Rutgers Ecological Preserve

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Small parcel of old growth forest with a network of easy, scenic trails near Rutgers New Brunswick campus.

3.8 miles, compact red clay / shale, roots. Somewhat hilly with a few somewhat steep ones. A rock hop over a small stream on BLUE. Well maintained trails.

  • Shorter: Do only an individual loop like YEL, RED, BLUE, etc
  • Longer: Overlap in a YEL or WHT or the new BLACK loop, or go a bit on the East Coast Greenway (which runs in Johnson Park but is mainly paved)
  • Nearby: Helyar Woods at Rutgers Gardens.

Our two cents:

Nice easy park that is suited more to short loops from one of the parking areas. For avid hikers, this is a quick but pleasant leg-stretcher that is worth a stop if in the area.

Updated: 7/2020 – Page refreshed; re-hiked 6/2020. 3/2017 – Updated map and park links; description edits, added winter photos.

Trail maps marking 'you are here'

Map:

Print the map ahead, none at the park.

Some intersections had laminated “you are here” trail maps, but think they were outdated and didn’t include the black trail.

Parking: N40.50805° W74.44386°

Johnson Park lot; River Rd. We sometimes use a lot in Johnson Park and walk to the southern most trail head. This lot is not one of the ones marked on the trail map.

For other lots, check the notes on the trail map about permit parking (certain lots are permit-only but OK on the weekend).

Restrooms:

In Johnson Park; possibly seasonal. Not at the other parking lots.

Bit of a hill

Hike Directions:

With such a tight network of trails and intersections with trail maps posted, doing a turn-by-turn mileage description would be overkill.

Every time we hike here we end up doing a different route and/or starting from another lot. This is just one route.

RED bridge.

To make the longest route without overlapping we turned or veered RIGHT at each intersection: 

BLUE (BLUE right and left and ORANGE straight all end up at the same spot) – WHITE at Road 1 trail head – RED at Road 3 trail head – ORANGE near wooden trail kiosk – GREEN – ORANGE – BLUE

Overgrown BLUE trail in the beginnin
BLUE trail

It’s worth including the inner trails around Buell Brook (YELLOW, BLUE) as they are probably the most scenic.

Buell Brook

However, it’s hard to make a logical long loop to get them all in, so one time we just meandered all around and overlapped trails here and there to see the whole park.

The trails are nice in any season. This is the YELLOW trail along Buell Brook and a little snow.

YELLOW trail along Buell Brook
YELLOW trail with some snow

Long plank walkway covered in snow and slush, and a fancy bridge up close and in the distance.

Long plank walkway covered in snow
Decorative trail bridge
RED trail. Or maybe this was ORANGE.
GREEN trail.

The remnants of a WWII-era Camp Kilmer ammo bunker are along the WHITE trail but mostly amount to a large cement barrier and a pile of fragments.

WWII-era remains of Camp Kilmer bunker, WHITE trail


Hiked: 6/21/20. Meandered, from Scarlet lot; 4.6 miles.
Hiked: 10/21/18. Wildlife Loop, from Scarlet lot; Trail Blog: “Rutgers Ecological in the Fall”
Hiked: 3/12/17. Variation with inner trails, overlapping. 4.8 miles.

Hiked: 7/04/15.