Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sourlands Ecosystem Preserve & Sourlands Mountain Nature Preserve, NJ

Sourlands Ecosystem Preserve - D&R Greenway Land Trust
Sourland Mountain Nature Preserve - Hunterdon County Park System

GPS Coordinates 40.41048, -74.77716
Parking for about 3 cars off of Featherbed Lane.

There are several versions of trail maps available, none of which show this hike in its entirety.
Sourland Mountain Preserve Trail Map - Hunterdon County
Sourlands Ecosystem Preserve - D&R Greenway Land Trust
Sourland Mountain Preserve & Sourlands Ecosystem Preserve - Hunterdon County

This map does show all of the trails but no trail colors and not all of the distances.
Tri-Preserves Trail Map - Sourland Conservancy

HIKE DISTANCE:  8.5 miles

The orange trail begins directly opposite the parking lot entrance on the other side of Featherbed Lane.
It's used heavily by deer according to the prints in the mud, but no other human prints.
In fact, I found this entire preserve to be pretty unused. So while the rest of the world is over at the very popular Sourland Mountain Preserve in Somerset County, this is the place to be if you want solitude.
The orange trail crosses Route 607.
A huge shagbark hickory
Eastern Towhee
At about 1.2 miles, right on green.  Each intersection has a "you are here" map.
After a short distance on green ...
... rock hop over to the other side of the creek.
Or not.
Crossing Mountain Church Road at about 1.4 miles.
It's very clear where to reenter on the other side of Mountain Church Road.
At 1.7 miles turn right on yellow.  Now heading over to the Sourland Mountain Nature Preserve, will continue on green which is to the left, after returning.  Knock about 3.3 miles off the hike by turning left on green instead.
At 2 miles, turn right on Route 607 and walk a short distance to ...
... Sourland Mountain Nature Preserve on the left.
This starts as a paved road section which is the road to private homes, then becomes gravel straight ahead which is the drive to the preserve parking lot.
Straight through the parking lot the trail begins.
About half of this preserve (all of the unmarked portion) is a manicured gravel trail.
And we know just how boring somebody finds that, lags behind terribly and has to be waited on. 
Pass the yellow trail on the right at 2.5 (our return route) and 2.7 miles.
Blue on the left at 2.9 miles - worth a short out and back to see the boulder field.
Boulders the size of VW Beetles everywhere.
Head back and at 3 miles continue left on the gravel path, which will start to narrow.
At 3.5 miles the gravel path ends, turn right on white.  From this point, it is a quarter of a mile as the crow flies to the Lindbergh Estate, the site of the famous baby kidnapping/murder in the 1930's.
Somebody is very happy to be on a dirt footpath again and has picked up her speed considerably.
At 4.3 miles, left on yellow.
There is a rock hop across the creek...
... well, for humans.
At 4.4 miles yellow ends, turn left on the gravel path.
She really should be happy to have an easy stretch.  I know I was.
At 4.7 miles, cross back through the parking lot.  We passed these people and their dog, the only others we saw the entire hike.  What a cute tire cover!
Retracing the short road walk on Route 607...
... back to the yellow trail in the Sourlands Ecosystem Preserve at about 4.8 miles.
While retracing we had to hurdle a fairly large blow down and those can sometimes be challenging for Shawnee.  She always goes to the lowest point and I help her over with the handle on her harness.  But in this case, on the other side of the lowest point, there was a broken branch sticking up (marked by my trekking poles) that she could have impaled herself on so I needed her to go over at a higher point.  A 65-pound dog becomes 665 pounds when they work against you.  Trust me.  

She always looks so proud of herself having conquered a particularly challenging part.
At 5 miles, back at that intersection with green; continue right on green.
A little hand rail assistance crossing a stagnant creek.  It came in handy because I had to hold on go keep Shawnee on the rock hop (or that was the plan) since I did not want her going into that disgustingly stagnant water.  It was mostly successful.
At 5.5 miles, green veers left and is joined by other trails.
First orange joins in.
Then at 5.8 miles yellow joins in.
At 6.2 miles, at a large bird poster, keep left on green.
Based on the many different bird songs heard on this hike, these birds were most definitely there but were very elusive.
At 6.4 miles turn left on Mountain Church Road for a short distance.
The green trail will continue on the right.
A very challenging (for Shawnee) rock hop.  It was steep going down, not possible to go through the water between the rocks, she slid off of a rock at one point and it was difficult to get her out of her predicament but we finally made it and will live to hike another day.
At about 7.3 miles, right on yellow.
Finally, after about 20 tries, I got a gray catbird.
Half of a bridge over a creek.
The yellow trail follows a meadow before it ends at ...
... a parking lot on Featherbed Road at about 7.8 miles.
It's on this road walk portion that I started seeing those elusive birds.  A Great Blue Heron flying over.
American Goldfinch
Artsy bird.
Not only bored with the road walk but tired.  At 15 years 3 months old, with all of the challenges on today's hike, she did great.
At the end of Featherbed Lane, our car up ahead in the lot.
Back at the car at 8.5 miles.
That gray catbird is just taunting me now.

[  0.0]  Take the orange trail opposite parking lot entrance
[  1.2]  Right on green
[  1.4]  Cross Mountain Church Road
[  1.7]  Right on yellow
[  2.0]  Right on Route 607 for a short distance then left into preserve
[  2.5]  Straight when yellow starts on right
[  2.7]  Straight when other side of yellow starts on right
[  2.9]  Left on blue to top of hill in boulder field; retrace
[  3.0]  Left on gravel path
[  3.5]  Right on white when gravel path ends
[  4.3]  Left on yellow
[  4.4]  Left on gravel path through parking lot, right on Route 607
[  4.8]  Left on yellow into preserve
[  5.0]  Right on green
[  5.5]  Left on green/orange
[  5.8]  Orange ends, yellow joins green
[  6.2]  Left on green at bird sign
[  6.4]  Left on Mountain Church Road short distance then right on green
[  7.3]  Right on yellow
[  7.8]  Left on Featherbed Lane
[  8.5]  Back at parking lot


  1. God Bless you and Shawnee for helping her over that log. I give you both a lot of credit for going on these challenging long hikes with her being 15 yrs. and 3 months! Wow! My Yellow Lab had to be put down at 15 yrs. 4 mos and could not get up at all for the last weekend of her life. I hope Shawnee keeps going strong. You got some good pictures of birds too. Thanks for sharing. Joanne from New Jersey

    1. Thanks, Joanne. I try to be very careful about the hikes I choose for her but I have to always expect the unexpected which, when hiking, is a given. Fortunately I have been able to get her through hairy situations unscathed and she just keeps plugging along. Without her harness she would be finished. Shawnee's two sisters were both put down for the same reason as yours, not being able to get up at all. They were 14 and 15-16ish so I know we are on borrowed time at this point but for as long as she can do it, hopefully another 15 years :), we continue on.


  2. I was surprised to learn that Shawnee was fifteen. Your hiking has surely helped keep her healthy and happy. May you have many more years together.

    1. Thanks, Bill! Never had a dog hike at this age before and it can be quite challenging at times since her mobility is not what it used to be. But that's fine, as long as what I am doing to keep her going keeps working and she still insists on going!

  3. Excellent pix as always! Glad the birds finally made an appearance for you. I know birds don't tend to "pose" often, but the cardinals seem especially hard to get for a still...they always seem to be moving! Also enjoyed the short video of Shawnee -- she just wasn't going over that downed tree unless you did *all* the work; although, I'm sure she enjoyed reaping the rewards of the rest of the hike after getting past the hurdle.

    A question I have: Is this another section of Sourland Mountain Preserve? I hiked at SMP last year, but it had a 5-mile "square" loop, with two other shorter loops within it, along with a red trail (Big Brook, I think?). But I didn't recognize any of the trails you were on...makes me believe there is more than one area of the preserve!

    Anyway, I look forward to your next adventure, and seeing Shawnee forge on!


    1. Thanks, Jim! Yes, the whole Sourland Mountain Preserve thing is very confusing. I believe you are referring to Sourland Mountain Preserve, a Somerset County park. We hiked in Sourland Mountain Nature Preserve, a Hunterdon County park, and Sourland Ecosystem Preserve, D&R Greenway Land Trust, which, I believe, is actually a bunch of smaller preserves linked together. Depends on which map you look at. So all are Sourland Mountain but different preserves with VERY similar names.