″N, 74°52’40.67″W – this is the main one off of the parking lot, although there are others along Hainsport-Mt Laurel Road, and along Hartford Road (this is the best spot to park)
Directions – 1215 Hainsport-Mt Laurel Road, Mt Laurel, NJ (rough address from Google Earth). Turn here onto the driveway for the Cistercian Monastery. The parking lot will appear within a few moments on the right side.
Parking – Decent sized lot.
Dog friendly? As far as I know, yes. No signs prohibiting it.
Stroller friendly? Should work with many strollers.
Markings – None, but can’t mistake the trail for anything else, as its mostly paved in crushed stone dust
Map – I missed a cut-thru trail on the big loop, but otherwise I got everything.
So I’d seen pictures of this one on the Jersey pine barrens Facebook group several times, but couldn’t quite figure out where it was. With a helpful hint from a few people (across from Hartford School, but the parking is around the corner), I managed to figure it out on Google Earth. So the next day while The Wife was at work, The Pres, Tree Rider, and I set off to explore this one.
We arrived after a rainstorm, and when we set off down the trailhead off the parking lot, we hit puddles pretty quickly. This turned out to be the only wet section of trail though. We followed the curve around until it met with a three way intersection. We turned left.
After turning left, we ended up on the outer loop paralleling Hainsport-Mt. Laurel Road. Of course, we didn’t know this was a loop at time, but thanks our willingness to be South Jersey Hiking Trail Lab Rats, we all know now! The trail was a straight shot until it neared the intersection of Hainsport-Mt. Laurel Road and Hartford Road. Here, part of the trail went right out to the intersection (this is where the sign for the preserve is). The main part of the trail curved to the left to parallel Hartford Road.
After the trail curves around, it follow quite a while on this long side of the loop. The trail splits to the right out to Hartford Road at least twice (the first time to go to the crossing area to the school). At one point, a trail goes left as well. The is a diagonal cut through of the big loop.
After the trail intersection, the trail does a big loop, crossing several wet areas on boardwalks. Eventually, it emerges into a meadow area along the back stretch. The cut thru trail rejoins toward the end of that meadow area, before turning sharply to the right and crossing the driveway to the monastery for the first time.
After crossing the road, the trail makes a sharp left to finish up the last side of the loop. You’ll quickly pass the parking lot (but on the opposite side of the road) and realize that you didn’t have to hike through those puddles to get on the loop. You’ll finish at a T-intersection.
So yes, we opted for right at the t-intersection. What this stretch is is a straight out-and-back spur of the trail. There will be a few places you can turn left to go out to Hainsport-Mt. Laurel Road, but we went straight, straight, straight until suddenly, the trail dead ended. It’s not subtle. There is even a sign there.
When you hit a dead end, the only thing to do is turn around…
… and head back. We went straight back down the trail, recrossed the driveway for the monastery, and soon found ourselves back at the intersection of the grassy road that we first came to.
We turned left, Tree Rider went immediately back into the puddled (*sigh*) and we arrived back at the parking lot and the car.
Nearby: The mysterious Mount Laurel State Park is just around the corner, and Mount Laurel also has the Rancocas Point Trail.
Nice variety of plant life, nice wide trails
Some parts are very close to the road.
Hey Mike — did this one today (well, Sunday, anyway) — once again discovered this thanks to your blog…add another one to your list! (Oh, you may not be keeping such a list, but if you did, you can add this place to it!) You must have done this a little while back, because the first part of the trail (i.e. from the parking lot in between the handicapped signs) is now quasi-paved (with millings); it lasts till a little after the first “left” you make (i.e. where the major puddles were…and there still is a pretty good-sized one where the [still] grassy path comes in from the right.) But overall, a very nice place to walk; and I think it’s the same time of year that you and the kids went (i.e. more “green” appearing rapidly!)
Oh, and I did the “cut-over”/shortcut trail as well…it’s just under 0.2 miles, and has an additional boardwalk/bridge, so it’s more of the same there (which, since you seem to like boardwalks, is a GOOD thing!) 🙂
Well, another great hike for me (thanks to you)…there will be more to come later this year…guaranteed!) Look forward to your next adventure!
P.S. — Not sure if you’re aware, but just down the road, at Elbo Lane, is a small park (looks relatively new) with some paved walking paths. (It looks to be a main/perimeter path, with a couple “inner” ones to connect the outer portions.) The outer loops is just under a half-mile…may be good for an additional walk if you are hiking in the area and have a little extra time.
Thanks! Did not know about the Elbo Lane one, I’ll have to check it out next time I’m over that way.
It’s a neat little trail here, glad that you enjoyed it!