Belleplain State Forest – Woodbine, Cape May County, NJ
Distance – 47 miles of trails (seriously). So far covered – 1.6 miles of trails (have a few more miles to do here)
Difficulty: 3 of 10 – some muddy spots to navigate
Admission cost – Between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend! Cost is $5 on a weekday or $10 on a weekend per VEHICLE if you live in the great state of New Jersey. For folks from other states, it’s double.
Website – Belleplain State Forest
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Camping is also available here! Make it a weekend!
Terrain – Woods, swamp
Surface – Various
Trailheads – Nature Trail 1 – 39°14’51.27″N, 74°51’23.37″W
Nature Trail 2 – 39°14’40.89″N, 74°50’57.81″W
Meisle Trail – 39°14’43.34″N, 74°51’26.35″W
Directions – 1 Henkinsifkin Road, Woodbine, NJ 08270
Parking – Large lot at the lake. Other lots through the park at various trails.
Nature Trail/Swim Area parking –
Dog friendly? Dogs allowed on trails. There are also pet friendly campsites here (although not all campsites are pet friendly)
Stroller friendly? Nature Trail 1 and 2 – Yes
Other trails – have not documented yet!
Benches? A few
Facilities?: Yes, full bathrooms in the park
Markings – Posts and blazes
Map – Trail map can be found here
So back in June, the Scouts and I camped out at Belleplain. We were using the park as a base to go kayaking in Cape May that weekend, but why let that get in the way of a little hiking?
Friday night, as we often do, we ended up on a night hike! We went from the Group Campsite up Dean’s Branch Road to Meisle Road. From there, we went onto the Meisle Trail, a 0.6 mile trail that goes between the road and Lake Nummy.
From there, we picked up Nature Trail #2, then went onto Nature Trail #1, then walked back down the roads to the Group Camp.
Anyway, dark. Yep.
Nature Trail #1 and #2
Anyway, Sunday morning, we went back and did the Nature Trails for real. We started at the parking area for the lake. The trail starts at the front corner of the lot near the lake and next to the beginning of the lakefront/swimming area.
Nature Trail #1 and #2 form a figure 8 next to the lake, with the intersection of the loops of the “8” being a bridge over a piece of the lake. Anyway, away we go down the trail. You’ll quickly hit your first intersection. We opted for right to stay next to the lake, but being a figure 8, it doesn’t matter much which way you choose.
This stretch of trail follows the lake edge. There are some nice little peeks at the lake, great spots to look for frogs or turtles (we heard a ton of frogs) and some nice cedar trees.
Eventually, you’ll reach the intersetion at the connector for the figure “8”.
Once you hit the intersection turn right and head for the bridge. At the bridge, take a moment to admire the two halves of the lake. This was once a cranberry bog, but in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corp DUG THIS LAKE BY HAND! It’s pretty mind blowing when you stand there and think about it. At least, for me it is.
Immediately after crossing the bridge, you’ll reach Nature Trail #2 and have to choose right or left again. Since this trail is also a loop, either way is fine. We chose right. You know, reasons.
Somehow, I didn’t take pictures on this next stretch, so magically, we walk, reach an intersection, make a right, and appear at the far trailhead for Nature Trail #2
Anyway, at this trailhead, when facing the Nature Trail, to your left will be the 0.6 mile Meisle Trail (the one we took last night to get here). To your right is the half mile Goosekill Trail that heads for the North Shore Campground.
Us? We’re back to hiking on the Nature Trail! We reenter the trail, hit the immediate intersection, and turn right to do the part of the loop for Nature Trail #2 that we haven’t done yet! We’ll continue around until we reach the intersection near the bridge that we’d previously been at.
At the intersection, we’ll again turn right and recross the bridge between the two nature trails.
After the bridge you’ll reach the intersection, where you’ll opt to yet again go right so that we can finish the rest of the loop from Nature Trail #1. The will bring you back around again to the very first intersection near the parking lot.
One mile of trail down, 46 miles to go!
Nearby: It’s ridiculous to tell you other nearby trails when there is so much hiking here, so I won’t.
However, swimming can be a good idea!