Birch Grove Park – Northfield, Atlantic County, NJ
Distance – unsure how many miles of trails, I did 3.1 miles total
Type – Web of connecting loops
Difficulty: 2 of 10
Website – City of Northfield
Open – 9 AM to sunset
Terrain – forest and ponds
Surface – mostly dirt trails
Trailheads – 39°22’32.89″N, 74°33’50.00″W
Directions – 1700 Burton Avenue, Northfield, New Jersey 08225
Parking – Very large lot
Dog friendly? “Pets are not permitted at the park. Service animals related to a person’s disability are always welcome.”
Stroller friendly? Parts of this would be tough for a stroller
Benches? Yes, scattered throughout the park
Facilities?: Port-a-potties (bathrooms sometimes close before the park does)
So this one went on our list of places to hike within the first month of two of starting this terrible, terrible blog. Then, with the kind of efficiency that this blog is WELL known for, it took us 6 1/2 years to get here.
Man, we waited waaaaaaay too long to get to this one.
So, this park is pretty much one stop shopping. It has a baseball field up front. It has a local history museum along the road (sadly, not open the day I was there). It has great ponds for fishing that are stocked twice a year. It used to have camping as well, but sadly summer 2018 was the last season for the campground.
The first thing that you notice about the park is the grid of ponds… weird. Why so many? Well, these are the filled in excavation pits of the old Somers Brick Works. Later on, the town bought the land to make into a park, building a million little bridges that you are going to… but I get a head of myself.
So anyway, we drove until the road ran out (past the fields and the museum) and parked by the big lake, hopped out of the car, and began searching for a trailhead. We didn’t see anything that was obviously a trail, but we saw the edge of a lake on the end of a parking lot and went for it. The trail quickly curved to go BETWEEN two lakes. Around or between? We obviously went with between the two lakes, views on both sides!
We soon approached something unusual for a hiking trail in South Jersey… a covered bridge! It’s like a tiny, baby covered bridge for hikers. I love it.
The views on each side of the trail were pretty nice.
I was a little sad to get to the end of the pond, because this blog LOVES a good pond. We quickly rebounded because… what is this… another pond? MORE BRIDGES!?
WHY SO MANY PONDS!? Because this was where clay was mined for bricks. Eventually, the pits filled in with water, and then the town built a million (this is an exaggeration, it’s really only 450,000) little bridges. Loved it.
We walked straight across these two bridges, then kept right to head toward the outside of the walking trails.
Why right? Because IT’S A CRAZY TREE!
I hung out here for a bit, because how in the world is this tree still standing? I don’t have a clue, but it’s pretty awesome.
Eventually, we hit the road.
I walked up this road for a while, admiring the fading Fall glory, admiring another lake along the way.
I then took a weird side trail off into the middle of nowhere.
Back at the road, I kept going, then turned in to follow a hilly trail right up against the pond. I followed this until it dumped back into the road at it’s northernmost point.
I then took a trail between two more lakes to head South in the general direction of the parking area. There were some kids fishing here, but they weren’t having any luck.
Eventually, I made it back to the road, which I took to head west to check out that end of the park. There were more ponds, more lovely colors, more little bridges, benches and picnic tables, and some weird birds too.
Finally, I rounded the last bend on the far side of that park. Here I passed the old campground. Sadly, 2018 was the last year that this campground was open, as the costs to upgrade it just made it too much for the city to invest. Which is a bummer, it looked like a great place to camp (and I should have come here years ago to camp out!).
I then hit the ponds closest to where I had parked. I left the road and began to work my way over to my car, which took me past some more lovely views, plus the developed area of the park.
As I walked across the parking lot, I passed a biker before getting back into my car.
Nearby: Closest trails are a favorite – Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and Estell Manor County Park are also close by, and both wonderful.
Ponds! Little bridges! Crazy trees! Lots of birds! This was a GREAT one.
Like all the great ones, I wish there were even more trails here. Because I'm greedy and unreasonable.
Hey Mike — congrats on finally getting down here in my area (in Southern…err, _more_ Southern) NJ! Birch Grove is a park that absolutely does *not* disappoint no matter which season one visits. (I venture out there at least 3 to 4 times a year…most recently, last Sunday!) A mighty big difference between last Sunday (at around 45 degrees) and when I went the time before that…on July 21 (2019), when the temperature was at a toasty 103 degrees!!
Anyway, it looks like you went in the late October/early November time frame, judging by the color of the leaves on some of the trees…although now that I think of it, I’d hedge my bet on early November, as throughout October, I believe they give haunted hayrides on that “main road” trail…you would have seen the props in the daytime, and would probably only imagine what they’d look like at night! Perhaps next fall you could come with the kids and check out the hayride!
Looks like you got to all the major trails; one of the side trails (unmarked…even when the trails were freshly re-blazed back in 2014) actually goes out to Burton Ave. (the road that the main driveway is off of), except the trail dumps you out further north on Burton Ave. — I should offer to volunteer to blaze the trail for them; it runs alongside of a nice little stream much of the way!
As a final note…I counted just over 500,000 bridges, so your count of 450,000 falls a little short! LOL!
Keep up the wonderful work; I’m trying to guess how many parks (large or small) I’ll discover in 2020 due to your blog! (I’ll say at least 5 or 6!) Happy Hiking!
The reason why there was a disagreement about the number of bridges could be traced to the lack of mention about Kite Flyer. Had he been cited, he would have been asked about the number of bridges and then there would be no debate about the actual number of bridges. Dashing Dan the Perimeter Man