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Unexpected Wildlife Refuge – Newfield, Gloucester County, NJ
Distance – 10 miles of trails.  (Did 5 miles here the first time, and 3.75 the second)
Type – Web of trails
Difficulty: 6 of 10 – for balancing acts on bridges and getting over/around/under blow downs

Website – http://www.unexpectedwildliferefuge.org/
Open – By appointment (see how to make an appointment below)

Terrain – pinelands and swamps
Surface – dirt, sand, bridges

Trailheads –  39°33’35.68″N,  74°55’44.25″W

Directions – 110 Unexpected Rd, Newfield, NJ 08344 (be careful that this takes you down Piney Hollow Road and then Unexpected Road when you put it in your GPS, or you will end up stranded in the woods on the wrong side of the preserve)

Parking – A few spots

Dog friendly? Dogs are not allowed to hike here
Stroller friendly? Strollers would not make it far
Benches? A few benches scattered through the preserve
Facilities?: No facilities

Markings – Trails freshly blazed, very easy to see in nearly the whole system
Map – Map is located at the trailhead, take a picture with your phone for reference.

How do I hike here?:
This preserve is very different from any other.  Visitation by appointment only. To schedule a visit, call them at 856.697.3541 or email director@unexpectedwildliferefuge.org . Each adult visitor is required to sign a wavier. Only relatively small groups can be taken at a time.

This seems like a hastle and worries some folks (it’s one of the reasons it took me so long to hike here), but its well worth the the effort, I assure you.

Description –

Since 1961, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge has been a haven for wildlife and those who love it.  This is a place to bring your binoculars, your camera, your sketchbook, and plan to stay a while.  It’s also a place to bring a change of clothes to in case you fall in a swamp, a place to be prepared to pull ticks off by the dozens, and a place where you’ll need those map skills.




And without giving away too much of our feelings before the big reveal ratings at the end, we love this place and it’s one of the best spots in South Jersey (wait! Doh!).

Our first time here was in April where the Pres and I joined Bruce and James to go exploring.  We didn’t know what to expect.  What we found was some tough hiking, especially over the concrete beam walkways that are in the process of being replaced.  We also found ticks by the dozens and dozens, mostly on all of us.  But we also found one of the coolest and most adventurous trail systems in all of South Jersey, where the trails don’t mosey around the edge of swamps, they simply plunge straight through them.  And it’s amazing.












Thanks for adventuring with us guys!

We came back the last day of 2017, with 17 degrees of temperatures, lots of layers, and a layer of snow over the preserve.  The Pres and I were joined by Bruce again, but also Kelly and her friend.

We had a grand time skimming over frozen swamps, pushing our way down the blue trail (hit heavily by a storm that’s taken down A LOT of trees… but leads to an otter dam), and only going in the water once (me, of course.  Luckily, just my foot).

Lots of animal tracks, and a second grand adventure here.














“Kelly forces a kid to hold poop.”

 

 

This is a special place, and this post is waaaaaay more open ended than usual, because half the fun of this place is EXPLORING and DISCOVERING it.

And like many of the places we’ve visited, this place needs help.  It’s funded and maintained almost entirely by volunteers.  They need folks to patrol the borders for hunters during hunting season (no one is supposed to hunt in the preserve).  They need folks to help trim trails.  They need folks to help replace the bridges when they have the grant money and donations lined up.  When they need help, we’ll pass the word along via our Facebook page, please help then if you can!

Nearby:
Piney Hollow Preservation Area is located right next to the refuge, and is also a nice hike.

The Good

Swamps, wildlife, beautiful trails

The Could Be Better

Ticks, bushwacking, some of the walkways are tough to navigate

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Bottom Line

These trails can be tough (or as I like to call it, an adventure) and shouldn't be taken lightly. But there is so much in the way of amazing adventure and great experiences to be had here, that it get's the coveted "10" rating from South Jersey. One of our absolute favorites.

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