Updated: April 22, 2019
At 52.7 miles, the Batona Trail is South Jersey’s premier (also, only) long distance backpacking trail. This trail can be backpacked in 2, 3, 4, or 5 days, which means at some point, you’re going to have to camp. Dispersed, or “cowboy camping”, where you can set your tent up any old place along the side of the trail is expressly forbidden in all three state parks and the privately owned Parker Preserve. So where can you camp along the Batona?
You have five options – Godfrey Bridge Campground, Buttonwood Hill Camp, Lower Forge Campground, or Batona Campground, (Note: Bodine Field Campground is technically an option, but at 2 miles from the trail [each way], it’s not reasonable, so I haven’t included it), each in Wharton State Forest, or Brendan Bryne Campground in Brendan Bryne State Forest. They can all be booked via www.camping.nj.gov. All campsites must be reserved in advance, as there is no “pay when you get there” system in any of the parks.
We’ll cover them all, going from South to North, starting with…
Godfrey Bridge Campground
Just over 10 trail miles from the Bass River Trailhead
About 9 trail miles from the next campground at Buttonwood Campground (43 miles from end at Ongs Hat)
There is now a sign to mark the way to Godfrey Bridge Campground (update: There is a sign with an arrow if you’re coming from Bass River, there WAS one if you are heading south from Ongs Hat… it has been stolen). This is the first dirt road after getting on the trail off of Route 563 (which is where the trail crosses Evans Bridge) if you are heading North. If you are coming south and reach paved Route 563, you missed the turn for Godfrey’s Bridge Campground.
You’ll walk a mile on the dirt Hawkins Bridge Road before taking the right split at a “Y” onto dirt Godfrey Bridge Campground Road, which is a stroll of about a minute until you enter the back of the campground between sites 9 and 26.
There are 35 campsites here, of varying sizes (we stayed at 27, which was HUGE and relatively close to where the Batona comes in). The campground has no flush toilets, but does have several pit toilet (think outhouse). SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE – the pit toilets have NO TOILET PAPER and not even a place to put a roll, so make sure that you bring some with you! Also, there were a ton of bees in the handicapped toilet.
There is no water pump in the campground, but there is one at the picnic area next door.
Buttonwood Hill Camp
15.7 trail miles from the Bass River Trailhead
10.3 trail miles from the next campground at Lower Forge (37 miles from end at Ongs Hat)
Note that, once you reach the turnoff from the Batona for this one, you’ll still have just over a mile to walk down the side trail to the campsite. It usually seems like the longest mile of your life.
What you’ll find at the end is five campsites. Each has a limit of two tents or six people. The sites each come equipped with a fire ring and a picnic table.
The campground has no flush toilets, but does have a pit toilet (think outhouse).
Most importantly, there is no water pump available here, or really any water at all. I’ve been told that was is available across the road at Crowley’s Landing in the bathrooms, but despite camping here half a dozen times, I’ve never once been there when those bathrooms are open. I used to take water from the Mullica River, but the tidal salt line has been moving up that river lately, and I’ve been warned that its not a good idea to filter water from the Mullica here anymore.
The other downside of this campground is that it’s right on the road, so the noise all night (especially trucks) is loud. You’ll probably be so tired from backpacking that you won’t notice though.
Lower Forge Camp
10.3 miles from Buttonwood Hill Camp (26 miles from the start at Bass River)
5.8 miles from next campground at Batona Camp (31.2 miles from the end at Ongs Hat)
What you’ll find at Lower Forge (about 1/2 of a mile walk in from the trail) are 9 bare bones campsites featuring a fire pit, a clearing for your tent, and nothing else at all. Two tents or six people are allowed in each site. Like Buttonwood, there are no flush toilets here, but there is a pit toilet. There aren’t any water pumps either, but the Batsto River runs right along the edge of camp, which you can filter or treat to drink.
What you do get here is peace and quiet at almost the exact middle of the Batona, as this campsite is walk-in only, and far away from any paved roads.
5.8 miles from the last campground at Lower Forge (31.8 miles from the start at Bass River)
12.9 miles from the next campground at Brendan Bryne Campground (20.9 miles from the end at Ongs Hat)
Batona Camp is a real treat, starting with the distance off of the trailhead… 0 feet (the trail is right along the edge of it). There are 12 individual and 1 group site here. The individual sites hold up to 2 tents or 6 people. The group site holds up to 15 people. Each site has a fire ring, but there are no picnic tables. There are no flush toilets here either, but this site has a pit toilet.
What is nice is that this site DOES have a water pump, and right on the trail at that. Even if you don’t stay here, fill up your bottles and feel the joy of not having to treat your water before you drink it!
Brendan Bryne Campground
12.9 miles from the last campground at Batona Camp (44.7 miles from the start at Bass River)
No more campgrounds after this! 8 miles from the end at Ongs Hat
Last chance to sleep! And what a chance it is… 82 tent (or camper) sites! Each one fits two tents or six campers. Each one has a fire ring and a picnic table. There are also three group sites for up to 30 people each. These sites are a little ways off the trail (you’ll be walking down a paved park road) from when it emerges at Pakim Pond, with the distance depending on which campsite you book.
There are water pumps available here (or you can filter from the pond if you just can’t stop drinking treated water at this point), as well as FLUSH TOILETS and SHOWERS! It’s the only campground on the Batona Trail with luxury like that! If you really want luxury, you can even rent a cabin here and leave the backpacking tent or hammock away.