Wells Mills Park – Penns Hill Trail

(Sorry, no picture of the trail kiosk, it looked like they were building a new one out in the parking lot. A picture of the nature center (closed) will have to do.)

Park Site

Trail Map

Distance:  8.4 miles

Trails – White (Some discrepancy here.  Signage in the park called this the Penns Hill Trail.  The map linked to the site calls it the Macri Trail.  Either way, I hiked white.)


I left home nice and early and had a good ride down to Wells Mills park.  I  knew this would be a longer hike, with good weather for once, and I knew it would take me longer.  For Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to beat any traffic.

It was gorgeous out, 75 and sunny.  Unfortunately, the Nature Center was closed due to the holiday, but there were still trail maps in the container up on the porch.  There were also a ton of carpenter bees buzzing all over the place; not a nuisance, but all over the place.  As there was no kiosk, I used the nature center as the starting point.  I went right, on the trail, and immediately entered woods, close to Wells Mills Lake.

This was some of my favorite part of the trail as there was lots of water and lots of bridges to cross.  We had rain the other day, but the trails were mostly dry; with only a few spongy spots later on.

Once the trail left the lake, it veered off to the northwest part of the park.  Here’s were there were hills (which I wasn’t really expecting.)  Walking in this area (at 10 in the morning) I distinctly heard gun fire – I don’t know if there was a range nearby, or someone hunting.  I doubt it was fireworks that early in the morning.

I enjoyed the fact that there were very distinct and different environments as you walked along.  The trail, for the most part, was dirt or sand, occasionally covered with pine needles – very forgiving.  Which was great on a longer walk.  One section of the park was hilly.  One section had a cedar forest.  There were lots of boardwalks.  One section contained thick Mountain Laurel.   And what would the Pine Barrens be without pitch pine.  For over eight miles, there was lots of diversity.

This next picture doesn’t do justice, this was a pretty steep hill, at the top of which was a bench – a perfect water break.

The map shows two hills: Penns Hill, with an elevation of 126 feet, and Laurel Hill, 130 feet.

Bon Jovi was here:

I heard lots of birds, caught a glimpse of a chipmunk or two; but that was about it for wildlife.

Right near the end of the hike I came across this sign:

I’m not sure how accurate the sign is, and it was the only mileage/distance sign I saw on the whole hike.  It was getting pretty hot (and I was getting tired) at this point, so I did not check my GPS.

The final bridge crossing was over Oyster Creek, which I crossed at least once before.  This bridge was big enough for a car to drive over.

This was another great hike in the Ocean County Park system.  Trails were well marked, though there are a couple of unmarked trails that criss-cross where I walked.  It’s kind of hard to get lost as long as you stay on the trails.  Wells Mills park does have a reputation for ticks and I can attest that they were out in force.  Be prepared.  Finally, if you decide to hike the Penns Hill trail, bring enough water if it will be sunny and/or hot.  It’s a good distance.  Should you decide (or need) to cut the hike short, there are junctions with the yellow or green trail that will save you mileage.

One final note.  I left at the parking lot and headed north on the Parkway.  Big mistake on Memorial Day, as the traffic northbound was horrendous.  I got on the parkway at exit 69, and it took me an hour to get to Route 70, which is exit 89.  Traffic didn’t clear until I passed exit 91.  It will probably get much worse into the afternoon and evening .  And I thought I would beat the traffic.

Ticks:  5 7

Hiked: 5/27/2019

Jakes Branch Park

Park site:  http://www.oceancountyparks.org/frmRegContentPrks?ID=0694b294-986f-46e6-a679-d03ac775c176

Distance:  4.7 miles

Trails:  Tindey (blue), Interretive (green), Swamp Spur (white)


I looked for something short(ish) that was relatively close by for a hike today; I wanted to go up north, but knew I did not have enough time.  So, off to another Ocean County park; and what a park.  This is another really nice park, with well-marked trails, ample parking, and a fabulous nature center.  Sure, there were some unmarked trails, but it would be hard to get lost – the marked trails are pretty obvious.  And blazes are abundant.  Note, I came across bikes on this hike.

It was a great 75 degrees with barely any clouds in the sky and relatively low humidity.  I arrived a little before 10:30 on a Saturday morning, and there were few cars in the parking lot.  The trail kiosk was fully stocked with trail maps and numerous flyers for upcoming events.  And, the nature center was open, with a separate door for bathrooms.

As I was heading to the trail head I noticed interpretive displays regarding forest fires; which I initially though thought odd to have at a trailhead.  Though, reading through, I learned how some fires are good, they rejuvenate the land – and there was recently a sizable fire here at Jakes Branch back in 2002.

I started on the Tindey trail (blazed blue); and as I am want to do, chose left to do the loop.  Trails were wide, soft, sandy, and easy to walk.

I stayed on Tindey until I junctioned with the Interpretive trail (green) which is a short loop.  This trail, while still soft, was covered in pine needles.  Partway through there was a neat bog.

Back on Tindey, there was some nice flowers:

At points, the Tindey trail comes close to Double Trouble Road (which parallels the Parkway.)  At this point the sounds of the cars are a little overbearing, and I feel detracts from the allure of being outside.  It would not be until I was on the other side of the park that the sounds of cars would fade away.

When I came to the junction of the Swamp Spur (white) I decided to venture forth and see this “swamp.”  The trail is only a quarter mile long.  However, there was a section that was overgrown, and I suspect I picked up hitch hikers here. 







The swamp at the end of the trail was pretty wet, but not what I was expecting.

While walking the Tindey trail you will walk through areas where you can tell the fire was.  New trees are starting to grow, ferns are abundant, and there was plenty of sunshine.

I saw deer while walking.  I came across frogs.  And I happened to spot this Black Swallowtail butterfly.

This was definitely a great hike, I would highly recommend it.  I think my total hike time was a little under two hours.  While boots are always recommended, this could have been done in sneakers.  Definitely wear long pants if you plan to hike the Swamp Spur.

Ticks:  2 3 – 1 brutally murdered in my car on the way home, to the enjoyment of those passing me on the Parkway.  I found another after getting home.

Hiked:  6/9/2018

Cattus Island Park

Park site:  http://www.oceancountyparks.org/frmRegContentPrks?ID=0751673c-9513-4ecc-8f3e-3e65b0f2ec45

The kiosk by the parking lot contained many trail maps.

For the beginning of May, the temperatures hovered right around 60 degrees – with a slight breeze that became stiffer as we got nearer to the water.  My daughter and I headed down to Cattus Island for a hike – I was looking at the hike in 50 Hikes in New Jersey.  That hike was around 3 miles.  We did 5.8.  Here’s my log:

I had never been down here and did not know what to expect.  This was a great hike, we did most trails and walked most of the park.  Trails were mostly soft dirt, pine needles, and boardwalks – plenty of boardwalks.  There were many sections that were spongy, with a bit of mud; but nothing impassable or challenging.  As we approached beaches the wind noticeably picked up.  Also, benches abound – you will not walk far without coming upon a bench (some with great views) to sit and rest a bit.

Also, this was the first Ocean County park I’ve hiked.  Trails were well marked; in fact, there were ample blazes.  Turns and junctions are marked so you don’t get lost.  There were a couple of unmarked trails, but with enough blazes, you are not going to get lost.  We did not stop at the Cooper Activity center, though we did walk by it.  Pictures from the hike:

All in all, this was a great hike.  I can imagine that the White trail is very hot in the summer with sun shining down on you and no shade.  Definitely bring enough water in hot weather.  The other trails provided plenty of shade as you are in the woods and/or by the water.

Ticks – 0 (And I should note, no mosquitoes by Mosquito Cove – I bet that changes in much warmer weather.)

On the way home, we stopped for ice cream at The Yellow Brick Road Ice Cream Shop, Carosel.  Very very good.

Hiked:  5/6/18