Piney Hollow Preservation Area – Township of Franklin, Gloucester County, NJ
Distance – Listed as 1.65 miles of trails, but we did 3.8 miles total and didn’t even do all the dikes.
Type – series of loops and spurs
Difficulty: 5 of 10 – parts of trail are overgrown, especially on the back end of the lake, making for a tough slog (at least as its gets dark with a 3 and 5 year old in tow).
Website – Green Franklin Township
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – Woods and swamps surrounding old cranberry bogs
Surface – Mostly sand
Trailheads – 39°34’24.04″N, 74°56’15.39″W (main parking area off Piney Hollow Road)
Also a pair of entrances off of Unexpected Road.
Directions – 1394-1526 Piney Hollow Winslow Rd, Newfield, NJ 08344
Parking – Small lot with spaces for half a dozen cars.
Dog friendly? Nothing posted that they CAN’T be there (and there are a good amount of signs)
Stroller friendly? Parts would be okay with a heavy duty stroller, other parts would not work at all.
Standouts – Beautiful bogs, lots of areas of woods to explore, and a killer sunset.
Markings – Painted blazes, signs at major intersections.
Two weeks ago, the kiddos and I set off on adventure so that my wife could get ready for work in peace. I drove off not quite knowing where we were headed. The answer was apparently Franklin Township, where we explored the Piney Hollow Preservation Area. It worked out perfectly.
We grabbed a map from the bin and took off into the preserve. I decided to follow the Blue Trail (aka, an old road) all the way through until it dead ended.
We started off out of the parking lot, quickly turning right to follow the Blue Trail. The trail splits fairly quickly, but will rejoin itself within a minute or two.
Once we rejoined, this road follows close to the water. The trail ventures off the old road a few times to go around what seem to be pretty permanent puddles. The trail comes up on the intersection with Dike #1, which is labeled by a lovely street-sign style signs up on a tree.
From here, it was straight up the Blue Trail to the intersection with Dike #2. This required crossing an old dike, which went between a green swamp and the old bogs. It was a great little spot.
From here, it was a short distance until the Blue Trail ended.
Here, it was really, really temping to go left out on the dike, because it looked really, really, really nice. But I let the Pres pick left or right, and he picked right. So right we headed, down the Red Trail until it intersected with the Yellow Trail.
Here, we had the option of going straight on the Red Trail to Unexpected Road or left down the Yellow Trail, which also led to Unexpected Road. We chose left, as a trail was supposed to come in to the left, looping back to near where we’d first gotten on the Red Trail. Unfortunately, we either missed it (twice) or it isn’t marked, because we never found this other trail. We hiked until we reached Unexpected Road.
Having hit the road, we turned around to look for the connector (which we didn’t find), so ended up taking the Yellow back to the Red, which we then took back to where we’d first gotten on.
From there, we headed the opposite way, down to Dike #3. There were some wet spots to avoid, but we made it to the back end near the water in good order.
We hit the water just in time, a few minutes before sunset. The water was amazing.
Like, seriously amazing.
We walked down the dike, dodging briers in places and avoiding holes (animal holes? Possibility!) while admiring the last minutes of sun.
We took a few more shots and reached the end of the dike as official sunset time hit.
At the end of the dike, we turned left, hoping to follow along the back end of the bogs to reach Dike #2. I don’t know if we missed something in the fading light or what, but there wasn’t any trail to follow. Wearing a baby and walking with a 3 and 5 year old, it was time to backtrack.
We backtracked down Dike #3, enjoying the pretty scenery in the rapidly fading light.
Now I’ve never written a “How to hike” article, mostly because there are ten bazillion of them online, but one thing you should always have with you is a flashlight. Like, especially if its December and you are alone with three children under six with you.
Luckily, The Pres had just had his “What to pack to go hiking” Cub Scout meeting, so his pack was fully loaded with the essentials, including a flashlight. His light, along with mine (along with me always running a GPS track on unfamiliar trail systems) meant that we could hike back toward the car with panicking about the fading sunlight. It was beautiful to be on the move in the woods at that time of day, a rare treat for us (and me).
We made it back with smiles on our faces, nearly four miles behind us, and snacks in the car. It was a seriously great hike.
Nearby: Unexpected Wildlife Refuge is right around the corner! The Blue Hole in Winslow WMA is also very close.
Variety of trails, beautiful bogs, potential great animal sightings, well labeled intersections, and a great sunset.
The sun isn't setting all the time. But seriously, have to be careful of wet feet, the trail system had a missing piece, and parts labeled as trails may be impassible (or else we really just blew it)