Though the park has a variety of ecosystems including swamps, salt and freshwater marshes, and Pitch Pine, this three mile loop on the White Trail is mostly through hardwood forest. It is the only trail in the park that allows mountain biking and it is the most hilly of all the marked trails. (Although, be warned, this is the northern Jersey Shore after all, so “hilly” is a relative term). ...
Though the park has a variety of ecosystems including swamps, salt and freshwater marshes, and Pitch Pine, this three mile loop on the White Trail is mostly through hardwood forest. It is the only trail in the park that allows mountain biking and it is the most hilly of all the marked trails. (Although, be warned, this is the northern Jersey Shore after all, so “hilly” is a relative term). Note along the way the many bike-related structures such as small bridges and beams that have been put there for/by mountain bikers. Just be cognizant of them as you hike. There will be the occasional biker, plus traffic noise from the Parkway, but this trail tends to have little foot traffic. If you go early on a weekend end morning or any time off season, it can be very peaceful. I find this a great get-the-day-started hike and also, if you carry a backpack, an excellent conditioning hike without having to travel an hour or two to find some elevation.
Be mindful, this winding trail loops back very close to itself several times so it is very easy to miss a turn. If you stray or cut across or go back to find the intended pathway, you may see a white blaze, but it could be a totally different section.
About a hundred feet past the White Trail trailhead, you will come to the first of many forks. Either direction is fine as this is a loop, but I prefer to do the section nearest the Parkway first, so go left at the fork. (NOTE: there is a white blaze leading to the right fork, I am not sure why there isn’t one to the left.) You will see white blazed posts all along this trail, though not always where they are most useful. At this point the Parkway will be off to your left.
In a quarter mile or so, the trail bears sharply left into a small boggy area, follow the blazed post with an arrow.
Beyond the turn, after going around a small ravine, is a random white-blazed post off the trail. The Parkway will be slightly in front of you. Bear right. After a small incline, at about a half mile, will be the closest spot to the Parkway on the hike.
The trail meanders for another quarter to half mile or so, up and around several small hills. At this point, with the Parkway slightly behind, you will start to see a meadow up ahead. You may see people walking with dogs on a service road that is on the other side of the meadow. The trail banks sharply to the left – there is a trail marker and arrow. The trail will follow this direction, with the Parkway off in the distance on the left and the meadow on the right for another half mile or so, as it loops around the meadow. If you are here at dawn or dusk there is often a herd of white-tailed deer grazing. You will also pass a fenced-in nursery enclosure that has some birdhouses and a blue tool shed-like building. The middle of the meadow is about a mile into the hike.
At the edge of the meadow the trails starts bearing right and becomes slightly hillier. You will encounter very short split of the pathway – the white blaze is on the left hand side but either leads to the same place. The Parkway is now in back of you as you leave the meadow area. Shortly after that you will come to a dirt road that you will be crossing several times. From where you are standing you will see white signs across the road – but that is for a later section so do not worry! For now, follow the white blaze sign that points left, onto the dirt road. After a hundred feet or so, another white blaze sign points left towards the woods.
Continue up a short incline. You will see a number of old fence posts, presumably to warn folks about the steep drop into a ravine to the left of the trail. Another quarter mile or so, full of short ups and downs and going around many steeper drop offs, and you will have made a big “U” and returned to the dirt service road again. Go left. Follow the dirt road and as you near its end you will see a parking lot through the trees ahead. This is the GSP Exit 120 commuter parking lot. People also park here to gain access to this trail so you will see lots of off shoots from the main trail to and from the lot. At the end of the road, you will see a white blaze with an arrow pointing right. It does not mean turn around and go back down the road J; the trail turns very sharply right and continues back on itself hugging the road. So now the dirt road will be on your right, the Parkway will be behind you and a little to the right. This is at about 1.4 miles.
A few hundred feet ahead is another fork. To the right is just a shortcut to the dirt service road. Stay to the left and on the White Trail. There is no blaze at the fork (of course) but there is one further up. After a few gentle inclines and descents, you will find yourself in a very grassy, flatter area with lots of maple trees. You may see cars from Gordon Road (the road leading to the park entrance) ahead. This part of the trail is slightly less winding than earlier.
The trail will then bank to the right, and Gordon Road will be on the left. After a few hundred feet, the trail will bank to the right again and back into a more hilly, wooded area, leaving the grasses behind. After another quarter mile or so, once you start seeing the paved service road to your right and a ravine on your left, you will be at about the two mile mark. The trail will start to twist and turn yet again.
Shortly thereafter you will reach what appears to be a fork in the trail, just after a large pile of logs to the right. There is no blaze marker here, though this would be a helpful spot for one. Go around the big tree and then to the right. A marker will be along the trail in 50 to 100 feet. Several hundred feet further ahead is a white arrow painted on a tree pointing left, away from the service road.
The trail will continue paralleling the service road for about one-third of a mile. A spot very near the road will be muddy at times and with numerous bike tracks through it. Just make sure you look up ahead to see the white blaze post and stay straight, do not go off onto the service road or left into the woods. After the muddy intersection, you will pass through a much smaller grassy area, and then face another confusing and potentially muddy spot. Stay straight: do not go onto the road. You will then see a fork. To the left is a bike trail down a short but steep hill. The White Trail pathway actually switchbacks up the hill the front of you. This is largest elevation gain of the trail, at about 2.3 miles into the hike.
Partway up the hill you will overlook the rest of the grassy area we passed through before. This a good vantage point to spot deer. Mountain Laurel is to your right – very pretty in the spring.
After the hill you might hear traffic noise from Gordon Road up ahead again and see some houses. Just a note – the last house on Gordon Road before the park entrance is a kennel, so do not worry if you suddenly hear barking dogs. At 2.5 miles you will reach the paved service road. Make a right to follow the service road for about a third of a mile before making a left returning to the dirt pathway.
After you follow the meandering trail for another third of a mile, you will pass several very large blown fallen trees, and then you will start hearing Parkway noise again and be able to see the pathway you started on below you. Once the loop is completed you will see the parking area ahead. NOTE: Before the trail ends meet up there will be a (final!) fork. If you go off to the left it will wind to the left until it meets the service road a few hundred feet away from the parking lot. If this happens, just make right at the road and you will soon see your car.
Date of hike: October 9, 2011Publication: Submitted by jcoalter on 10/26/2011
Cheesequake State Park has a variety of ecosystems. This three mile loop through a northeastern hardwood forest, up and around a number of small ravines, gives the hiker some peace in the middle of a very densely populated area.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.