Poricy Park – Figure Eight Circuit
Directions to trailhead
From the Garden State Parkway, take Exit 114. If coming from the north, make a left onto Red Hill Road. If coming from the south, make a right. At the first traffic light after the Parkway interchange (Dwight Road), make a right. Continue on Dwight Road for 1.7 miles, until reaching the intersection with Middletown-Lincroft Road. Make a left, travel north on Middletown-Lincroft for half a mile, and then make a right at Oak Hill Road. Continue down Oak Hill Road for 0.8 mile, crossing a pair of railroad tracks along the way. The entrance to Poricy Park is just before a second set of tracks, to the right. Drive up the entrance road and park in the lot near the Nature Center. [Street address for GPS navigation: 345 Oak Hill Road, Red Bank]
An information board near the Nature Center at the top of the parking lot displays a park map showing trails. It is recommended to check out the map, or download one in advance [link above], since most of the trails in Poricy Park are not well marked.
Descend into the park from the parking lot using Murray Farmhouse Road, a gravel one-lane roadway, traveling down for about 400 feet. To the right is the Camp Trail, easily identified by a plastic marker bearing the trail’s name. Exiting the road, follow the Camp Trail for 384 feet (exact footage is on trail map), passing a picnic area on the left. The Camp Trail ends at the unmarked Green Trail. Make a left here.
After 221 feet, pass a trail leading to the barn on the left. Continuing forward, the Green Trail gradually turns to the left, leading to a plank bridge crossing a muddy area after about 500 feet. To the left are the Murray Farmhouse, a barn, and a farm field. Joseph Murray, an Irish immigrant, originally built the house and the barn sometime around 1770. Active use of the farmstead continued until 1973 when Middletown Township purchased it to preserve the site. The house and the barn have since been restored.
Another 500 feet beyond the plank bridge the trail reaches a T-intersection. The Green Trail continues to the left. To the right a plastic marker points the way to a “marsh,” or more specifically to one of two marsh observation platforms in the park.
For the curious, who wish to detour on a short side-trip, the path to the marsh platform descends the steep east bank of Poricy Brook. A green sign proclaiming “CAUTION Steep Steps” is just before the edge of the 20-foot high embankment. If heading into the marsh, cross a tiny four foot long plank bridge just before descending, and then, as the sign warns, use caution. The stairs leading down to the marsh platform would greatly benefit from a little TLC. The viewing platform at the bottom of the slope sits at the edge of Poricy Brook, surrounded by a mix of wetland scrub and skunk cabbage.
To continue the hike, follow the Green Trail for about 300 feet until it ends at the farmhouse. Take a moment to admire the property, and perhaps consider that it has survived here for about as long as the United States has been an independent nation. To the right of the Green Trail’s end, follow the unmarked Blue Trail as it descends to cross a tree lined ravine with a small brook at its center. An information marker here displays a short passage on the Virginia opossum. Ascending up the other side of the small ravine, the trail reaches an intersection on the edge of a successional field slowly transitioning from farmland to hardwood forest. Make a right.
The trail, which begins to narrow as it crosses a wooded corridor, parallels the ravine (on the right) for about 350 feet before passing a set of benches and a trail breaking off the left. Continue moving forward. In another 450 feet, make a slight turn to the right as the trail merges into a wider, grassy trail. Proceed along the wider trail, which is now paralleling Poricy Brook. In about 300 feet, the wide trail breaks off to the left directly in front of a marker labeled “.5 MILE” with a white arrow emblazoned in a blue circle pointing to the direction of the wider trail. Disregard the arrow on the marker, and instead follow the smaller trail that continues to parallel the brook for about 150 feet, cutting through a narrow strip of woods. It connects to another wide, grassy trail. Make a right here.
About 100 feet directly ahead is a large information board describing the successional process observed previously. At a small clearing the main trail turns left, paralleling a ravine entering Poricy Brook at a perpendicular angle.
To the right is another possible detour, a trail leading down to the second marsh observation platform. It snakes down the side of Poricy Brook’s east bank to the water’s edge, where it extends into a swampy area and connects to a floating platform. Views from this platform include part of Poricy Pond.
Continue following the main trail, paralleling the ravine (on the right) for 685 feet. The trail reaches a four-way intersection, with a staircase leading down into the ravine on the right. Descend this staircase and begin traveling on what the park map refers to as the Red Trail. At the bottom of the stairs is an extensive set of plank walkways traversing the muddy terrain at the bottom of the ravine. There is an intersection here, with a plank walkway breaking off to the left at the base of the stairs, just before a bridge crosses the stream at the bottom of the ravine. Ignore the walkway on the left and cross the bridge, following the plank walkway on the other side as it leads up the opposite slope of the ravine. Skunk cabbage seems to be particularly abundant in this area.
At the top of the ravine is a T-intersection, a location that will be encountered again later. Make a right here. The trail travels through a patch of woods with a lightly vegetated and thorny understory, reaching a shallow ravine after 754 feet. The ravine has a slight trickle of water but is for the most part dry. It is crossed by a deteriorating plank bridge about four feet long. In about 150 feet, the trail reaches a slight clearing and presents three paths to choose from: Left, Center, and Right. The right path leads to a switchback that descends into a ravine, where it dead ends. The center path fades out into woods, again to a dead end. Take the left path to continue on. In another 100 feet or so it will end at a T-intersection. Make a right.
A slightly overgrown path will appear on the left almost immediately after the right turn. Ignore this path and carry on forward. After 1569 feet, the trail reaches the southeastern corner of Poricy Park, presenting a view of Poricy Pond. Take a moment to enjoy the view, and then follow the trail as it curves left. Ahead to the right will be a wide tree with a sizable nook in its base, probably large enough for a small person to squeeze into. After passing the tree, the trail makes a sharp left, emerging onto a gravel-paved utility corridor.
Proceeding down the utility corridor, signs reading, “BURIED SEWAGE FORCE MAIN – 10’ DEEP, 10 psi PRESSURE” can be seen every so often. If it has rained recently, expect large puddles to be covering portions of the corridor. Fortunately, this section of the park must see fairly frequent use, as stick bridges have been placed across some of the deeper puddles. Throughout its length in the park, the utility corridor closely parallels the North Jersey Coast Line, a double-track rail line with overhead electrical catenary. This is a busy line so expect trains to pass frequently during the work week, and even on weekends there will be at least one.
After 1,700 feet, the utility corridor reaches a slight clearing and begins to turn right, heading towards an underpass below the Coast Line. A path will emerge from the woods on the left, merging into the utility corridor at a sharp angle. Ignore this path. Just before the underpass, there should be a plastic marker with a white arrow emblazoned in a red circle. It will point the direction of another section of trail, breaking off to the left. Follow this trail, paralleling the ravine, which will be on the right. In 226 feet, the trail reaches the T-intersection that was encountered earlier. Make a right and descend into the ravine. Continue along a plank walkway to cross a stream.
On the other side of the stream, do not ascend the stairs leading out of the ravine. Instead, make a right onto the plank walkway that was passed earlier. BE CAREFUL. The first section of walkway has lost its support in the middle. The planks will bow down significantly as weight is applied. The walkway here parallels the stream, passing through more of the same skunk cabbage covering the bottom of the ravine. As the walkway approaches the Coast Line, the trail converts back to a dirt path and begins climbing up the side of the ravine as it turns left.
At the top of the ravine, there is an intersection with a wide, grassy trail. Turn to the right and follow the wider trail as it parallels the Coast Line’s railbed. An incline will bring the trail to a point where it is nearly level with the railroad’s overhead catenary. Then, after a short decline, the trail enters a patch of woods. Ignore a trail breaking off to the left and continue forward.
After 250 feet, the trail comes to a fork as it emerges from the woods. Stay to the right, continuing to parallel the Coast Line. The trail will begin to climb gradually, once again reaching the height of the Coast Line’s overhead wires. Near the top of the ascent, look to the left to take in a final view of the park where the height provides a convenient vantage point. Finally, continue ahead and connect with the concrete walkway in front of the Nature Center. The walkway leads back to the parking lot.
Date of hike: 4/22/2011
- 400 ft: From parking area, head south into park on gravel Murray Farmhouse Road until reaching marker for Camp Trail.
- 384 ft: Turn right and follow Camp Trail to T-intersection.
- 221 ft: Turn left and follow Green Trail (unmarked at this point) to intersection with side trail leading to barn.
- 500 ft: Ignore side trail and continue forward on Green Trail to plank bridge over muddy area.
- 500 ft: Follow trail beyond plank bridge until reaching a T-intersection.
- Optional detour: Make a right to check out the first marsh platform, notice warning sign
- Otherwise make a left and travel on Green Trail 300 ft to historical farmhouse [where the Green Trail ends].
- 252 ft: Make a right at farmhouse to the (unmarked) Blue Trail and travel over a shallow ravine to intersection at edge of a successional field.
- 350 ft: Turn right, and follow trail through woods to entrance of side trail on left with benches.
- 450 ft: Ignore side trail and continue forward to intersection with wide, grassy trail.
- 300 ft: Make a slight right onto wide, grassy trail and follow for 300 ft to intersection with narrow trail breaking off to the right.
- 150 ft: Turn right and follow narrow trail until it intersects with another wide, grassy trail.
- 100 ft. Make a right and walk towards information board.
- At the information, make a right to check out the second marsh platform, otherwise make a left and travel 685 ft to four-way intersection.
- Make a right and descend staircase. Ignore side trail on left and continue forward (park map refers to as Red Trail) through marsh and opposite side of ravine for 275 ft, reaching T-intersection.
- 754 ft: Turn right and follow trail to shallow ravine and deteriorating small bridge.
- 150 ft: Continue forward and reach slight clearing with three trail options: Left, Center, Right. Choose the left trail.
- 100 ft: Continue on left trail and reach T-intersection.
- 1,569 ft: Turn right. Ignore an immediate left turn onto side trail and continue forward until reaching the southeast corner of the park. The trail makes a turn to the left here.
- 250 ft: Follow trail to sharp left, turning onto utility corridor with buried sewer main.
- 1,700 ft: Follow utility corridor to slight clearing before underpass with railroad. Two paths emerge from woods on left.
- 226 ft: Make a left at the second of the two trails (the one paralleling the ravine). Follow until reaching intersection with trail leading back down into ravine.
- 275 ft: Turn right, and go across the ravine, reaching the intersection just below the stairs on the opposite side.
- 250 ft: Turn right and follow trail as it parallels stream before turning left to climb up side of ravine. The trail intersects a wide, grassy trail just beyond the edge of the ravine.
- 900 ft: Turn right and follow trail to intersection with side trail on left.
- 250 ft: Ignore side trail and continue forward to fork in trail.
- 700 ft: Make a right at the fork and follow trail until it connects with concrete walkway in front of Nature Center.
- 230 ft: Follow concrete walkway back to parking area.