For anyone near the central or northern Jersey Shore, this is a nice hike with plenty of diverse scenery – a reservoir, lake, meadows, woods and farmland. There are also ample opportunities for bird watching (I saw at least ten varieties of ducks and geese during this January hike). After the 5-mile hike there are a number of other activities in the rest of the park to finish out the day. The...
For anyone near the central or northern Jersey Shore, this is a nice hike with plenty of diverse scenery – a reservoir, lake, meadows, woods and farmland. There are also ample opportunities for bird watching (I saw at least ten varieties of ducks and geese during this January hike). After the 5-mile hike there are a number of other activities in the rest of the park to finish out the day. The views of the Swimming River Reservoir and Marlu Lake are best in early spring, late fall and winter.
To find the Reservoir Trail trailhead in the Old Orchard parking lot, face the kiosk with your back to the parking area. (On the trail map look for the “TH” icon.) Begin by taking the paved path on the right for a few hundred feet. Look left to see at the edge of the woods another hundred feet away a trail marker indicating the Reservoir Loop (blue blaze) The trail map makes it look like this trail and the Woodland Trail (green blaze) leave from the same point, this is not the case.
- Be aware that the Monmouth County Park system blazes trails according to their level of difficulty, so the “moderate” Reservoir Trail (blue) is not uniquely blazed in this park.
- Another word of caution: There are many trails that go off this loop trail with very few markers. The trail map is relatively reliable but not always, so just pay attention and if something does not look right, it probably is not.
Just after beginning, where the wide Track Loop converges with the Reservoir Loop Trail, make a left turn. There are no markers, but the trail map is clear. Stay to the left on the smaller, narrower pathway. Shortly afterward part of the Swimming River Reservoir will come into view, depending on the time of year and amount of foliage. In less than quarter-mile the pathway curves to the right. At that turning point, but straight ahead, is a short walk to the edge of the reservoir and a very nice spot to take photographs. Once back on the main path walk with the reservoir on the left. At about 0.4 mile, the Reservoir Look Trail again converges with the Track Loop and remains very close for about 0.2 mile. Continue forward with the Track Loop on the right and the reservoir on the left.
In a few hundred feet after the Track Loop turns away and after crossing a very small stream, are three tall trees at what looks like a fork. The path that goes straight is just a water channel off shoot. Proceed to the right of the trees and up a small incline. Skirt the edge of a field for under 100-feet to where the pathway turns left into the woods. Continue relatively straight as the reservoir to the left gradually shrinks, turns into a marshy area, and then finally solid ground.
At the end of the reservoir, in not quite a mile from the trailhead, the pathway curves gently to the right. Ahead is the Marlu Parking Lot and a paved trail. Go to the left on the paved trail, hiking between the (dry) end of the reservoir on the left and the lower end of Marlu Lake to the right. A trail marker is up ahead at an intersection. The hike loops back to here.
At this intersection, turn right towards Marlu Lake, which remains on the right and an open field to the left. At the end of the field, in about 1.25 miles from the trailhead, is a marker as the pathway curves right and into the woods. It meanders through the woods, paralleling the lake. Ignore several off shoot trails with no markers and stay to the right to remain on track. Seasonally, there might be several very muddy spots on this part of the trail, so hopefully you have hiking boots on! In about a half-mile, woods will give way to reeds, and possibly more mud.
After crossing a bridge, veer to right for a few hundred feet to find a bench on the right. It is a convenient resting spot for bird watching or having a snack. Continue to follow the loop trail as it gradually curves left to a junction. A road and farmland will be in front of your, with no marker to indicate the way. Straight leads up and around Marlu Lake on another trail (also blue blazed). Turn left onto what looks like a mowed path through an open field. It can also be muddy. In another 0.2 mile or so the pathway turns sharply left. A wooded area is to the left and the pathway is along the edge of a large plowed field. On the right, just beyond the field, is Longbridge Road.
In about a quarter-mile, marked by a blue blaze, the pathway turns left into the woods where two giant trees appear to be standing guard over the entrance. At this point the pathway is grassy and very wide. In a couple hundred feet, to the right, are the remains of a farm building. Just afterward appears to be a fork, but no markers; remain on the wide path towards the right. After a small incline the loop trail intersects with a paved path. This part can be confusing. On the map, the loop trail appears to go straight over the paved path. In reality, just after crossing the paved path make a left -- no markers to help guide the way. (Staying straight here leads to a ranger residence near Longbridge Road). To repeat, turn left. Longbridge Road will continue to be on the right. After a short distance is the edge of a meadow. Stay to the right to follow a wide, sweeping path through the center of the meadow for the next half-mile. Longbridge Road will still be to your right; an unpaved service road will be off to your left. This is about the halfway point of the hike.
Towards the end of the field take the left fork. The loop trail will cross over a double driveway. Up the driveway is a building that was once used when the parkland was a horse estate. It is now houses the park’s “Historical Services.” In front and to the right, another section of Swimming River Reservoir comes into view.
Continue to follow the wide path straight for about a quarter mile, off to the left across a field are several buildings housing the Friends of the Parks and the Training Center. Near the end of the field the trail goes left. Once the field ends, there is a very short footpath on the right leading to a scenic viewpoint of the reservoir. This is part of a short peninsula jutting into the reservoir. Stay left to follow the loop trail where it curves around to go back up the other side of the peninsula. Across the inlet is near where the hike began.
Not quite a half-mile ahead is another fork, this one with a marker. To the left leads to the training center seen earlier -- remain straight. There are some better views of the water just past the fork. In another 0.2 mile is a paved road that leads from the Friends of the Parks and Training Center buildings to Historical Services. Remain on the pavement for a tenth of a mile or so. When the paved road curves left remain straight on a wide path along the edge of the meadow crossed earlier. Stay on this segment for roughly a third of a mile with the reservoir on the right and the meadow on the left. Ignore an unmarked turn off to the left halfway through.
Three-quarters of the way along the meadow, is the intersection encountered previously, and is about the four-mile mark of the hike. Turn right to hike by the end of Marlu Lake (again) and continue to a point near the Marlu parking area where several trails converge. It is possible to finish the hike by taking the Reservoir Loop Trail back to the Old Orchard parking area. But to complete a “figure 8” hike, take the paved foot- and bike- path to the left and head across a field for less than a half mile towards the Creative Arts Center. Nearby are restrooms and an off-leash dog area. To continue the hike, stay on the paved path that parallels a vehicular road and goes past the Arts Center. Beyond the playground a paved path ends and a dirt path begins leading back towards the Old Orchard parking lot. Along the way on the left is the Visitor’s Center, housed in a rebuilt colonial mansion.Publication: Submitted by jcoalter on 02/12/2012
This loop hike will take you along both Swimming River Reservoir and Marlu Lake in what was once a 19th century horse estate. Wear hiking boots since seasonally there may be a number of muddy spots.
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
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- 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.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- 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.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- 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.