Nestled within the more urban and suburban communities in Northern New Jersey, you can escape back to nature at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The name says it all – this place is the perfect opportunity to get up close to a variety of different wildlife that call this protected land home. Commonly seen animals include fox, deer, muskrat, turtles, fish, and frogs. There are also more than 244 species of birds that feed and nest within the wildlife refuge, making the park popular among bird enthusiasts.
As for the trails, there a several separate trails (totaling around 9 miles) in the park that do not interconnect to each other, so having a car or bicycle may be required if you plan on doing multiple trails. Accessing a trail map online or picking up a copy upon your arrival will certainly help you determine your route. The trails themselves wind through both woodlands and wetlands, so remember to bring proper footwear.
The best starting pointing would be in the center of the park, at the Wildlife Observation Center. From here you’ll find the only boardwalk paths in the park, which are also handicap-accessible. The roughly 2 miles of trails at this location will take you to three different bird blinds, giving you a unique perspective into this unique environment.
The other two groups of non-looping trails can be accessed at either end of their respective trails, with additional parking at each trailhead location. These sets of trails do not have any boardwalks so they are often muddy, but offer a nice leisurely hike with an opportunity to see many of the park’s native wildlife.
THE RAPTOR TRUST
One of the coolest aspects of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is the Raptor Trust, found on White Bridge Rd within the park. This nonprofit is one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States, and allows you to get up close to a variety of birds of prey. They are open seven days a week, and it’s free to visit (although a small donation is encouraged since the Raptor Trust is operated solely by private contributions.)
For operating hours and more information, visit their website.
- Hiking Boots (preferably waterproof)
- $2 Suggested Donation per visitor for The Raptor Trust