Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rancocas Nature Center and Rancocas State Park, NJ

Rancocas Nature Center
Rancocas State Park - New Jersey State Parks
The way I understood it when researching this park is that the Rancocas Nature Center (no dogs allowed) is north of Rancocas Creek and Rancocas State Park (dogs allowed) is south of Rancocas Creek.  This is true but where Rancacos Nature Center only has a couple of miles of trails, there are also state park trails on the northern side of Rancocas Creek which allow for a much longer hike.  These trails are not shown on the state park map but were on a map by the bridge, picture below.

GPS Coordinates 40.003201, -74.821251

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Parking at Rancocas Nature Center

Rancocas Nature Center Trail Map
This map was at the bridge crossing the creek into the part of Rancocas State Park that is north of Rancocas Creek.  The state park trails are to the left of the bridge and the nature center trails are to the right of the bridge.

Rancocas Nature Center, NJ at EveryTrail


Where we had been heading south to hike, recent snow storms to the south have made the terrain too treacherous for Shawnee (not to mention single digit temps) so we haven't hiked in a couple of weeks.  Today I had to be in Mt. Laurel in the morning so I decided to swing by Rancocas Nature Center for a short no dogs allowed hike before heading home.  Snow had partially melted and refrozen and it made for tough going even with microspikes.  Sometimes I was walking on top of frozen snow, other times crashing through into inches of icy snow or twisting my ankles in frozen footprints if I was not paying attention to where I was stepping.  I'll go back with Shawnee to do the southern part where dogs are allowed.  If the snow and ice ever melt.
Starting on the blue trail (no blazes here) between the kiosk and the barn.  It was very rough going on these ankle-breaking frozen footprints.
A short distance in, a left on red where no man had gone before. Relatively smooth sailing here on top of frozen snow with microspikes.
When there were prints they were only small wildlife prints.
The trail skirts the edge of the conifer plantation.
Conifer Plantation
A left on blue continues through the conifer plantation to ...
... a left on orange.
Again, no footprints on orange and it was a very pretty trail through holly trees.
Rancocas Creek
It was terribly loud walking on frozen snow and ice so birds generally did not hang around when they could hear me coming from a mile away.
It was in the low 20's but it was a beautiful, clear day with the moon still visible in the afternoon.
Orange ends after a stretch along the creek - heading back.
Left on blue but not quite as many frozen footprints here so it was easy to avoid them.
The bridge over a small side creek to the state park trails.  The map above is at the other side of this bridge.
The yellow-blazed trail into the state park.
Animal tracks perfectly following the yellow trail.
Tufted Titmouse
Rancocas Creek from the yellow trail.
Back to the side creek then the bridge.
Instead of crossing the bridge I went a short distance on the brown trail along the side creek until it met up with white.  This would have made another nice loop but was running short on time so had to turn around back to the bridge.
After crossing the bridge, turned left on yellow.  I believe this part is still state park - it is obvious when you are back on the Nature Center part because the blazes on the trees end and you have to follow the numbered posts that have yellow on them.
Yellow ends at the Nature Center back at the parking lot.


  1. Daniela, you are trooper hiking under these conditions and in the frigid weather. Kudos to you! Can't wait for spring right? Thanks for sharing. Joanne

    1. It gets warm real fast when you are dressed in the right layers and keep moving. I was actually getting pretty warm in the sun. And with microspikes you can run on ice and not slide. It's kind of cool.


  2. great photos from that hike! looks like there, was some really good light that day!


    1. Thanks, Brian. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and that sure does make a difference.


  3. Hi Daniela -- I have to agree with Joanne...you are quite the trooper hiking in the snow & ice; although, perhaps snow is a little better than the muddy/mucky/wet trails! :)

    Anyway, I'm glad to see that Rancocas Nature Center is still there; I thought I read (some years back) that the RNC would be closing down due to funding issues. (Perhaps it did, but the trails are at least still intact.) I was there only once, back in October 2007. I think the trail system has been expanded since then; I remember only the Blue, Red, Orange, and a _very_ short Yellow trail (about 0.1 miles). Not sure I remember seeing a Brown trail, and a connector to Rancocas State Park (which I visited in July 2013.) I only did the Blue and Orange trails at RSP, and I did see a White trail...is this the same one that connects with RNC?

    As always, your pix are great -- excellent "wintry" scenes...and at least you did get a couple bird shots (despite having to be "loud" while walking!) And even though Shawnee was absent, I hope she didn't "bust" you this time (like one of the other times you snuck out hiking while she was recovering...that look on her face had said it _all_!)

    Well, as always -- happy hiking!


    1. Jim,

      Sounds like you were south of Rancocas Creek at this part of the park: https://southjerseytrails.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/rancocasstateparkmap.jpg. I don't believe there is any connection to the part north of Rancocas Creek where I was, would have to cross the creek and there does not seem to be a bridge. I had not found any maps showing the connection to that part of the state park on the northern side until I stumbled across that map at the bridge but each side of the creek seems to be a completely separate part.

      I had left in jeans and changed into hiking pants right before hiking but did not bother to change back into jeans before heading home home. When I walked in she noticed the hiking pants right away but had been home alone since early morning and had to go out so she ran right outside and I changed before letting her back in. I think by the time she came back in she forgot about it. Whew.