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Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary
Directions to trailhead
Take I-287 to Exit 30B. At the traffic light, go straight across U.S. 202 onto Childs Road. In 0.2 mile, bear right at the fork onto Hardscrabble Road. Continue on Hardscrabble Road for 0.9 mile to the entrance to the Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary, on the right. Proceed up the driveway to the Hoffman Building, where you can view the interesting exhibits and obtain a trail map. GPS address: 11 Hardscrabble Road, Bernardsville, NJ 07924.
The New Jersey Audubon Society’s Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary encompasses 275 acres of land donated by the Scherman and Hoffman families. Although birds are the primary focus of the sanctuary, it also offers attractive hiking trails.
To begin the hike, leave the Hoffman Building and drive back down the entrance road. Turn right onto Hardscrabble Road, and take the first right into the Scherman parking lot (51 Hardscrabble Road). The Dogwood Trail begins at the kiosk at the eastern end of the parking area. Just beyond the kiosk, the trail divides. The trail ahead is your return route, but for now turn left and head uphill on the Dogwood Trail, which you will follow in a clockwise direction. The trail is marked by New Jersey Audubon logo blazes and Patriots' Path logo blazes (blue path-and-tree logo on white); you will also find some faded red paint blazes along the trail.
The trail climbs on switchbacks, steeply in places. Soon, you’ll reach a junction, marked by a signpost. Here, the Patriots’ Path leaves to the left, but you should bear right to continue on the Dogwood Trail, which continues to ascend through dense barberry thickets.
As the trail approaches the crest of the rise, the grade moderates. When you reach the top of the hill, you’ll notice interesting boulders to the right. The trail now begins to descend, soon passing a tree wedged at a 45-degree angle between two trunks of another tree. Interestingly, both trees are still alive, and the leaning tree has a trunk that grows straight up!
A short distance beyond, an unmarked connecting trail from the Cross Estate comes in on the left. You should bear right, continuing along the Dogwood Trail, which now descends a little more steeply. Soon, you’ll reach a fenced-in deer exclosure on the right. Just beyond, watch carefully as the Dogwood Trail bears left onto a narrower footpath, diverging from the wider path it has been following. Soon, you'll reach a sign that indicates that the Dogwood Spur to the Hoffman Center goes off to the right, but you should continue ahead on the main Dogwood Trail. Just beyond, you’ll pass on the left several huge trees felled by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
At the next junction, bear left, following the sign for the River Trail. Follow this yellow-blazed trail (also marked with New Jersey Audubon Society logo markers) down to the Passaic River. In contrast to the polluted waterway that flows past the urban centers of Paterson and Newark, the river here is wild and pristine. The trail curves to the right and begins to run along the river. This is the most interesting part of the hike, and you may wish to pause for a while and enjoy the scenic beauty of the area.
The trail continues along the river for about a quarter of a mile, passing several huge trees along the way – including a tulip tree that is over four feet in diameter. After crossing a footbridge over a tributary stream, the River Trail ends at a junction with the green-blazed Field Loop Trail.
Turn left onto the Field Loop Trail, which follows a wide woods road covered with wood chips. At first, it continues to parallel the river, but it soon bears right and heads away from the river. After crossing several wet areas on raised boardwalks and passing a side trail that leads to Fishless Pond, the Field Loop Trail reaches an intersection marked by a signpost. Here you should turn right, following the sign for the Field Loop Trail, which begins a short climb.
Soon, you’ll emerge onto a paved road. Bear right, follow the road uphill, and cross the entrance road to the sanctuary. You now re-enter the woods on the Dogwood Trail. Continue along the Dogwood Trail for about 750 feet until you reach the parking area on Hardscrabble Road where the hike began.