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Turkey Swamp Park (Freehold Township, N.J.)
This nearly flat hike loops around this Monmouth County park, paralleling the Manasquan River and following along a scenic lake.
Allowed on leash
Take the Garden State Parkway south to Exit 123 and continue on Route 9 South for about 18 miles. Turn right on Jackson Mills Road, and almost immediately turn right again onto Elton-Adelphia Road (County Route 524). In 1.1 miles, turn left onto Georgia Road. Continue for 1.6 miles and turn right at the main entrance to Turkey Swamp Park. Follow the entrance road for 0.3 mile and turn left into the Oak Point Picnic Area. Park here.
This hike circles the northern section of Turkey Swamp Park. Although the park trails are open to bicycles and horses, they are frequented primarily by hikers. The Manasquan Trail is relatively little used – even on popular summer weekends – and offers an opportunity to find solitude, while following a nearly flat trail.
From the kiosk on the west side of the parking area, walk through the shelter building (just ahead)and turn left on a woods road. Proceed through a picnic area and bear right to continue on the green-blazed Alder Trail. When you reach the lake, bear left and continue along the beach.
At the end of the beach, bear left to continue on the Alder Trail. In a short distance, you’ll reach a signpost, where you turn left onto the blue-blazed Manasquan Trail. You will be following this nearly level trail for the next 2.5 miles.
The Manasquan Trail crosses a dirt road and proceeds through a deciduous forest, with some pines and an understory of blueberries, crossing several wet areas on boardwalks. After about a mile and a half, the trail crosses a stream and a wetland on a wooden bridge and bears left to head west.
Soon, you’ll begin to parallel the Manasquan River, to the right. This is the most interesting part of the hike. In a short distance, you’ll come to a bench, with a small rock dam in the river just beyond. Here, the trail turns left, away from the river, and proceeds through a more open forest, with an understory of grass.
In another mile, after a short, gradual climb, you’ll cross a dirt road that leads to the park’s archery range. Just beyond, the Manasquan Trail ends, and you should continue ahead on the green-blazed Old Lenape Trail, which joins from the left. A short distance beyond, a trail on the left leads to the park’s campground, but continue ahead on the Old Lenape Trail.
At the next T-intersection, turn right onto the Link Trail (also blazed green). The trail crosses a grassy woods road and then reaches a T-intersection with another grassy woods road. Turn left at this junction, cross a wide dirt road, and continue ahead along the edge of a field, with woods on the right. You’re now on the Fitness Trail (also blazed green), and you’ll pass several fitness stations.
At the end of the field, turn left, keeping the woods on the right (do not follow the dirt road which continues ahead). At the next signpost, turn right onto the Alder Trail. This trail is blazed green on signposts, but is also marked on trees with reddish-brown square blazes. The Alder Trail descends on a gravel path and continues through the woods, crossing several wet areas on boardwalks. Several side trails go off to the left, but continue ahead on the main trail, which soon emerges onto a parking area.
Turn left at the parking area, then right, passing several handicapped parking spaces. Just beyond, you’ll see a sign “Follow Alder Trail to Shelter Building and boats 0.6 mile.” Turn left here onto a paved road, which leads to a restroom building, then bear left at the restrooms to continue on the Alder Trail. Bear left again at the next intersection, then right at the following T-intersection, marked by a signpost.
The Alder Trail skirts the eastern end of the lake, then turns left at the next intersection. Soon, it emerges onto an open area. Continue ahead, with the lake on the left and woods on the right. Turn right at the next signpost, then left at the junction with the Manasquan Trail. Continue to follow the green markers to the shelter building and the parking area where the hike began.