Hiking and Walking in the Pine Barrens
Miles of sugar sand trails invite you to explore...
The Batona Trail is almost 50 miles in length and links Brendan T. Byrne, Wharton, and Bass River State Forests. Batona stands for BAck TO NAture, and hiking this trail will take you through most of the natural habitats of the Pinelands. Some highlights include Pakim Pond, Apple Pie Hill, the Carranza memorial, and Martha. The trail intersects paved roads at many places, making it easier to walk smaller portions of the trail. Public campgrounds along the trail include Lower Forge, Batona Camp, and Bass River State Forest. Check out this videoof the Batona Trail.
[+ ZOOM] Students from Medford's Memorial School hike across a footbridge on the Batona Trail. © Kevin Sparkman
Belleplain State Forest
The forested acres of Belleplain include stands of young pine, oak and Atlantic white cedar, reflecting better soil conditions and less damage by fire than found in the Pine Barrens just north of the forest. Belleplain State Forest was established in 1928 by the State of New Jersey for recreation, wildlife management, timber production, and water conservation. Several nature trails traverse the area.
Brendan T. Byrne State Forest
Brendan T. Byrne State Forest has more than 25 miles of marked trails. The various trails and loops provide challenges ranging from long single track hiking trails to a trail accessible for people with disabilities. The Batona Trail is designed for hiking, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing. The Mount Misery Trail allows visitors the additional option of mountain biking, and the Cranberry Trail allows for access by wheelchairs in addition to all the other uses listed above.
[+ ZOOM] A sandy road cuts across a pygmy pine forest. © Mark Schoneveld
Cape May National Wildlife Refuge
Cape May National Wildlife Refuge was established as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1989. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acquired about 11,500 acres and the refuge continues to grow. Ultimately, the refuge will protect 21,200 acres of precious wildlife habitat in New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula. Cape May National Wildlife Refuge’s key location in the Atlantic Flyway makes it an important link in the vast nationwide network of National Wildlife Refuges. It ensures availability of critical habitat to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds each year, as these long-distance flyers travel along the New Jersey coast.
Cattus Island Park (Ocean County Parks)
The unspoiled beauty of nature is the main attraction at Cattus Island County Park. This environmentally sensitive park spans almost 500 acres and boasts miles of trails, many offering lovely vistas of the adjacent Silver Bay. Cattus Island is home to the Cooper Environmental Center, where visitors of all ages will enjoy many displays and collections of snakes and reptiles, as well as numerous programs and presentations. Check out this video of Cattus Island Park.
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
Forsythe NWR, located 10 miles north of Atlantic City, is composed of two separate Divisions, Barnegat in the north and Brigantine in the south. Nearly 80 percent of Forsythe Refuge is tidal salt meadow and marsh, interspersed with shallow coves and bays. Most of the remainder of the refuge acreage is woodlands dominated by pitch pines, oaks, and white cedar, with some fields which are maintained to provide habitat diversity. More than 6,000 acres are designated as Wilderness Area. Each spring and fall, thousands of water birds stop at Forsythe Refuge during their long migrations. There is a boardwalk trail into the salt marshes and maritime forest.
Forked River Mountain Preserve (The Nature Conservancy)
This isolated preserve includes pristine Pine Barrens habitats and is home to many rare species of plants and wildlife. The Nature Conservancy has created a well-marked interpretive nature trail including trail brochures.
[+ ZOOM] Botanists in the field Uli Lorimer
Franklin Parker Preserve (NJ Conservation Foundation)
NJCF purchased the 9,400-acre Franklin Parker Preserve, the largest private land conservation acquisition in state history. Today, NJCF owns and manages the 14-square-mile property in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Adjacent to 250,000 acres of state preserved lands, the preserve is home to sandy roads that wind through pitch pine forest, blueberry fields, shallow lakes and pristine streams. The property is available for passive recreation and can be accessed by the public from points along County Routes 563 and 532.
Heart of the Pines video about the preserve (NJ Conservation Foundation)
Island Beach State Park
The Island Beach State Park Discovery Trails System provides a self-guided experience through the nine plant communities of a barrier island. Wayside exhibits located along each trail interpret the natural and cultural stories of the park. There are a total of 8 trails, each under one mile. For a copy of the Discovery Trails brochure and map, please contact the Park Office.
Parvin State Park
Situated at the edge of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the Parvin Natural Area combines many of the characteristics and species of southern New Jersey and the Pine Barrens. Several trails run through the hardwood and Atlantic white cedar swamps, pitch pine lowlands and upland pine and oak forests. Parvin is home to the state-threatened barred owl and the endangered swamp pink.
Penn State Forest
Penn State Forest's undeveloped wilderness attracts picnickers and hikers. Lake Oswego, a result of an upstream dam that was constructed to create a reservoir for a downstream cranberry operation, is suitable for canoeing and fishing. The Pine Barren Plains, known locally as the Pygmy Forest, contains trees that may attain a height of only about four feet at maturity. New Jersey contains the world's largest acreage of this globally rare forest community, which can be seen within portions of Penn State Forest.
Rancocas State Park
The Rancocas Creek is the idyllic setting for hiking and nature observation in this rustic park. The Audubon Society operates a nature center within the park and sponsors wildlife programs. A network of trails wanders through upland and lowland hardwood forest, leading hikers along the North Branch of the Rancocas Creek and an extensive freshwater tidal marsh. The diversity of the landscape provides habitat for numerous species of birds and animals. The natural area features a self-guided interpretive trail with highlighted points of interest.
Webb's Mill Boardwalk
Explore this cedar swamp without getting your feet wet! The boardwalk trail allows you to explore scattered sphagnum hummocks that rise above a sand base often covered by about an inch or two of water. Here, beautiful orchids, pitcher plants, sundews and other characteristic Pinelands flowers thrive. Directions: From 4 Mile Circle get on Rt. 72 east towards Long Beach Island. Turn left (north) onto Rt. 539 north and proceed 6.2 miles. Park on the side of the road by the bridge that crosses Webb's Mill Branch. Be careful, as cars and trucks drive fast on this road.
Wells Mills Park (Ocean County Parks)
Wells Mills has the distinction of being the largest park in the Ocean County park sytsem with over 900 acres of pine and oak forest within southern New Jersey's environmental marvel known as the Pine Barrens. Miles of hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty can be found here, including a "VIP" (Visually Impaired Persons) Trail.
Wharton State Forest
Wharton State Forest is the largest single tract of land within the New Jersey State Park System. Throughout Wharton are miles of hiking trails (including a major section of the Batona Trail), miles of unpaved roads for mountain biking and horseback riding and numerous lakes, ponds and fields ideal for wildlife observation.
See below for a map of a Batsto-Mullica River Hike:
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