Cloverdale Farm County Park – Barnegat Township, Ocean County, NJ
Distance – 1.5 miles of blazed trail
Type – Loop
Difficulty: 2 of 10
Total score: 8 of 10
Website – Ocean County Parks and Recreation
Open – 7 AM to dusk every day (Nature Center open on Fridays, Saturday, & Sundays only)
Terrain – bog and pines
Surface – mostly dirt
Trailheads – 39°45’31.67″N, 74°16’42.83″W (Next to bathrooms and parking lot) OR 39°45’24.04″N, 74°16’43.59″W (next to Nature Center, which is the official starting point).
Directions – 34 Cloverdale Road, Barnegat, NJ 08005
Parking – small lot by the bathrooms (always open) and a few parking spots by the nature center (the gate is closer sometimes)
From parking to the Nature Center:
To the left of the garage is the pathway –
Then bear slightly left and follow the sign. This will take you right to the nature center.
Dog friendly? Leashed dogs
Stroller friendly? Yes
Facilities?: Yes, full bathrooms at the nature center and by the parking lot.
Standouts – the cranberry bogs
Markings – Red blazes
Map – Official map can be found here
So we loved the Ocean County Parks so much in 2016 (they made 3 of the Top 4 spots on our 2016- Year in Review – 10 Favorite Trails list) that I decided that our first new trail of 2016 should be another Ocean County one. So with my wife at work, The Pres, Tree Rider, and I hopped in the car and drove an hour to reach Cloverdale Farm County Park in Barnegat Township, Ocean County. We chose wisely.
This park was a relatively recent acquisition (2004), but had a long delayed official opening until 2015. Going back, this had been a cranberry farm for decades, and this park will be used as a demonstration farm for cranberry methods, as well as a spot for passive recreation, like say, hiking!
Anyway, we parked in the small parking area near the bathrooms, loaded up, and found our way down the connector trail to the Nature Center. It wasn’t supposed to open until 10 AM, but there were already folks inside at 9:40, so we ducked in and got a map.
So 1.4 mile nature trail, here we come. The hike will start directly next to the visitor’s center, between the old buildings and the bogs. Follow the trail markers past the old buildings, which are explained on your handy-dandy map.
After the buildings, the trail will hook to the right and follow the edge of the bogs for a good ways. This is a great stretch to admire the bogs and look for birds. You’ll know you are at the end when continuing straight would run you into a fence.
Before turning left to follow the trail though, take a short walk around to the right. You’ll pass the few remains of the old sawmill, then arrive a bird blind.
Back on the trail, you’ll head across the dike that separates two of the bogs. With water on each side of the trail, keep your eyes open for birds in the water! Once across the dike, you’ll run into a metal fence, which is where you will turn left and stick near the water.
On the other side, you’ll continue along the water (take the left fork at the bench) and follow along the water’s edge for about a quarter mile, passing yet another dike along the way and crossing over an old dirt road (stay straight).
The trail doesn’t leave the water for long, but simply arches around and heads left, down the east side of the bogs. It will follow the water for about a third of a mile here, and will give you some lovely views of the bogs and the visitor’s center.
Eventually the trail edges to the right enough for the trees to hide the view of the water. It will continue through the woods for a very short time before make a sharp left. Then it will cross between the swamps and the bogs and turn left onto the entrance road that you drove down to get into the park.
You’ll follow the road across the bridge, then the trail will leave the road to the right and pass behind the bathroom near to where we parked. If I had to do it again, I’d have picked up the trail here so we’d be done now, but I didn’t, so onward we hike.
After the bathrooms, the trail will turn every so slightly left and pass behind some trees. It will then follow between the trees and a housing development before making a sharp left turn and heading pretty much perpendicular, away from the houses.
One more left will put you on a straight shot for the visitors center. Just continue down the trail, past the sphagnum moss shed, and you’ll be right at the visitors center.
The last stop (#17) on the trail is the old Christmas Tree farm portion of the property, featuring old trees that no one ever came to cut for the holidays.
And you’re done!
Overall recommendation: This trail is short (just 1.4 miles, although we ended up doing 2.2 with the walk to and from the visitors center and the car), but well worth the effort. The estimated time to hike it is 45 minutes, but we took over an hour, and for once it wasn’t my kids slowing us down, it was me with the picture taking. Wonderful spot!
Nearby: Wells Mills County Park and Lochiel County Park are both relatively close to this one.