A great intro to the terrain of the Pine Barrens that also travels through Atlantic white cedar swamps.
8.4 miles. Easy trail surface of pine and sand, some boardwalks over wet areas, minor rolling hills (really minor – the elevation of Laurel Hill is only 130′!!!). The boardwalks can be slippery in wet or icy conditions.
- Shorter options: 3.5 mile GREEN loop, 1.3 mile BLUE, .7 mile PINK or use the GREEN trail in conjunction with WHITE for varying loops.
*There is no-hunting at this park, but it can be closed sometimes due to hunting in the private land that surrounds the park.
Our two cents: We chose this as a ‘best hike’ not only because it’s a nicely kept park that is a good intro to hiking the pine barrens but there is something for everyone.
The WHITE trail is a long loop for avid hikers, but that route is also good for hikers trying to see if they can up their mileage as there are several bail-out points to cut it short if needed.
For beginners or families, there are short loops from the visitor center and a nice a playground.
Updated 1/1/17 – minor text changes. Updated 1/9/14 – Hike description updated, GPS file added, photos added. There is a newer park map now, and this lists the WHITE trail as the “Macri” trail, which used to be called “Penns Hill” trail. It’s been simplified to WHITE in the description below.
Sunny winter day:
Cloudy, snowy winter day:
Map: Print from the link above, or the visitor center probably has them when they are open. Trails are VERY well blazed. There are also mileage markers along WHITE, so if you’ve started the beginning near the visitor center, the mileage will be pretty accurate as you go along.
*Ticks: The Pine Barrens are notorious for ticks. We don’t use bug spray in January but it got warm enough that day that we had one on a pant leg. So if you can pick up a tick here in January, imagine what you may end up with in the summer – be prepared.
Parking: N39 47.717 W74 16.572
From the Garden State Parkway Southbound or Northbound: Exit 69 (Waretown); turn LEFT (west) onto Wells Mills Road, Route 532; proceed approx. 2.5 miles to park entrance on the LEFT.
Restrooms: Seasonal restrooms, right at the parking lot. (not sure when they are open; were closed in Jan.) Bathrooms in nature center, one sign had 8am open and another 10am, but this is closed on holidays.
The Forked River rest area on the Parkway around exit 74 has restrooms (…and a Starbucks).
Overview: This route entirely follows the WHITE trail. It’s very well marked thru the entire hike, there wasn’t one instance where we questioned where to go.
To locate the trailhead, walk past the bathrooms and trail kiosk towards the visitor center. Walk around the right side of the visitor center and heads towards the lake.
0.0 – Look to your right and there is a sign with “Penns Hill 8.4 miles”.
Start following the WHITE markers, which will hug the shoreline. [GPS: WHT-Trail]
Shortly, go through a cedar swamp – a very pretty, dark, wet area crossed on boardwalks.
0.2 – Pass the BLUE (Conrad) trail on the right. As you exit the swamp area, the trail veers to the right and heads away from the water. [GPS: WHT/BLUEconrad]
0.3 – Keep straight on WHITE as GREEN (Estlow) and YELLOW (Bike Trail) cross the trail. [GPS:WHT/GRNestlow]
The trail becomes more hilly and you don’t pass any other blazed trails for awhile.
3.4 – Step through a wooden fence you need to step over; turn RIGHT onto a woods road to continue following WHITE. [GPS: FenceOpening]
At this point, WHITE is co-aligned with GREEN (Estlow)/YELLOW (Bike Trail).
Shorter option: Turn left at the fence instead and follow GREEN (Estlow) or YELLOW (Bike Trail) back to the parking lot, making it about a 4.5 mile loop – this is the route in 50 Hikes in New Jersey.]
3.5 – Turn sharply left, still following WHITE. [A barricade blocks the trail straight.]
3.8 – Cross over Oyster Creek on a boardwalk.
4.0 – Follow WHITE as it turns left. [GPS:WHT/GRN-YEL1] [GREEN (Estlow)/ YELLOW (Bike Trail) continue straight.]
Head over a long boardwalk. The trail loops around, going over an area called “The Island” on older park maps.
5.9 – Cross over the GREEN (Estlow)/YELLOW (Bike Trail) trail. [GPS: WHT/GRN-YEL2]
8.2 – Turn RIGHT, continue following WHITE back to the lot. [GPS: WHT/GRN-YEL3] [Trail is co-aligned with the GREEN (Estlow) trail.]
Hiked: 1/1/14. Trail Blog: “Wells Mills County Park – New Year’s Day 2014”
Hiked: 1/1/10. Trail Blog: “Wells Mills County Park – Penns Hill Trail“