Melvin and Florence Levin Nature Conservancy – Mt. Laurel, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – a little over 2 miles of trails (we did 2 1/4 miles with some backtrack and only missed one cut-through trail) total
Type – Loop with a cut-through and a spur
Difficulty: 1 of 10
Total score: 5 of 10
Website – None
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – woods and swamp with a bit of grassland
Surface – some parts are boardwalk, some parts crushed stone dust, and some parts grass and dirt (or in our case, mud. Thanks rain)
Trailheads – 39°56’51.50″N, 74°52’40.67″W – this is the main one off of the parking lot, although there are others along Hainsport-Mt Laurel Road, and along Hartford Road (this is the best spot to park)
Directions – 1215 Hainsport-Mt Laurel Road, Mt Laurel, NJ (rough address from Google Earth). Turn here onto the driveway for the Cistercian Monastery. The parking lot will appear within a few moments on the right side.
Parking – Decent sized lot.
Dog friendly? As far as I know, yes. No signs prohibiting it.
Stroller friendly? Should work with many strollers.
Standouts – Nice variety of plant life, nice wide trails
Markings – None, but can’t mistake the trail for anything else, as its mostly paved in crushed stone dust
Map – I missed a cut-thru trail on the big loop, but otherwise I got everything.
So I’d seen pictures of this one on the Jersey pine barrens Facebook group several times, but couldn’t quite figure out where it was. With a helpful hint from a few people (across from Hartford School, but the parking is around the corner), I managed to figure it out on Google Earth. So the next day while The Wife was at work, The Pres, Tree Rider, and I set off to explore this one.
We arrived after a rainstorm, and when we set off down the trailhead off the parking lot, we hit puddles pretty quickly. This turned out to be the only wet section of trail though. We followed the curve around until it met with a three way intersection. We turned left.
After turning left, we ended up on the outer loop paralleling Hainsport-Mt. Laurel Road. Of course, we didn’t know this was a loop at time, but thanks our willingness to be South Jersey Hiking Trail Lab Rats, we all know now! The trail was a straight shot until it neared the intersection of Hainsport-Mt. Laurel Road and Hartford Road. Here, part of the trail went right out to the intersection (this is where the sign for the preserve is). The main part of the trail curved to the left to parallel Hartford Road.
After the trail curves around, it follow quite a while on this long side of the loop. The trail splits to the right out to Hartford Road at least twice (the first time to go to the crossing area to the school). At one point, a trail goes left as well. The is a diagonal cut through of the big loop.
After the trail intersection, the trail does a big loop, crossing several wet areas on boardwalks. Eventually, it emerges into a meadow area along the back stretch. The cut thru trail rejoins toward the end of that meadow area, before turning sharply to the right and crossing the driveway to the monastery for the first time.
After crossing the road, the trail makes a sharp left to finish up the last side of the loop. You’ll quickly pass the parking lot (but on the opposite side of the road) and realize that you didn’t have to hike through those puddles to get on the loop. You’ll finish at a T-intersection.
So yes, we opted for right at the t-intersection. What this stretch is is a straight out-and-back spur of the trail. There will be a few places you can turn left to go out to Hainsport-Mt. Laurel Road, but we went straight, straight, straight until suddenly, the trail dead ended. It’s not subtle. There is even a sign there.
When you hit a dead end, the only thing to do is turn around…
… and head back. We went straight back down the trail, recrossed the driveway for the monastery, and soon found ourselves back at the intersection of the grassy road that we first came to.
We turned left, Tree Rider went immediately back into the puddled (*sigh*) and we arrived back at the parking lot and the car.
Overall recommendation: This isn’t a trail worth driving a great distance for, but its a nice little trail if you are nearly and want to put a few miles in. There were a good amount of birds, the boardwalks are really nice, and we only managed to get one tick (and with the tick season how it is this year, this is an accomplishment).