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East Creek Trail
This hike won't bring you to amazing mountain vistas but you might find a somewhat warmer climate and some greenery to brighten up a dreary winter.
Allowed on leash
Garden State Parkway South to exit 25 (Ocean City/Marmora/Route 52). Turn right on Roosevelt Boulevard then make the second left on South Shore Road/US-9 South. In 7.2 miles turn right on County Highway 550. In 6.3 miles turn left on Washington Avenue for 1/2 mile then right on Webster Street for 1.4 miles. Turn left on Henkin-Silkin Road. The park office will be on the right. Turn right at the next street, Meisle Road, at the Belleplain Campsite/Recreation area sign. Stop at the booth to pay the parking fee between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Proceed straight to the intersection at the end of Lake Nummy. Turn left on Savage Bridge Road at the Interpretive Center. Parking is in front of the building and on the opposite side of Savage Bridge Road.
The white-blazed East Creek Trail runs from Lake Nummy down to East Creek Pond and back in a loop. In some places roots on the walking surface require a little attention to foot placement but for the most part the trail surface is hard packed with a leaf or pine needle cover. Most swampy areas are avoided by bridges or boardwalks but expect to find a couple of very short wet places to navigate through. You'll be crossing both paved and dirt roads where vehicles are permitted, although in the winter you most likely won't see any. In fact, in the winter, you very well may have the entire trail to yourself. There won't even be any bugs.
At the time of this hike there were no trail maps available at the park but they expected to have maps reprinted in Spring 2011. In the meantime, check the NJ DEC park link for the park's campground map which shows the beginning and end of the East Creek Trail. There is also a sign showing all park trails at the Interpretive Center.
Start the hike by facing the Interpretive Center. Walk along the paved road to the right of the building heading away from Lake Nummy towards the "Trash/Recycling Center - Campers Only" sign. Turn left following the arrow on that sign. With the recycling center straight ahead, the trailhead for the white-blazed East Creek Trail will be on your right.
The trail starts out as a mossy path with a footbridge crossing at 0.9 mile. Shortly thereafter cross over a paved road (Sunset Road on the map), then follow the trail as it briefly becomes a dirt road along the edge of a small field. At the other corner of the field the trail leaves the dirt road to the right reverting back to a footpath. Follow the trail over a bridge, a long boardwalk section and a couple more short bridges/boardwalks before going through a laurel tunnel. At 2.4 miles cross a bridge where you should start to hear the traffic sounds of Route 347.
At 2.7 miles you will arrive at Route 347, which will be heavily traveled at high rates of speed. You won't need to cross over, simply turn right and walk on the grassy area along Route 347 for 0.3 mile. You'll pass the entrance for the East Creek Lodge, then the spillway of East Creek Pond, arriving at a small parking lot on the far side of East Creek Pond.
At this point you could cross over Route 347 to hike the blue-blazed Ponds Trail out and back to the Pickle Factory Pond 2 miles away. This trail, however, has not been maintained, has thorny overgrowth, large blow downs and requires quite a bit of ducking under low hanging branches. There are also many deer stands along this trail, most definitely an area to avoid on hunting days. (No hunting on Sundays.)
To continue on the East Creek Trail, enter the small parking area where you will see a trail sign and map on the right. Proceed between the signs to the trail, which now runs parallel to East Creek Pond. At 3.2 miles the trail will take you directly to a clearing on the bank of the pond before making a sharp left turn.
The trail will alternately cross over Tom Field Trail (a packed dirt road), join this trail very briefly, run parallel at times, and cross over Sunset Road, a paved road. There should be very little, if any, traffic on these roads. The trail will then go through a section of large holly trees beyond which lie white pine forests and cedar swamps.
At 6.5 miles a brown plastic trail marker straight ahead at a T-intersection does not indicate which way to turn. Turn left here. The trail then comes to a paved road at the swimming beach side of Lake Nummy. Turn right and follow this road back to the Interpretive Center parking lot where the hike began.
Turn by turn description
[ 0.00] Follow road to right of Interpretive center; left at recycling sign; right at trail sign
[ 0.90] Wooden foot bridge
[ 0.95] Cross paved road (Sunset Road)
[ 1.00] Trail becomes gravel road along edge of field
[ 1.05] Trail leaves gravel road at end of field and turns right as foot trail
[ 1.40] Turn right at unmarked intersection; cross bridge
[ 1.50] Long boardwalk
[ 1.90] Bridge
[ 1.95] Bridge/boardwalk
[ 2.00] Trail goes through laurel tunnel
[ 2.40] Cross bridge; traffic sounds
[ 2.60] Left at fork
[ 2.70] Turn right on Route 347; proceed to parking area opposite side of East Creek Pond
[ 3.00] Walk to the right through the small parking lot to continue on the East Creek Trail.
[ 3.20] Trail goes right up to lake before veering left
[ 3.80] Boardwalk then left to cross dirt road (Tom Field Trail)
[ 4.90] Cross paved road (Sunset Road)
[ 5.40] Cross over dirt road
[ 5.50] Cross over dirt road (Tom Field Trail)
[ 5.90] Cross paved road
[ 6.40] Cross 4 bridges
[ 6.50] Turn left at intersection with trail post but no turn directions; turn right on paved road; follow road along Lake Nummy
[ 6.75] Arrive back at Interpretive Center parking lot