Hike on boardwalks to observe wildlife, or take to the trails through the swamp in this interesting park in central NJ.
Miles: Varies, depending on hike taken. Terrain is level, very easy to easy. Can be wet and buggy in summer.
- 1st hike: 2 miles, through the Wildlife Observation Center on boardwalks.
- 2nd hike: 4.5 miles, ORANGE trail
- 3rd 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.
Map: Paper map was at the Wildlife Observation Center, or you can print it from the links above.
Books: The 1st hike isn’t in any of our books, and is so easy is doesn’t need to be. A shorter version of the 2nd is in Best Day Hikes Near New York City.
For the 3rd hike, almost the same route can be found in 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City. This same route can also 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 CenterN40 42.754 W74 29.238
Detailed directions here. Plenty of parking at the Observation Center lot.
Miles: 2.0. Note: The majority of this trail is ADA accessible.
Restrooms: At the Wildlife Observation Center. The restrooms are also marked on the park map.
Hike Directions: 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 – ORANGE TrailN40° 42.372′ W74° 28.079′ [White Bridge Rd]
Detailed directions here. Decent sized gravel lot. There is also a lot at the other end of the trail: N40° 43.599′ W74° 27.464′ [Meyersville Rd.]
Miles: 4.5. These are easy, level trails with not a lot to see and would be most interesting during foliage season. Trail was grassy/overgrown in spots.
Restrooms: None at this lot, at the Wildlife Observation Center down the road.
Hike Directions: Overview: ORANGE to the end at other parking, then head back – LEFT on GREEN – out-and-back on BEIGE – continue on GREEN – LEFT on ORANGE
There is also an out-and-back on SILVER off of ORANGE that we skipped.
Alternate: Best scenic bits, with the least effort, ~1.6 miles – Park at the Meyersville Rd end instead. Cross two bridges on ORANGE in the beginning. Skip the first left onto GREEN but take the 2nd to a boardwalk with views of an open area and then retrace out on GREEN to ORANGE.
Hike #3 – BLUE TrailN40 43.645 W74 29.690
Detailed directions here. The lot for the BLUE trail is a small lot.
Restrooms: None at the Blue trail lot.
Hike Directions: 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.
Hiked: 10/16/16. Redid Observation Center, New: Orange – Green
Hiked: 9/19/10. Trail Blog: “Great Swamp in September“