For detailed hike directions, maps, and photos, visit our Wells Mills page.
We hike on New Years Day every year – it’s a great way to kick off the new year. Weather was cloudy when we started out but not windy. The sun came out around noon and it got up in the mid-40s and was very comfortable.
Located in Ocean County, super easy access – right off the Parkway at exit 69, left onto 532 W, entrance is about 2.5 miles down, on the left. This is a no-hunting park. Get the trail map here.
This was our first time here and we wished we’d check out this park sooner, it’s just really nice with well maintained facilities and trails. It’s also a great intro to the terrain of the Pine Barrens. Right at the start of the hike you walk through an Atlantic white cedar swamp which was just really neat – and pretty.
The terrain switches to just pine barren with areas of cedar swamp sprinkled throughout. There are many narrow boardwalks over wet areas or streams which can get slippery when wet or icy…
There are bathrooms near the parking lot, a map kiosk, a playground and a nice visitor center which was closed. The bathrooms are seasonal, and I don’t recall passing anything on 532 so the best bet is a reststop on the parkway (traveling south there was one around 74).
We did the WHITE blazed 8.4 mile Penns Hill Trail, in roughly 4 hrs. There are other trails that allow you to make shorter loops. The hike starts behind the visitor center and is very well marked, there wasn’t one instance where we questioned which way to go. There are also some mileage signs along the way so you know how far you’ve gone – a nice touch. Some minor road noise wasn’t too bad. The park has a secluded feel but the trail is within earshot of the road which would remind you that you weren’t really in the middle of nowhere.
The trail surface is rock-free, pine needles and sand. There are some minor rolling hills… which is unusual in the pine barrens. (really minor – the elevation of Laurel Hill is only 130′!!!)
We had snow the day before which was mostly melted, leaving some slush and several inches of water in spots. The trail seemed to get sandier as you went, and in warmer weather that may prove to be more tiring… it was frozen and easy to walk on today.
*Tick warning… even tho it was January we ended up with 1 tick on a pant leg. We don’t use bug spray in January but I guess it got warm enough for them. So if you can get a tick in January, imagine what you’d end up with in the summer – be prepared!