Hidden Jersey: Outdoor Fun

Take a walk on the wild side with these secluded outdoor spots.

Runners cross the Ben Franklin Bridge from Camden to Philadelphia.
Runners cross the Ben Franklin Bridge from Camden to Philadelphia.
Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Abbott Marshlands
Trenton, Hamilton and Bordentown (Mercer and Burlington counties)
Imagine 3,000 acres of pristine open space—ponds, woodlands and tidal wetlands teeming with fauna and flora (some rare)—within shouting distance of downtown Trenton and bordering Hamilton and Bordentown (the area is also known as Hamilton-Trenton Marsh). Among its pleasures: canoeing, picnicking, bicycling, photography and guided walks—including kid favorites like beaver walks and turtle spotting.—PT

Ben Franklin Bridge
Bridge Plaza, Camden (Camden County)
The bridge is hardly hidden, but the idea of walking or running across the bridge might not be top of mind for those driving over. The southern side of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was built in 1926, has a lantern-lit walkway/bikeway slightly below traffic level. The walk from Philadelphia into Camden gives a grand view of the Camden waterfront, spanning from Campbell’s Field southward to the old RCA Victor tower, Adventure Aquarium, the USS New Jersey and Wiggins Park. Be aware of occasional weather closures.—RS

The Blue Hole in the Winslow Wildlife Management Center.

The Blue Hole in the Winslow Wildlife Management Center. Photo courtesy of WeirdNJ.com.

The Blue Hole

Off Piney Hollow and Mays Landing roads (Winslow Wildlife Management Area), Winslow (Camden County)
At the end of a dirt road—the last sandy stretch of which requires you to abandon your car and walk—this clear, icy-blue waterhole opens up like an inlet of the Caribbean Sea. Visitors can view the watery wonder, but should not dive in; water temperature never rises above 58 degrees. Local drownings have led some to speculate that the Jersey Devil pulls victims into this seemingly benign pit. The hole’s origin is a Pinelands mystery. Some say it was formed during the Ice Age. Others credit a meteor or the excavation of a nearby quarry.—JPC

Bridgeport Motor Speedway
83 Floodgate Road, Swedesboro (Gloucester County)
Touted as the fastest dirt track in the East, the speedway—located near the Delaware River, almost directly under the Betsy Ross Bridge—has been heaven for drivers of modified stock cars and minis since 1972. Most races are Saturday nights from late spring to early fall. It’s not quite Daytona, but the noise level and speed are exhilarating. 856-467-4407.—RS

A wolf at the Lakota Wolf Preserve.

A wolf at the Lakota Wolf Preserve. Photo by Roman Golubenko.

Lakota Wolf Preserve

89 Mount Pleasant Road, Columbia (Warren County)
This 10-acre home to nearly 20 wolves plus a tangle of bobcats and foxes is tucked deep in the Kittatinny Mountains. Wildlife lovers and nature photographers can take a wolf-watch tour any day of the week except Monday (no petting!). While British Columbian, timber and Arctic wolves howl and prowl, tourists get an education in the social structure of wolf packs, the animals’ eating habits and more. 877-733-9653.—TLG

Maurice River Bridge Trail
County Road 670 and Maurice River Causeway Road, Mauricetown (Cumberland County)
Bald eagles were almost extinct in southern New Jersey in the 20th century, but they started nesting along the Maurice River about a decade ago. As many as 20 eagles reside here, mostly in winter and spring, and birders can see them along the 5.2-mile hiking trail at the Maurice River Bluffs. Early in the year, kayakers and canoers depart from the boat slip to catch sight of eagles. Ospreys and purple martins are an attraction in summer and early fall. 732-539-1693.—RS

Merrill Creek Reservoir
34 Merrill Creek Road, Harmony Township (Warren County)  
The 2,600-acre nature preserve is a migratory stop for 200-plus bird species annually. Abundant wildflowers, 11 miles of hiking trails, fishing and kayaking—including guided moonlight trips —beckon in warmer months. Along with the visitors’ center displays, a pair of bald eagles that have been nesting here for 18 years thrill all ages. 973-334-3130.—PF

Tripod Rock in Montville.

Tripod Rock in Montville. Photo by Steven Schlager

Tripod Rock

Mars Court & Boonton Avenue, Montville (Morris County)  
Tank-sized Tripod Rock, precariously perched atop three smaller boulders, appears to defy gravity. Part of Pyramid Mountain’s blue trail, this natural wonder was formed by a receding glacier 18,000 years ago. The three-mile round-trip hike includes one slightly difficult rocky ascent/descent, several streams, lookout points and a mountain-laurel glade. 973-334-3130.—PF

Howling Woods Farm
1371 W. Veteran’s Highway, Jackson (Ocean County)
This 12-acre wolf dog rescue farm lets you inside the pens to pet the resident animals—dogs with pure wolf in their recent genetic past. Rescued from kill shelters or given up by owners, the animals are trained on the farm to interact with the public and even pose for pictures. Some are available for adoption. Tour guides offer insight into the habits and value of the much-maligned wolf. 732-551-4556.—JPC

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