Rechnitz Pine Barrens Preserve – Browns Mills, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – 1.8 miles total with the two loops, we did 1.6 sticking to the outside of the loops
Type – 2 loops in a figure 8
Difficulty: 3 of 10
Website – https://www.njconservation.org/
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – Pine forest, some open areas, and skirts the edge of cedar swamps
Surface – Sand. Some areas (but not most of the trail) have plant life is starting to grow again on the trail. Other areas have lots of bumps due to vehicle use at some point, which can be a pain the knees.
Trailheads – N 39° 55.740 W 074° 30.986 – yellow loop starts each way from this spot at the back of the parking lot.
Directions – North Branch Road, Browns Mills, NJ The turn onto this road is directly off of Route 70, so careful with the turn!
Parking – Small lot with, if well parked, room for 5 or 6 vehicles (less room if poorly parked)
Dog friendly? Dogs allowed on leashes
Stroller friendly? No
Facilities?: Kiosk with information and trail register
Markings – Plastic posts and blazes on trees
Black Friday – a day either for fighting to the death for a Cabbage Patch Doll or getting as far away from everyone as humanly possible. So we loaded up the whole clan – the Wife, The Pres, Tree Rider, Kite Flyer, the Big Fella, and The Poet – and headed for Batsto.
Afterwards, it was still early, so we drove up through Chatsworth, hooked a right to go around Brendan Byrne State Forest, and then took a series of wrong turns and dead ends trying to find this place (online pointed out it’s near Mt Misery and the camp there and it DOES abut that property, but not anywhere near the camp entrance… if only there was a blog online that gave out exact locations for hard-to-find South Jersey trails complete with GPS coordinates and street addresses…). It could have been worse, I struggled to remember the name of this one a few months ago when I wanted to add it to my list (Thanks Mike for the help!).
Anyway, we found it! By this time my wife, The Wife, was not up to exploring trails with little online presence (thank goodness for the write up on Birds & Words with a map image or we’d still be circling through the pines for the trailhead… also, much respect to a birding blog that also includes a running photo archive of Wawas visited), so it was just me and the five boys heading into the woods for a 1.6 mile stroll around two loops.
It was a beautiful day, so no problem with that! We walked through the gap in the fence toward the kiosk, checked it out for a minute, then took the left split onto the Yellow Trail.
The trail for the first mile was mostly the stumpy pine trees type hike that we know and love when it comes to the pine barrens, a type of hike I never get tired of (see also: just about half the posts in the blog). It’s start off with a lot of view of the sky on a cut trail, which has some brush slowly starting to grow up along the trail path, but nothing too bad for a preserve that opened just five years ago.
After just 0.2 of a mile, we kept to the left to go on the Blue Trail (the Yellow Trail continues to loop, but is a much shorter loop).
The trail soon turned onto an old, narrow dirt road, which made for a clear footpath. The trees here are more dense and imposing, resulting in a more “usual” pine barrens feel to the trail.
Eventually the trail split. Left is not part of the trail system, right is the blue trail. We’ll have to come back some day to explore that other spur and see where it goes, but for today, right it is!
This back stretch approaches Mount Misery Creek, which we weren’t able to see from the trail at any point. We did get a glimpse of the Atlantic white cedars that are a sure sign of water. This part of the trail looks like it was used by dirt bikes for quite a while at some point, and has the tell tale bumps along the trail that are fun to ride but not great on your knees when carrying your toddler. We did hear some dirt bikes during out hike, but they were outside the preserve, enjoying the option that isn’t trying to murder people for Cabbage Patch dolls.
Kids ended up collecting a zillion pine cones here, which I realized too late were for throwing at each other. No one got hurt, and hopefully my wife doesn’t ready this far down into this trail review.
With the pine cone war over, the blue trail bent to the right at an old set of double posts.
This put us heading back toward the car, 1 mile into our hike. Along the left side of the trail, the camp has posted no trespassing signs where there is a shared border.
At the split, we kept right to stay on the blue trail. I think left is Rattler Road and would eventually bring you to Route 73 along the edge of the preserve property, but I’m not sure!
Almost immediately, there is another split. Two of my kids went one way, two went the other. This blog will now have fewer characters in it I guess.
No! We regathered ourselves and took the right split again to stay on the blue trail.
After this, we soon reached the end of the blue trail at the yellow trail. Because the yellow trail forms a smaller loop within the blue trail, that trail goes both ways from this spot. We headed left, which left us about 0.2 of a mile to the parking lot, but you could head right here for a slightly longer hike and eventually retracing your steps from the beginning of this hike.
The trail opened up here again (actually, starts opening a little before the trail junction) for views of a blue sky on a beautiful day
Too soon, this brought us back to the parking lot and the end of our beautiful day in the pines. Back in the car, we headed toward home with the smoke from the burning retail stores visible on the horizon.
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Quiet pine barrens trails without a lot of folks around!
Would be nice if the trails here were expanded.