<<<Hikes in NJ - Trails Less Taken
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Summary: Hike on boardwalks to observe wildlife, or take to the trails through the swamp in this interesting park in central NJ.
7.25 miles if you do both routes below. Terrain is level, very easy to easy.
1st hike: 2 miles, through the Wildlife Observation Center on boardwalks.
2nd hike: about 5.25 miles, Blue Trail. A lot of roots but no rocks. Even though the trails were dry the day we went, they have the potential to be pretty soggy (you are in a swamp).
Note: The trail systems are not connected in the Great Swamp, there are multiple areas to hike but you'll need to drive to a 2nd trail to do a longer hike.
Books: The 1st hike isn't in any of our books, and is so easy is doesn't need to be. A hike in a different area of the swamp is in "50 Hikes in New Jersey" (2nd ed.)
The 2nd hike can be found in "Hiking New Jersey" - however... The book has it as a 3.5 mile loop, but it was more like around 5.25 miles. Also, the book’s map was off – unless we’re mistaken – a section was missing and the bridge in the wrong place. Be sure to have one of the park maps linked above, or pick up one at the Observation Center.
Hike #1 - Observation Center
Hike #2 - Blue Trail
Parking: Detailed directions here. Plenty of parking at the Observation Center lot, while the lot for the BLUE trail is a small lot.
Restrooms: At the Wildlife Observation Center; none at the Blue trail lot. The restrooms are also marked on the park map.
Hike 1: Wildlife Observation Center. You can't get lost here, all routes lead back to the lot. Just follow the boardwalks... we went RIGHT first, past the restrooms to Sportsmen Blind, then to Friends Blind. Backtrack to the other half... to Garden Club blind, then on the way back, hang right to get back to the lot via a different route than you came.
Hike 2: Blue Trail Overview: BLUE - YELLOW - bridge - BLUE - 2nd bridge, then turnaround - BLUE - RED - BLUE - bridge - BLUE - IVORY (not as complicated as this looks)
0.0 - Follow the BLUE trail from the lot; there is only one trailhead.
0.2 - Turn LEFT at the T-intersection. (IVORY will be to your right)
The trail becomes YELLOW, when BLUE leaves to the RIGHT.
0.9 - The YELLOW trail turns RIGHT.
1.5 - YELLOW ends, BLUE begins. Turn LEFT and cross the Great Brook on a bridge. After the bridge, trail is overgrown with high grass for a bit. Continue BLUE.
2.1 - Pass the junction with the RED trail.
2.4 - The trail comes to a T-intersection. Turn LEFT and continue on BLUE, but it's not clear. To your right are three RED blazes indicating the end of the red trail. There is a very large tree in front of you. At the time we hiked this, a fallen tree was across the trail to the left. The BLUE blazes can be seen after passing that.
Continue BLUE. Arrive at a small bridge. The map indicates the BLUE trail continues to a parking lot on Woodland Rd. We turned around at the bridge.
Back at the junction with RED, we continued straight, now following RED.
3.4 - RED meets back up with BLUE. Continue on BLUE now.
3.9 - Cross the bridge again. Turn LEFT, following BLUE.
4.0 - After a very brief time on BLUE, take IVORY. (BLUE veers off to the right here, and goes back to the parking lot as well)
Follow IVORY as it curves around. Watch as it eventually hangs RIGHT, blazes were hard to spot. (At the time of our hike, there was some wood planking stacked near a wet area. It is possible there are plans for a reroute or addition in this area, so these directions may change)
Continue following IVORY to the junction with BLUE not far from the lot. Turn LEFT onto BLUE.