Friday, December 23, 2016

Union Transportation Trail, NJ

Union Transportation Trail - Monmouth County Parks

GPS Coordinates 40.20617, -74.53661
Sharon Station Road Parking Lot

Crosswicks Park and UTT Brochure - Monmouth County Parks
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HIKE DISTANCE:  7.7 miles (3.85 miles each way)

Heading south from the parking lot.
It feels like walking in a power cut.
Markers every half mile.
Although new, the trail is already pretty beaten up by horse traffic.
The bridges are all quite nice.
The trail does sometimes go through countryside...
... but more often it's through loud, littered industrial areas.
Road crossings with an option to push a button for caution lights for traffic but we were able to cross without using that.
Going under I-195.
Along with all of the horse traffic comes lots of horse poop.
The trail passes by this area that has these monster lifts that are LOUD when in use.
Oh but look ....
... a balloon for the collection! 
Towards the end of this section things quiet down and become a little more scenic although there is almost constant road noise from Route 539 that the trail runs parallel to.
I was hoping this might be a bobcat...
... but no, it's a cat cat.
Lahaway Creek
The trail veers right in a bypass.
This was actually the best part of the trail.
A great blue heron taking off from the pond.
Where the bypass turns left ...
... to follow along Route 539, we turned back.
Sometimes it feels like walking through a dump. 
Mostly not scenic at all contrary to what I had read about it.
Hunters - hence the orange flag on Shawnee's wheels.
After dodging (sometimes unsuccessfully on both our parts) now melted horse poop on the way back, the very last stretch, which was not bad in the beginning, now had that white pickup on the left, apparently without a muffler, idling the entire time.
Heading north, the trail will go into Assunpink WMA, which might be nicer than heading south but don't think I'll be back to find out.  It's a shame because I can imagine construction of this trail cost a lot of money and it was done nicely but I had to ask myself "Why?" the entire time.


  1. The whole rails to trails concept sounds great, but the problem is that they are often built on abandoned spur lines that served industrial/commercial areas. While the rails may be replaced with a nice trail, the surrounding landscape and land use remains the same. Another example of this is the Middlesex Greenway rail to trail in Middlesex County, NJ. It runs for about 3.5 miles in a topographic depression (with a swale often times filled with stagnant water alongside) behind mostly industrial and commercial properties and over and under major highways. I hiked it a couple of times to check it out and thought it was really unpleasant and potentially dangerous given that its below surrounding grade and runs through some pretty desolate areas. (The trail in this post actually looks great compared to the Middlesex Greenway.) I was, and still am, left with the question of why they spent so much money on this? The one positive thing is that its not an equestrian trail. A question I ask myself a lot is that if you are expected to clean up after your dog on a trail, why do equestrians get a pass?

    1. There are some really nice, rural rail trails like the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail and that is what I was hoping for with this one but I guess you never know until you check it out.

    2. I think dog poop is considered a public health concern because dogs are carnivores and can harbor parasites, whereas horses are herbivores and their poop is basically grass (at least once it dries). That said, it does seem that equestrians are given some special privileges we lowly hikers don't get.


  2. Hi Daniela -- interesting hike/walk on the UTT. I have ridden my bike on it a number of times (most recently, last summer), but this is one of those trails one has to keep visiting periodically to explore new sections. For example, the section paralleling Route 539 was not there last year; I had to actually ride along Route 539 itself, then hang a right when I got to Route 526, then left back onto the section between Route 526 & Herbert Road, where the trail ended. Now, I see that the next section is near completion (albeit with the "Trail Closed" sign beyond Herbert Road, but I'm sure by next summer...)

    Anyway, I didn't run into any horse poop, but with the nearby farms, I tend to believe I got pretty lucky! But I can see where you're coming from with the "false advertising" you got about the trail being rural, and you saw mostly industrial areas. You also said you probably wouldn't return, but if you change your mind -- the 4-mile section south of where you ended is probably a little nicer (in my opinion). I'm glad you did get out though, because now I know that (as I said before), the connector from Davis Station Road to Route 526 is complete!

    Funny thing about the white truck idling parents' former neighbor (in PA) runs a masonry business out of his home, and all this guy seemed to do was leave his white truck(s) idling (loudly) _all_ _day_ _long_. Gotta wonder if this was one of his trucks that you saw! LOL!!

    Anyway -- there's two other rail trails in Monmouth County that you may or may not have seen, but would probably be a little nicer than UTT: Henry Hudson and Edgar Felix (Western terminus begins in Allaire State Park.) With Edgar Felix, you & Shawnee could do a partial walk on there, and then include some of Allaire State Park itself.

    Also, the Barnegat Branch Trail between Barnegat and Waretown is pretty nice, as well as sections in Lacey Township.

    Well, Happy Holidays to you & Shawnee, and as always, I'm looking forward to your next hike!

    -- Jim

    1. I'd also recommend the Multi-Use Path at Sandy Hook, although it's paved and I've read that Shawnee doesn't like paved trails.

      P.S. I looked for a photo of the MUP and up came one of Shawnee at Sandy Hook. LOL


    2. Thanks, Jim and Dave! But no, paved trails are bad for us mostly because the pavement will eat up Shawnee's boots when she knuckles with that bad leg. They hold up fine on gravel, though. Gosh, Dave, that was a LONG time ago that we were at Sandy Hook! And Jim, tell me it is not so, MORE insanely loud idling white pickups? Ugh. Happy Holidays to both of you!


  3. The southern section actually is in fact nicer than the section you hiked. What I've done is two out & backs (one north and one south) from the parking lot on Jonathan Holmes Road.

    BTW, there's a nice Rail Trail in nearby PA called the Ironton Rail Trail. It's unique in that you can do a loop, between 5 and 8 miles depending on your route (there's a spur).

    Thanks for the blogs all year, I really enjoy them.

    1. I was wondering if the southern part would be better. OK, maybe someday... And yes, I do have the Ironton Rail Trail on my to do list for a day when I have time to go a little farther away. Thanks!


  4. I'm surprised you heard nice things about this trail. Other than being a connector for nicer parks (Clayton and Assunpink are both nice) it really is a waste of time and money.