Easy to moderate hiking through forests and along fields. Be sure to check for swans at the pond and look for the “Hobbit” tree.
Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed was never really on our radar to do. It appears in “60 Hikes with 60 Miles Philadelphia“, but the trails were too short to consider driving out to it.
But when the Watershed contacted us to post their trail map we saw that there was a longer trail, the Watershed Trail, that linked the two smaller sections. Now we could likely get a solid 8+ miles in.
Most of the trails here are easy and level, or on grass at the edge of fields. Some areas are quite wet and can be crossed using sections of wooden boardwalks. Large blow-downs from Hurricane Sandy had been cleared all over the park.
Two sections of evergreens took a real battering from Sandy. The first we encountered was the “Red Pine Grove” along the Watershed trail where there was a domino-effect of downed pine.
This required quite a bit of limbo-ing to negotiate and the trail was hard to spot so we’d recommend skipping this for now unless you are an avid hiker (or want a little bit of a challenge).
Another section of pine along the Stony Brook trail had a path cut through it… crazy amounts of trees down. Like walking through a pine maze!
Most hikers will want to stick to the Meadow-Pond (RED, 2.0 miles) and Stony Brook (GREEN, 2.0 miles) trails. Either one would be nice on their own, or combine them for a 3.5-4 mile loop (which can be found in 60 Hikes with 60 Miles Philadelphia“).
For avid hikers, do the trails listed below for about an 8.0 mile route. (Note, it seemed like the trail markers were a little different than the map around the Skunk Cabbage Hollow area, and slightly confusing.)
Add the Elks trail to that for an additional 1.2 (we skipped this due to the amount of recent rain, and that this trail is supposedly already very wet normally).
A nature center and an environmental center are open seasonally, but a pair of porta-johns were open off the parking lot. Another porta was by the pond.
We picked up the trail behind the white buildings, near the portas (marked on a photo in the gallery). The trailhead didn’t seem obvious from the lot.
Overall, this park is a nice hiking option for central Jersey. Be sure to check for swans at the pond, look for the “Hobbit” tree and give the Haiku Station a twirl
Park Site: www.thewatershed.org
GPS coordinates: Stony Brook Watershed GPX
Route: Watershed Trail (BLUE) to Big Boulder then backtrack – Unmarked trails to Skunk Cabbage Hollow – Watershed Trail (BLUE) – Meadow Pond (RED) – Stony-Brook (GREEN)
Wildlife Spotted: Three pairs of swans on the pond, so we were really kicking ourselves for not lugging the SLR and telephoto. One pair was off to one end, busily ripping up chunks of grass – probably creating a nest at the edge of the pond. While watching them, 3 of the other 4 swans decided to take a nap, nestling their necks into their bodies while floating around. Hmm, are we THAT boring?
Bonus Randomness: A “Haiku Station” where flipping wooden blocks around creates a haiku, a single chair placed along a field trail, and a “Hobbit” tree…