Excellent birding opportunities along Wildlife Drive and hike several easy trails through woodlands and near wetlands.
4.8 miles, easy, flat, sandy surface. A large portion of this route is on the Wildlife Drive – a packed sand trail open for (slow) traffic.
- Short: Drive the Wildlife Dr. to parking for Jen’s trail. Hike Songbird to the Wildlife Drive: 3.6 mile loop.
- Shorter: From parking area: Grassland trail .25, Akers Woodland .25, Leeds Eco Trail .5; From Jen’s Trail parking: Jen’s trail .75
- Longer: 5.8 – Add Grassland and Leeds Eco to this loop.
- Nearby: Bass River State Forest; Estell Manor Park.
Our two cents:
Most visitors come here for bird watching and photography. While this isn’t a hiking destination per se, there are a few short, easy trails.
By combining the BLUE loop with the Grassland and the boardwalk of Leeds Eco trail we got a 5.8 mile hike in, followed by a ride along Wildlife Drive to make a nice day out.
We visited in January but have read that insects can be brutal in summer months.
Bonus: The Atlantic City skyline can also be spotted in the distance.
Updated: 4/2020 – Page refreshed, not re-hiked.
Red tailed hawk.
Parking: N39.46491° W74.45079°
Parkway south to exit 48 for Rt. 9 S. Follow Rt 9 for a while, then turn left at the 3rd traffic light, Great Creek Road, which ends at the Refuge.
Fee charged at self-pay kiosk to drive the Wildlife Drive.
Pit toilet building near parking lot.
We printed one ahead, didn’t notice one in the kiosk but there was a brochure with a map (the trail map is better – marked with colors and distances).
Note: There is a newer map since we’ve hiked this; what was called the Songbird Trail now appears to be the Bristow Trail. There may be slight differences in the description below.
This route now appears in Best Day Hikes in New Jersey.
Overview: We did short trails near the visitor center first, Grassland and Leeds Eco Trail.
Then hiked the Songbird Trail/Bristow Trail (BLUE) which the directions below are for.
Blue herons off of Gull Pond Rd:
Looking back from the Leeds Eco Trail boardwalk, and the view from the boardwalk:
View of the Atlantic City skyline from the Eco Trail boardwalk:
0.0 – The trailhead is at the edge of the parking lot, next to the bathrooms. The Akers Trail is marked but this is also the route for the Songbird Trail.
Continue straight on Songbird (BLUE) when Akers trail leaves to the left.
Go down a short set of steps and turn LEFT onto a wide woods road.
0.2 – Follow the trail as it turns RIGHT. [The park entrance is straight ahead]. The trail is on the dirt road at this.
0.3 – Follow the trail as it turns LEFT and crosses over water.
0.6 – Keep straight on Wildlife Drive.
The Songbird Trail (BLUE) turns LEFT here, and will be the return route. We chose to walk on the park road first in order to have traffic coming at us for the majority of the route.
1.1 – Keep straight on Wildlife Dr, passing the road to the Experimental Pool Overlook on the right.
1.3 – Keep straight on Wildlife Dr., passing PINK on the left.
1.6 – Follow Wildlife Dr. as it veers to the right.
1.8 – Turn LEFT at the parking area for Jen’s Trail. Continue following The Songbird Trail (BLUE) which is co-aligned with Jen’s Trail (WHITE).
2.1 – Keep following Songbird Trail (BLUE) when Jen’s Trail (WHITE) leaves to the left.
3.0 – Keep following Songbird Trail (BLUE), passing PINK on the left.
3.8 – Keep following Songbird Trail (BLUE), passing YELLOW on the left.
[Option: Turning left onto YELLOW is a small shortcut back to Wildlife Dr, saving roughly 0.2 miles)
4.2 – Meet up with Wildlife Dr. and turn RIGHT, retracing your steps back to the parking lot.
Wildlife Drive is a strip of sand road with wetlands on either side that is drivable by regular cars. Pull over on the side if you spot something.
Hiked 1/19/14. Trail Blog: “Edwin B. Forsythe NWR – Hawks and Snowy Owls“