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South Jersey Summer Hikes
Where to go, what to do
By Mary Lou Sheffield

Summer is usually the time when everyone heads outdoors. But in 2021, we’re all running out the door with great enthusiasm. Take a look at this hiking guide so you and your family can add “explore South Jersey” to your summer to-do list. (Want more hiking ideas? Visit sjmagazine.net.)

Wharton State Forest

Location: Atlantic, Burlington and Camden Counties
Size: 122,880 acres
Entrance fee: none for Wharton State Forest. Batsto Village and Atsion recreation area have a $5 charge per vehicle for NJ residents.
Can’t-miss: Batsto Village, Atsion Lake, abandoned town and kayaking

Wharton State Forest is the largest single tract of land within the New Jersey State Park System, which means there’s plenty of trails, rivers and lakes for hiking or biking. The forest is also a birders’ paradise, as it’s home to species like bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, owls and great blue herons. While hiking one of the park’s many trails, including the 50-mile Batona Trail connecting the Brendan T. Byrne, Wharton and Bass River State Forests, you might spot river otters, beavers or foxes.

Take a dip in Atsion Lake or explore the Mullica River by kayak. You can also travel back in time at Batsto Village, a former bog iron and glass-making industrial center that thrived from 1766 to 1867. Or head off the beaten path to discover the remains of Harrisville Village, a town abandoned in the late 1800s.

 

Bass River State Forest

Location: Burlington and Ocean Counties
Size: 18,208 acres
Entrance fee: $5 per vehicle for NJ residents
Can’t-miss: Lake Absegami, Warren Grove

As the first forest ever acquired by the state for public recreation, Bass River offers plenty of family-friendly activities. Guests can canoe or kayak around Lake Absegami, a 67-acre lake created in the 1930s, or wander through the park on nature trails that loop through the wetland forest in the Absegami Natural Area. You can also visit Warren Grove, often referred to as the Pygmy Forest, a rare forest of stunted oak and pine trees that grow no taller than 4 feet.

Bass River State Forest also contains plenty of history – it was once a conservation camp created through the efforts of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. The camp operated from 1933 to 1943 and put unemployed men to work conserving protected land and developing Lake Absegami. Visitors are even welcome to swing by the park’s office and check the records to see if any of their relatives were employed by the camp.

Corson’s Inlet State Park

Location: Cape May County 
Size: 341 acres 
Entrance fee: none
Can’t-miss: Fishing, swimming, hiking and sunbathing

New Jersey is home to numerous beautiful beaches, and Corson’s Inlet State Park is no exception. It was established in 1969 in an effort to protect one of the last undeveloped tracts of land along the Shore coastline. You can spend the day fishing, crabbing, swimming, relaxing in the sand or keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife. Bring binoculars (and sunscreen), as the area is home to several migratory birds and is the nesting site for the endangered Piping Plover, the Least Tern and Black Skimmers.

 

Belleplain State Forest

Location: Cape May and Cumberland counties 
Size: 21,254 acres 
Entrance fee: $5 per vehicle for NJ residents
Can’t-miss: Lake Nummy, Interpretive Center

Spanning over a stunning 21,000 acres, Belleplain State Forest was founded as a recreation, wildlife management, timber production and water conservation site. Three conservation camps were also set up in the area, which led to the Meisle Cranberry Bog’s transformation into Lake Nummy. The now-popular spot is open to swimmers from Memorial Day to Labor Day while lifeguards are on duty. You can also boat and fish.

At the lake, you’ll find a beach complex with convenient changing rooms, restrooms, a first-aid station and a concession stand offering refreshments, novelties and beach supplies. The park also has several hiking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds and an Interpretive Center that offers a variety of programs.

 

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park

Location: Ocean County 
Size: 32 acres 
Entrance fee: none
Can’t-miss: Lighthouse, nature trails, fishing and picnic area 
Note: Inside the lighthouse has been closed due to Covid restrictions. Check NJ Parks’ website for updates.

Situated at the northern tip of Long Beach Island, Barnegat Lighthouse has been guiding sailors since it was first lit in 1859. At that time, the lighthouse was once considered a critical resource for New York-bound ships along the New Jersey coastline. The lighthouse sits 172 feet above sea level and, when open, provides stunning views of Island Beach, Barnegat Bay and Long Beach Island.

Fishing is permitted on the bulkhead along the picnic area, where you can try to reel in striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder, black bass and other native species. You can also hike along the nature trail that winds through the small maritime forest or stroll along the inlet walkway extending from the lighthouse into southern Barnegat Inlet.

 

Double Trouble State Park

Location: Ocean County
Size: 8,495 acres
Entrance fee: none
Can’t-miss: Double Trouble Village, Cedar Creek and cranberry bogs

Located on the eastern edge of the Pine Barrens, Double Trouble State Park provides a window into the area’s rich agricultural history. During the Civil War, the forest’s cedar swamps were cleared and converted into cranberry bogs while a sawmill and cranberry sorting and packing house were built. If you visit the once-thriving village, you’ll also find a 19th-century schoolhouse and an interpretive center that offers a display room, guided tours and more. There is a 1.5-mile trail that winds through the historic village, as well as trails alongside the cranberry bogs and through the forest. If you’d prefer to go off the beaten track, launch your kayak onto Cedar Creek. The winding waterway, which opens into Barnegat Bay, once supplied power to the village’s lumber mills, iron furnaces, and sorting and packing house.

 

Brendan T. Byrne State Forest

Location: Ocean Counties  Size: 37,242 acres  
Entrance fee: none
Can’t-miss: Whitesbog Village, Mount Misery Trail

Brendan T. Byrne State Forest offers the perfect blend of history and nature. The park boasts more than 25 miles of marked trails, including Mount Misery, a trail that’s ideal for mountain bikers. Guests can also explore the sandy, wooded trails that wind past the stone and brick remains of the former Lebanon Glassworks, which was built in 1851 but became defunct after depleting its source of wood for the furnace.   The state park is also home to the once-bustling village of Whitesbog, a cranberry and blueberry-producing community that operated during the 19th and 20th centuries. Blueberry Summer Fest Markets are held every Saturday in July from 10 am to 2 pm.

July 2021
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