Steelmantown Cemetery Green Burial Preserve – Woodbine, Cape May County, NJ
Distance – about a mile total. Tie in trail to Belleplain State Forest to extend your hike!
Type – Loop
Difficulty: 1 of 10
Website – Steelman Cemetery Company
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – Woods and wetlands
Surface – Mossy!
Trailheads – 39°16’5.73″N, 74°48’12.05″W
Directions – Steelmantown Road near the intersection with Woodbine Road (Rt 557) in Woodbine, NJ
Parking – Roadside Parking
Dog friendly? No
Stroller friendly? No
Benches? A few?
Rules – Usual rules, plus be respectful of the graves
As you may have figured out, I love hiking in the woods. I also have always loved exploring cemeteries. So when I heard about a cemetery that’s also a hike from one of the readers of South Jersey Trails, I had to put it on the list. At the end of August 2020, my wife and older kids went to Mass and I got to hang out with The Big Fella (aged 13 months at the time). So we hopped in the car and set out to explore some places.
First, we found the remains of an old train station way back in the woods (awesome). We checked out some old school houses (also awesome). Then we came to visit the Steelmantown Cemetery Woodland Burial Preserve.
We first headed up to the old church, with it’s old graveyard full of interesting graves.
It’s the rest of the graveyard that’s really interesting AND unusual -New Jersey’s first and so far only “green cemetery”. What does that include? According to their website – “Natural burial in all of our cemeteries ensures an unimpeded, organic return to the earth as Mother Nature intended with no embalming fluid, no concrete vaults, burial shrouds, pine and wicker caskets, preservation and enhancement of the natural surroundings, natural stone markers, and hand dug burial sites.”
This cemetery and it’s parent company, “will help lead the way for others to learn of the final gift one may leave by choosing environmental and spiritual stewardship as the final act of ones life and how they chose to live that life.”
And while there aren’t a lot of miles of trails here, Belleplain State Forest is next door, and even has a connector trail to the cemetery.
After visiting, all I can say is that there are a lot worse ways to spend eternally that returing to dust surrounded by scrub pines and swamps.
Fascinating cemetery, picturesque little church, and quiet little corner of the pines.