<<<Hikes in NJ - Trails Less Taken
Apple Pie Hill – Wharton State Forest
Summary: Located in the “Pine Barrens” of Wharton State Forest, this out-and-back follows the Batona Trail from the Carranza Memorial to Apple Pie Hill fire tower along level sand trails through pine forest and skirts a cedar swamp. Climb the 60’ tall fire tower for a panoramic view from the highest point in the Pine Barrens (a whopping 209 feet above sea level!). Bonus in August: wild blueberry bushes are along most of the trail.
South Jersey terrain is quite different than the north. Instead of hiking rocky footpaths through forests and up and down small mountains, you will find yourself on sandy, level trails through pine forests. The feel is more of desert southwest than of Jersey.
Even the drive to the trailhead may not be what you expect if you spend most of your time in central or north Jersey… once you get off the Turnpike and head down 206 south you may be surprised to find yourself in such a rural area with expansive farms – complete with barns and silos - and plenty of stands full of fresh produce. This is the Garden State, after all.
Note: ticks can be bad in the area, and brush really crowds the trail in some spots so be sure to use bug spray. Consider wearing long pants, or at least zips-offs so you have an option. Also, sun is a consideration on this hike since the pine trees don't offer as much shade – use sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring ample water if you do this in hot weather. This hike may be better suited for spring or fall.
The Batona Trail is maintained by the Batona Hiking Club ("Batona"= BAck TO NAture)
A Carranza Memorial explanation is here.
8.4 miles. Trail surface is sand/pine, mostly easy except for a little deep sand in spots, negligible elevation; moderate length. Trail is dry with 3 small boardwalk crossings over minor wet areas.
Parking: Turnpike to Exit 7 for Rt 206 South; about a mile south of the Red Lion Circle (206 and 70 meet) turn left on Carranza Road (there’s a sign). Go straight at the stop sign in Tabernacle (cross rt 532).
Continue on Carranza Rd for about 7 miles, parking and the Carranza Memorial is on the right; there are two entrances but there are easy to miss and there is no signage really, until you are driving past it and see the sign for the memorial. The stone monument is pretty easy to spot from the road, however.
Restrooms: Composting toilet in the lot; it’s set back a ways and you may not see it at first. There are also outhouses at the Batona Camp, a short ways into the hike.
Hike Directions:This out-and-back route follows the Batona Trail the entire time. It’s blazed PINK, which is super easy to spot. The trail is well marked but watch for the blazes as there are woods roads, and the trail uses them on and off in the beginning and it can be a bit confusing. If you lose sight of a blaze, backtrack and make sure you are on the path and not just mindlessly bopping along a sand road.
Trailhead: Walk across the road from the memorial and take the sand road until you hit the PINK blazed sand road; make a left.
**Note: the actual Batona Trail is not blazed across the road here, so it’s not clear that it meets up with the trail.
If you’d like to avoid any confusion, walk out of the lot, make a right and walk down the road just a bit – on the left side of the road there is a sand road and a blaze on a tree (blaze is not real visible from walking down the road, but the sand road is)
.3 miles – Walk through Batona Camp. There is a trail map sign here, and outhouses amongst the camp sites. The trail snakes thru the camp and turns right – watch for the blazes.
The trail follows on and near the sand road.
.6 miles – pass close to a wet area with lily pads, called Skit Branch. The wet areas you will pass along the trail are part of this.
The trail joins the sand road.
1.0 miles – turn left off of the sand road and onto the trail; watch for the blaze, it’s hard to see. The trail becomes overgrown here, and the cedar swamp is visible through the trees.
1.1 miles The trail meets up with a sand road: turn LEFT onto the sand road, cross a small bridge with tannin colored water running under it. Almost immediately, turn RIGHT to rejoin the trail.
2.8 miles – cross a woods road, continue straight. This is not marked on the Batona Trail park map, but was indicated on the maps in both books mentioned.
3.4 miles – cross another woods road with a fire trench nearby; continue straight. Also unmarked as above.
3.9 miles – cross another woods road. Also unmarked.
Start heading “up” Apple Pie Hill – very minor elevation change. There is some soft sand here.
4.2 miles – Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower. You can climb the stairs to the top, but the very top enclosed platform is locked. The tower is quite stable and not nearly as rickety as some we’ve climbed.
Anyone with a fear of heights will not enjoy the metal-grid see-thru steps and the general feeling of openness as you climb, but the view is quite distinctive and worth giving it a shot.
There is not much view from the “hill” itself without going up the tower at least a bit. Once up top, the view is of an endless sea of pine trees – very unlike most views in Jersey. On clear days, you may see the AC and Philly skylines.
There is a woods road right to the tower, and this is obviously a favorite hang-out party spot… lots of trash and graffiti unfortunately.
Retrace your steps back to the lot.