The 667-acre Thompson Park is a former horse farm, bequeathed in 1968 to Monmouth County by Geraldine Thompson. For most of the way, this figure-eight hike follows the Reservoir Loop, which loops around the Swimming River Reservoir and Marlu Lake. Although this trail is officially blazed blue, blazes are found only occasionally (on signposts, mainly at junctions), and there are no blazes at...
The 667-acre Thompson Park is a former horse farm, bequeathed in 1968 to Monmouth County by Geraldine Thompson. For most of the way, this figure-eight hike follows the Reservoir Loop, which loops around the Swimming River Reservoir and Marlu Lake. Although this trail is officially blazed blue, blazes are found only occasionally (on signposts, mainly at junctions), and there are no blazes at many important junctions. You should obtain a trail map before beginning the hike (maps are available online at www.monmouthcountyparks.com or from a kiosk at the trailhead). Keep in mind, however, that the trail is not always accurately shown on the map, and be sure to pay careful attention to the directions in the hike description.
The trails in this park are open to joggers, bicyclists and equestrians. The park brochure indicates that the Reservoir Loop is rated as “moderate”; however, the rating system is designed primarily with bicyclists in mind. The hike has no significant changes in elevation and mostly follows well-graded paths. Portions of the trails can be muddy, however, and hikers should wear waterproof hiking boots.
From the kiosk at the southeast corner of the Old Orchard parking lot, turn right (south) on a paved path. Follow the paved path across a grassy area, passing a wooden shelter on the left. In about 500 feet, as the paved path curves to the right, you’ll notice a tree on the left, with a vague dirt path heading towards the woods. Follow this path for about 150 feet to the edge of the woods, where a post on the left marks the start of the Reservoir Loop.
Continue ahead, down a switchback, and cross a stream on a wooden bridge. Just beyond, bear left at a fork to continue on the Reservoir Loop. A short distance ahead, the Track Loop joins from the right, but the trails run jointly only for about 25 feet. When they diverge, turn left to continue along the Reservoir Loop, which now descends towards the Swimming River Reservoir. The trail turns right just before reaching the reservoir, but you should continue ahead to a viewpoint over the reservoir.
After taking in the view, return to the main trail and turn left (northwest). The Reservoir Loop now closely parallels the reservoir, with views through the trees on the left over the reservoir. The footing can be a little rough in a few places, where you traverse an area covered by tangled tree roots. You’ll pass many huge trees, over a century old, and cross several wooden bridges. Several side trails lead to the right, but you should continue ahead on the path that parallels the shore of the reservoir. This is a particularly beautiful trail section.
After a while, you’ll notice another wide trail on the right – the Track Loop. The two trails closely parallel each other for some distance, but they do not converge. A few hundred feet beyond where the Trail Loop turns right, away from the Reservoir Loop, you’ll cross a small stream and reach a fork, with three closely-spaced tall trees ahead on the left. You should take the right branch of the fork, bearing to the right of the tall trees and up a short incline, and continue ahead until you emerge onto the edge of a field.
Turn left and skirt the edge of the field for about 75 feet, then bear left onto a dirt path that continues to parallel the reservoir. As you approach the northwestern end of the reservoir, it becomes a marshy, reed-filled area and then a meandering stream.
About a mile and a half from the trailhead, the trail curves to the right and reaches a paved path. Turn left onto this paved path, which passes the Marlu parking area. Soon, you’ll approach the southern tip of Marlu Lake and pass a “Park System Vehicle Only” sign and a post with a trail marker for the Reservoir Loop. Continue ahead on the paved path, which crosses the earthen dam of Marlu Lake. At the end of the dam, you’ll notice another post with a trail marker. Turn right at this post and follow a dirt path along the edge of an open field.
At the next post, the trail turns right and heads into the woods. It continues to parallel Marlu Lake, which is visible through the trees on the right. When you reach a T-intersection, turn right to continue on the Reservoir Loop. The next section of the trail is often quite muddy.
After traversing a marshy area (where the trail has recently been rerouted to a drier treadway), the trail crosses a wooden bridge and bears right. A short distance ahead, the trail curves to the left, with a bench on the right, overlooking the lake.
Just beyond, you’ll come to a Y-intersection. Bear left here, following the sign for the Reservoir Trail, and continue on a mowed path along the left side of a field. When you reach a fork, with a rutted track heading straight ahead and a mowed path bearing right, follow the mowed path, which continues to run along the left side of fields, making several turns. This trail section can also be muddy.
With Longbridge Road visible beyond a field on the right, the trail turns left, passing between two trail marker posts, and reenters the woods, with large trees on either side of the trail. It follows a wide, grassy woods road which meanders through the woods. Soon, you’ll notice the brick-and-concrete ruins of a building in the woods on the right. Just beyond, bear right at a fork to continue on the trail.
Soon, the trail crosses a paved path diagonally to the left. About 50 feet beyond, turn left onto another wide, grassy path. In a short distance, you’ll pass an abandoned wooden building on the right and emerge onto an open field. Continue straight ahead and follow a winding grassy path through the middle of the field for about half a mile. You’ve now reached the midpoint of the hike.
Towards the end of the field, with Longbridge Road visible directly ahead, turn left onto a slightly narrower grassy path. A short distance beyond, you’ll cross two paved roads, with a white frame building (now used for the park’s Historical Services) visible on the left. As you cross the second road, an arm of the Swimming River Reservoir comes into view on the right. You’ll be paralleling this arm of the reservoir for the next section of the hike.
Continue ahead on the wide path, between open fields on the left and woods on the right, with views of the reservoir through the trees. You’ll pass some more park buildings on the left, after which woods appear on both sides of the trail. As you near the end of the peninsula that juts out into the reservoir, a narrower path goes off to the right. This short path leads to a dead-end at a viewpoint over the reservoir, and you should continue to follow the wider path, which loops around to the left and soon begins to head northwest. Across the reservoir, you can see (through the trees) the trail that you followed earlier in the hike (note the wooden bridges along the trail).
In a third of a mile, you’ll reach a Y-intersection, where you should bear right to remain on the trail, which now parallels the reservoir more closely. When the trail reaches a paved road that comes in from the left, continue ahead on the paved road, parallel to the reservoir, for about 750 feet, then bear right at a trail marker post and continue along a wide, grassy path. Soon, the trail bears right onto a dirt path bordered by logs and crosses two wooden bridges.
A short distance beyond, you’ll reach a paved path near the southwest tip of Marlu Lake. You’ve now completed the loop portion of the Reservoir Loop. Turn right, follow the paved path over the dam (now retracing your steps from earlier in the hike), and continue until you reach a paved circle just beyond the Marlu parking area. Turn left at the circle onto another paved path, which heads across a field.
When you reach a fork, bear left. Soon, you’ll approach a paved road, with the park’s Creative Arts Center visible beyond. Follow the paved path as it curves to the right and parallels the road, passing the Theater Barn and other park buildings. The paved path ends at the Filly Run parking lot, but you should continue ahead on a wide dirt path (not shown on the park map). The dirt path soon reaches a paved path which comes in from the right. Continue ahead on the paved path, which curves to the left and returns to the Old Orchard parking lot, where the hike began.Publication: Submitted by Daniel Chazin on 03/08/2012 updated/verified on 03/04/2012
This hike loops around the Swimming River Reservoir and Marlu Lake, passing many century-old trees.
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.