Wharton Loop – Mullica River Trail/Beaver Pond-Quaker Bridge Trail/Wilderness Connector Loop – Wharton State Forest, Shamong, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – 9.9 miles total
Type – Lollipop trail
Difficulty: 2 of 10
Website – http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/wharton.html
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – Forest and swamp
Surface – Sand
Directions – Atsion is located at 721 U.S. 206, Shamong, NJ 08088.
Parking – huge lot next to the mansion
Dog friendly? Yes
Stroller friendly? No
Facilities?: No facilities
Standouts – big beaver pond, lovely views of the Mullica River, great stretches of pine barrens
Markings – Mullica River Trail – yellow blazes
Beaver Pond – Quaker Bridge Trail – purple markers
Wilderness Connector Trail – green blazes
If you want a nice ramble through the heart of Wharton State Forest, then this one is for you. I covered this loop last Spring, but I’ve changed the order a bit from what I did and mixed in a few pictures from other times that I’ve been on this route to make for a more logical route (for the record, I did this route as part of a 15 mile day that included camping out overnight at Mullica River Campground).
Anyway, the trail starts off in from of the Atsion Ranger Station (open seasonally) where the Mullica River Trail, blazed yellow, begins. You’ll start with a walk through the streets of historic Atsion, passing the general store (now the ranger station), the Richards Mansion, one of the old homes (formerly a gun club, now a retreat center), and the church before the trail leaves Quaker Bridge Road to the left side.
Once the trail leaves the road, it will head through some recently burned out areas, cross the railroad tracks, then enter a part of the forest that was not touched by the fire. It’ll cross Quaker Bridge Road twice before ending at a large marsh or pond (which one depends on how much rain there has recently been).
After you work your way around the little pond to Quaker Bridge Road, you’ll follow the road a short spell before leaving it to the right side. This section will put you near the Mullica River up until you hit the intersection with the purple blazed Beaver Pond-Quaker Bridge Trail.
The area along the water right near the trail intersection is worth taking a break and checking out. A short stroll along the water on either side brings in a variety of views, including of a beaver lodge.
Quaker Bridge is another area well worth checking out for a little while.
So, our time at Quaker Bridge over, it’s time to turn around. According to the map, we’re walking only back down the Beaver Pond-Quaker Bridge Trail, but the trail itself was also blazed green for the Connector Trail… the next bit of trail we want to go on.
After a short time together, the purple Beaver Pond – Quaker Bridge Trail will head straight ahead while the green blazed Connector Trail will head left. Head left with the green blazes.
The green Connector Trail is a shortcut between the Lower Forge Campground (located 1 1/4 mile up the Batona) and the Mullica River Campground (located a mile down the yellow Mullica River Trail from the intersection of the green and yellow trails).
Having arrived at the end of the Green Trail, you’ll meet back up at a “T” intersection with the yellow blazed Mullica River Trail. You’ll take a right here and follow this trail 1 1/2 miles back to the intersection of the Mullica River and Beaver Pond-Quaker Bridge Trails, bringing the loop part of this lollipop hike to a finish.
From here, it’s another 2 1/2 miles back along the first stretch of this hike that we walked until you reach Atsion. Good hike!
Nearby: You can finish the Mullica River Trail by going all the way to Basto (including backpacking over night if you want). You can also pick up the Batona Trail on the other side of Quaker Bridge at just about its middle, and have 25+ miles to hike in either direction. Near the start, but across Route 206 are the Atsion Lake Trails or you can do a short little historic walk of Atsion at the end of your hike here.
Beautiful views of the Mullica and Batsto Rivers, plus a beaver lodge!
Ticks are issue in the summer, prepare accordingly!