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Songbird Trail Hike in the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR
A mix of hardwood forest and marshlands with great birding opportunities and views of the Atlantic City skyline across the bay.
Easy to Moderate
Northbound from the Garden State Pkwy, take the exit for the Atlantic City Rest Area (between miles 41 and 42). Follow the access road from the back (follow the hospital signs) to the traffic light. At the light make a right on Jimmy Leeds Road to the first traffic light. Make a left onto Great Creek Road and follow all the way to where it terminates at the Edwin B. Forsythe NWR Headquarters building (approximately 6 miles).
Southbound from the Garden State Parkway, take Exit 48 which will lead you to Route 9 South. Continue south past Smithville. At the traffic light in Oceanville (Great Creek Road) turn left and continue to end.
From the Headquarters’ parking area just inside the gate (the first parking area on your left), follow the trail through the picnic area to the end where a set of stairs descends to a dirt road blazed with brown dots. Make a left (heading west) on the road and follow to the end, then turn right (north) on Wildlife Drive. This is a one-way unpaved road that circles around the entire wildlife refuge; be watchful for vehicular traffic. After following the road for 0.7 mile (skirting some private property on your left), you will come to the trailhead for the blue blazed Songbird Trail. Follow the entire 2.2 miles of the Songbird Trail thru forests and some open fields. White-tailed deer seem to be abundant on this trail, even during the daylight hours, along with the occasional red fox. Unfortunately, ticks are also abundant in the area, especially the open fields with tall grass… plan accordingly. The trail also passes some areas where the park service is restoring the forest. The trail has several cut-offs (yellow, pink and white blazes – all lead back to Wildlife Drive) if you wish to shorten the hike.
After 2.2 miles the blue-blazed trail will end at Wildlife Drive. Turn right on Wildlife Drive and start the hike back to the parking lot. While on the road, there are some interesting places to linger including the Experimental Pool Overlook, which features two spotting scopes to view the pool and surrounding habitats, and another forest restoration project. Also along Wildlife Drive are views of the Atlantic City skyline off in the distance beyond the marsh and bay. After 1.5 miles you will reach the trailhead for the Songbird Trail again and then just retrace steps back to parking lot.
If you have time, you can drive eight miles along the entire wildlife refuge along Wildlife Drive (fee involved for the drive, but not for the hike described). The refuge is along the Atlantic flyway and offers wonderful birding opportunities during the fall especially.
Turn by turn description
0.0 mi- leave parking lot on path thru picnic area, where path turns left continue straight down the stairs and turn left on woods road. At end of woods road, turn right on Wildlife Drive (watch for cars) and follow for about 1/2 mile.
0.7 mi- make left onto Songbird Trail (blue blazes), this will be your path for next 2.2 miles. Pay particular attention when crossing open fields, as blazes disappear until you re-enter woods (especially first field).Yellow, pink and white trails will appear if you wish to shorten hike.
2.9 mi- end of songbird trail, make a right onto Wildlife Dr. and follow back towards the parking lot, enjoy some of the views overlooking the marsh areas. This is also a good area to see migratory birds in the late fall.
4.4 mi- reach trailhead for the Songbird Trail again, continue along Wildlife Dr.
5.1 mi- back at parking lot.
A sharper image of the drivemap may be found on page 5 of the May 2009 official park brochure.
Date of hike: October 13, 2010
Hike submitted by: William Bannan