This hike is a pleasant stroll through the Spotswood Outlier of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. This ecological “island” is located approximately 20 miles north of the main Pine Barrens and is an ecologically unique area characterized by sandy acidic soil and vegetation that is adapted to soil with few nutrients and little water holding capability. The hike meanders through mixed hardwood forest...
This hike is a pleasant stroll through the Spotswood Outlier of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. This ecological “island” is located approximately 20 miles north of the main Pine Barrens and is an ecologically unique area characterized by sandy acidic soil and vegetation that is adapted to soil with few nutrients and little water holding capability. The hike meanders through mixed hardwood forest wetlands and pitch pine forests, crossing and paralleling numerous branches of Iresick Brook
The park has four major hiking trails -- the yellow-blazed Nature Trail (0.5 mile), the orange-\blazed Blueberry Flats Trail (0.95 mile), the blue-blazed Old Bridge Sands Trail (1.1 miles), and the white-blazed Pleasant Valley Trail (2.1 miles). This hike makes a lollipop-loop, following all four marked trails. There are many unmarked trails in the area and care should be used to stay on the marked trails.
The area of the Preserve south of Pleasant Valley Road is open to hunting in the fall and winter. A shorter 2.7-mile loop can be made to avoid this area and is described below.
From the parking lot, follow the trail signs and paved paths for 0.2 mile to the kiosk at the southeast corner of the soccer fields at the edge of the woods (interpretive booklets for the Nature Trail are usually available here). Here, a triple-yellow blaze marks the start of the Nature Trail (numbered posts along the way indicate points of interest described in the booklets).
The Nature Trail heads into the woods on a sand road. In 100 feet, just beyond Post #1, it turns left, briefly parallels Iresick Brook, then loops back and re-crosses the sand road. Half a mile from the start of the hike, just beyond Post #7, the trail turns left onto the sand road and soon reaches the start of the white-blazed Pleasant Valley Trail. Turn right onto the Pleasant Valley Trail (the Nature Trail, which continues ahead, will be your return route).
After crossing a bridge over a tributary stream, the Pleasant Valley Trail parallels Iresick Brook on the right for a short distance. In 0.4 mile from the Nature Trail, you'll reach a Y-intersection, where you turn left onto the orange-blazed Blueberry Flats Trail. Soon, you'll cross a bridge over another tributary of Iresick Brook. Just beyond, you'll come to another Y-intersection. Bear left and begin to follow the loop of the Blueberry Flats Trail in a clockwise direction. The trail continues to parallel Iresick Brook (in the distance on the left) and crosses several wet areas on puncheons (bog bridges).
Notice as you walk through this area the unique vegetation that has adapted to the harsh Pine Barrens conditions. The lower areas near the streams feature mixed hardwoods (white oaks, black gums, sweet gums, maples), but pitch pines grow in the slightly higher and drier areas. This area is also home to pink lady slipper orchids that bloom in the spring.
In just over half a mile from the start of the loop, you'll pass the start of the white-blazed Pine Glen Spur Trail at a Y-intersection. Bear right to continue along the orange-blazed Blueberry Flats Trail. In another quarter mile, after crossing some more puncheons, you'll reach the start of the blue-blazed Old Bridge Sands Trail on the left. If you wish to take the shorter 2.7-mile loop, continue ahead a short distance on the Blueberry Flats Trail, turn left at the start of the loop, then turn right onto the white-blazed Pleasant Valley Trail to return to the Nature Trail and your car. But to continue on the described hike, turn left onto the Old Bridge Sands Trail and cross a small bridge over a tributary stream.
In a quarter mile, the Old Bridge Sands Trail forks right, with an unmarked trail heading off to the left. In 2014, this unmarked trail will be incorporated into a new red-blazed trail that will intersect the Pine Glen Spur and can be used to lengthen the hike. But for now, continue following the blue-blazed Old Bridge Sands Trail. Soon you will cross another bridge over Iresick Brook and several short boardwalks in a wet area and reach Pleasant Valley Road. Cross the road (note that hunting is permitted in this section of the preserve) and continue along the Old Bridge Sands Trail through pleasant woods, crossing a small bridge and several more puncheons. About one mile from the Blueberry Flats Trail, the Old Bridge Sands Trail ends at a junction with the white-blazed Pleasant Valley Trail. To the left, the Pleasant Valley Trail passes through an unattractive area that has been damaged by ATVs, but you should turn right onto the Pleasant Valley Trail. In about 100 feet, you'll pass the other end of a 0.7-mile loop of the Pleasant Valley Trail on the left, and then in 0.1 mile you'll re-cross Pleasant Valley Road (and leave the hunting area).
Continue ahead on the white-blazed Pleasant Valley Trail, passing the start of the orange-blazed Blueberry Flats Trail on the right. Half a mile from Pleasant Valley Road, you'll reach the yellow-blazed Nature Trail. Turn right and follow the Nature Trail back to the kiosk and the parking area where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Bob Fuller on 01/16/2014
This hike meanders through a section of the Spotswood Outlier of the New Jersey Pine Barrens with its unique ecological area of mixed hardwood forests and pitch pines.
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.