Wharton State Forest – Batsto Lake Trail and Tom’s Pond Trail

Park Site

Trail Map – official, and the one I used, courtesy of NJHiking.com

Hike Distance – 7.46 miles (and this includes wandering around Batsto Village a bit)

Trails – Batsto Lake (white), Batona (pink), Tom’s Pond (orange)

My Map:

As a side note, this is probably my last hike in the “south” for a while.  The weather is getting warmer (yay!) and I have some hikes with the County Park System teed up; and to get ready, I need to work some elevation.  However, I have a new found favorable opinion of the Pine Barrens.  If you had asked me about my opinion of the Pine Barrens a year ago, I would replied, “bah, it’s nothing more than sand and pitch pines.”  And it is.  But it is much more than that too.  True, there isn’t much elevation and the views are not as jaw dropping, but if you are looking for exercise and the same workout, I challenge you to walk a couple miles in sugar sand.  The Pine Barrens are like no other place I’ve hiked.  Sphagnum moss, pitch pines, unique plants, berries of all kinds, bogs, Cedar groves.  It’s definitely worth a visit.  I would recommend visiting out of the summer sun and heat to escape the chiggers and ticks.

This hike leaves from the Batsto Village visitor center.  I headed north to travel the Batsto Lake (white) trail counterclockwise, which for a short time travels along the Batona trail.  It was a dream hiking here, the trails were wide, flat, mostly dirt, some sand, and a lot of pine needles.  And I don’t recall seeing rocks anywhere.  Be advised, there are plenty of bike trails here, though I only saw bikes once the whole day.

False Turkey Tail

Early on while walking the Batsto Lake trail I walked through a portion of the forest that had recently (the last ten years?) had a fire.  One thing I’ve learned from my hikes in the Pines is that fire is necessary to “clear” the forest and allow for new growth.  Without fire, the pines wouldn’t come back, and this would have been The Oak Barrens. It was definitely evident in this section of the forest.

A little after this section, the Batona Trail leaves the Batsto Lake trail and heads north.  The Batsto Lake trail starts to head south and parallels the Batsto River – which feeds Batsto Lake.  There are a couple of nice viewpoints on this section of the trail.

Believe it or not, the river was about 15-20 feet downhill from the trail.

There was one viewpoint that gave a nice overview of the Lake.  Here are two pictures, one looking north, and one looking south.

When the Batsto Lake (white) trails joins with the blue and red versions of the Batsto Lake trail, there are more interpretative signs explaining some of the flora in the area.

Shortly thereafter I made it back to the parking lot.  I had to go through the parking lot, and into Batsto Village to get to Tom’s Pond Trail.  On the dam there is a great view of the lake, looking north.

Stay on the main “road” and go through the village, passing the worker’s houses.  The other side of the village contains the additional trailhead.  I headed west to explore the Tom’s Pond trail.  This area was a little different from where I had just hiked.  Yes, there is still pitch pine, but the area is made up of bogs, so the Cedar groves stand out.  Shortly in, I came to this boardwalk that led to a bridge crossing the Mullica River.

Heading north, I came to this plant.  The sign next to it said Inkberry.

And it wouldn’t be the Pine Barrens without sphagnum moss.  It was all over the ground in this area.

Bayberry

I think the Cedar groves are really neat to walk through.  The trees are close together, more times than not it’s wet, boggy, and you’re on boardwalks, and I love the aroma of the Cedar trees.  Some of the trees are huge, and some of the groves are really compact.

I really enjoyed my time on this hike.  In the Fall and Winter I will probably search out more trails in the Pine Barrens.  The Pine Barrens are HUGE, and I have only scratched the surface.  As I mentioned earlier, be wary of ticks and chiggers in season.  I didn’t have to worry on this hike.

BONUS:

I’m not hiking a historical village without touring the grounds.  (I did not tour the mansion, to do on another day.)  Batsto seemed to me to be a lot like Allaire; a “corporate” mining village that was self-contained.  To start, right by the Tom’s Pond trailhead were the worker’s houses.  These were small.

And yes, behind each house:

I went inside one of the houses that was open.  Dinner was served, though it looked a little dusty.

The worker’s houses were set off from the rest of the village.  On the way back, I had to recross the dam.  What is interesting is that a fish “staircase” has been built so that fish can travel upstream, “around” the dam, and get back to Batsto Lake to spawn.

fish staircase

An interesting facet of cedar groves is that any of the water around them runs red.  And actually, it’s considered very pure, without bacteria because of what leeches from the cedar trees.  I wasn’t going to try it, I was carrying enough water.  But I got a good shot of the RED water.

After, I explored some other portions of the village:  The grist mill, corn crib, and the general store.  I waited quite a while for service, then gave up.  Prices looked pretty good, though.

I wandered around the ice house and woodshed before heading to my car to eat and call it a day.  But Batsto Village alone requires its own visit.

Double Bonus:

On an earlier trip down to the Pine Barrens, I traveled on East Greenbrush Road, and passed a memorial to fallen forest firefighters.  I didn’t stop the last time, but as I passed it on my way to Batsto, I thought I would return and check it out.  The memorial is to firefighters who lost their lives battling both the 1936 and 1977 forest fires in the area.  The memorial is tucked right off the road and there is a small parking lot (which incidentally is a trailhead – I have to look that one up.)

Ticks: 0

Blazes:

Hiked:  3/5/2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.