Sunday, January 14, 2018

Cheesequake State Park, NJ - Yellow and Blue Short Loop

Cheesequake State Park - New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
This park charges an entrance fee between Memorial Day and Labor Day

GPS Coordinates 40.436661, -74.265326
The parking lot almost empty at noon - unheard of!  Not too many people braved the cold.
Cheesequake State Park Trail Map - NJ Department of Environmental Protection
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HIKE DISTANCE:  2.6 miles

This was the third weekend in a row of single-digit feel like temperatures but Brodie and I could take it no more so we bundled up and headed to the state park closest to us for a short hike. Plus I had been breaking in a new pair of winter hiking boots that are supposed to keep your toes warm. That is the one thing that drives me nuts hiking in this awful cold - frozen toes.
Starting at the trail head.
I always hand a right on yellow at the fork and return from the left.
If people were more responsible with their dogs this would not happen and I always see irresponsible people letting their dogs run amok.  So frustrating.
At the bottom of these steps ...
... I leeve the yellow trail and take an unmarked path around the perimeter of the lake.
A patch of snow that survived the 60 degree weather on Friday before the arctic cold front come back.
Northern Flicker
Cutting through along the beach over to ...
... the Crabbing Bridge.
It was darned cold out here in the open.
It was, literally, as cold as this looks.
Some more unmarked trail to the left after Crabbing Bridge.
This unmarked trail, pretty easy to follow, leads right into the blue trail where we turned left.
This was all knocked out from Hurricane Sandy and I could never continue on since the boardwalk was destroyed.  But it's been a few years since I was here and it's all fixed and passable now.
Sometimes Brodie is a lot like Shawnee - forget those steps if we can.
Merging in with red and green before the interpretive center.
Bird houses at the interpretive center.
A little bit of an unfrozen cascade.  How is that possible in this cold?
And the final picture, almost at the end, before the battery in the camera completely died.  This was a spur of the moment hike so nothing had been charged up.
As far as these new winter hiking boots - and I know you are all wondering because who likes frozen toes?  I could not believe how warm my feet stayed in these boots and they were comfortable, too.  They were a little bulky and I tripped on roots a few times so had to be conscious of that.

I ordered them from Cabela's since they were $99.88 and the rest of the world sells them for $149.99.  I am not a big fan of Merrell but I have to say, these boots are great.  No more frozen toes.  I had read in reviews to order a half size up to accommodate thicker winter socks, which I did and which was definitely the right thing to do. 


  1. Cheesequake is a nice hike. Believe there are other trails there also. We've also snowshoed there a couple of times. Missed an opportunity to do so again this year. Glad your tootsies were warm in your new boots. Does Brodie ever wear booties & how is he handling this frigid weather?


    1. I don't go to Cheesequake often at all, mostly because it is so crowded. I used to go more often in the winter before they started allowing hunting. I don't like putting boots on dogs unless absolutely necessary. Shawnee never needed them and only in the end it was to keep her from ripping up the paw she was dragging. Even with just the two boots, can't tell you how many times one went MIA and we'd be backtracking hunting for a bootie. Can you imagine with 4 of them on? Not unless I absolutely must!


  2. I have to say you and Brodie are quite brave to go out in this cold. Good for you both! It sure was a beautiful day!

    Your boots sound like a worthwhile purchase. I have even more of a problem with my hands and haven't found something that keeps them warm enough after a few minutes.

    1. I have the hands covered. They get so warm in these gloves that I have to bring lighter ones along to change into.

  3. Hi Daniela -- you and Brodie are real troupers, heading out in the colder weather! (I know it's January in NJ and all, but still -- great work, and Brodie is once again taking after Shawnee in being a trouper in the cold weather!)

    Been quite a while since I've been to Cheesequake myself (chiefly, because it's quite a haul for me from down the Atlantic City area!) Good Lord...I'm looking at my pictures; it's been since June 2010! Guess I'm _long_ overdue for a visit! Right off the bat, I noticed the mile markers indicated on the trail marker posts...I wonder if other NJ State Parks are doing that too? (I did notice a few at Parvin State Park down in Pittsgrove, but that was a while ago.)

    Anyway, as always, very nice shots, and once again, I like the way you find unmarked trails! I've never been there in the winter, either, so I can see how the water ( is much more visible through the trees. Also glad to see that Sandy-damaged areas were restored; I wonder how the boardwalk sections on the Green Trail were affected (even though they are probably restored by now if there had been any damage.)

    As much as I like dogs (and would definitely be thrilled to meet Brodie if luck is on my side someday), I _love_ that sign about reporting dogs discovered off their leash. Most owners that have an off-leash dog will apologize and tell me their dog is "friendly", and I have even pet one or two, but there was once one (at Parvin SP) that ran at me, and barked, and I wasn't sure if it was looking to bite, but fortunately, it didn't. The owners were sort of nonchalant about it. But I was sort of infuriated by it afterwards...more at the attitude of the owner(s). Hopefully other parks have followed suit in this warning!)

    Well -- excellent start to 2018; here's to a great 2018 "adventure series" for you and Brodie!!


    1. Jim,

      Cheesequake was a total disaster after Sandy but it looks like everything is back the way it was now.

      Oh yes, the "He's friendly" thing. Grrrrr. Someone once yelled that as their dog was barrelling down on me with teeth bared and growling. Can't tell you how many times I had to place myself between Shawnee and a loose out of control dog so she would not get jumped on and knocked down. Then there is my granddog, Sebastian, who is reactive to other dogs. Always yelling at people to get their dogs as my son is trying to hold his snarling, lunging dog back and they yell that their dog is friendly. Really?

      Hopefully we are done with this unbearably cold weather so our adventures can get started. I usually miss a weekend or two a year but not 3 in a row!


  4. Sorry - editing issues on the phone...

    I live about 20 minutes from Cheesequake and it’s the destination that I keep in my back pocket for quick hikes where I can’t dedicate the whole day or hikes where I want to test out new gear without being miles into the woods. You can string together the Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow trails and get a decent 7 - 8 mile hike out of it. The trails aren’t particularly challenging but have varied terrain and ecosystems and are hiking/trail running only. The trail parking lot is small and the overflow used to be the park’s maintenance parking lot until they closed access to the lot last year. If the trail lot is full (or you don’t want to risk door dents from the tight spaces), park in the swimming beach lot and hike along the lake and pick up the Yellow trail as the entry into the trail system. They were replacing a bridge a couple of months ago and this blocked the route to the Yellow trail, but this should be done by now.

    Unleashed dogs on the trail are a pet peeve of mine. When a dog comes tearing down the trail with no owner in sight, there is no way to know whether its friendly or not. As much as I love dogs, if an unleashed dog is coming at me in a truly aggressive manner, I will use any and all means to prevent an attack or defend myself. This includes an air horn, bear spray, or a carbide-tipped trekking pole. If the dog is injured, its on the irresponsible owner - period. I get so tired of hearing “He’s very friendly, don’t worry.” I’ve had otherwise “friendly” dogs behave aggressively as a reaction to my trekking poles, backpack, an head net. Luckily, they were leashed. The point is one can’t always predict how one’s dog will react in every situation - a friendly dog is friendly only until it isn’t, so just follow the rules/law and keep the dog leashed.

    Cheesequake has had its share of problematic dog owners over the last couple of years which resulted in the sign in your photo. One issue was unleashed dogs which were problematic due to families with small children on the trails. The second issue was dog waste left on the trail. Even when the park supplied plastic waste bags, a lot of owners just bagged the dog waste and left it on the side of the trail. There were days when there were a couple of dozen little blue bags on the trail over a 5 - 7 mile stretch. 

I think these are common issues on relatively short, easy trails that are close to large population centers. The majority of these users are not hikers, but just folks out for a walk. - and that’s OK. They have the same right to be there as anyone else as long as they follow the rules. Unlike most hikers, they probably have no idea of LNT principles or haven’t developed a sense of stewardship for the trails. The majority do use the trails responsibly and follow the rules, but then there are the minority who don’t.

    There is also a unleashed dog and dog waste problem on the Appalachian Trail on the Pochuck Boardwalk (AKA Pochuck Dogwalk) in NJ. This is a short, completely flat section of AT that is surrounded by residential areas and is used as a park rather than a hiking trail. It has easy access and one doesn’t even need to walk on the dirt since it's a boardwalk. It's narrow and elevated, so you find yourself in close quarters with nowhere to go when you encounter a loose dog. (Many owners don’t even rein in their leashed dogs when passing). Many owners also don’t clean up after their dogs so you’re constantly on the lookout for dog droppings. (I’ll excuse the bear droppings that I’ve found up there…). 

    Thank you for being a responsible dog owner and hopefully serving as an example to other trail users with dogs.

    1. I didn't know the Pochuck Boardwalk had become that bad. It has been a several years since I was there. I always hike insanely early to avoid people altogether so when I hiked the boardwalk I had it all to myself in the morning and that was great. On the return route, however, it was out of control children on the boardwalk when it had become more crowded. It's sad that some people are so inconsiderate and irresponsible. It's because of them that some places don't allow dogs at all.

    2. It seems that Vernon Township and the locals have had their fill of the crowds on the Boardwalk. Starting last year, Vernon Township made most of the shoulder along 517 no parking zone - and they aggressively enforce this with lots of ticketing. There are probably now only 15 - 20 legal spaces along 517 now. In addition to the no parking areas on 517, the development adjacent to the trail is now fully resident permit parking only. (There used to be some legal spaces on Carol Drive.) I'm kind of curious to see what the crowds are like now that the parking has been restricted to such a degree.

    3. I think that will cut down a lot on the crowds. Most people won't park a distance away and walk there. I had parked on Rt. 565 where there are only 2 spots and was the only car there all day where 517 was packed with cars on both sides on my way back.

  5. Thanks for this hike. I've done a few hikes at Cheesequake myself, but I never realized that the unmarked trail at the bottom of the yellow trail stairs goes all the way around the lake. Good to know, that adds a little scenic mileage instead of just going to the left along the shore line.

    1. Yes, it's very scenic and I have never run into anyone else on that unmarked trail. There are a few posts stating it's foot traffic only and it's well-defined but I guess most people don't know about it.

  6. This weekend's weather looks warmer! Hope you are able to get out again!

    1. Yes! And my weekend is completely free so we are going both days!

  7. Do your new boots have a wide toebox? I'm desperately trying to find winter hiking boots. During the rest of the year I hike in trail runners. I bought a pair of Salomon waterproof winter boots a couple of years ago, but they squeeze my toes so much its painful. I also have Lowa Renegades (waterproof breathable/not for winter) - but they are soooo not waterproof. I went hiking/snowshoeing in them this weekend and they got soaked. I really need something with more rubber on the bottom - rather than leather. I see Sorel boots, but its hard to tell which ones would be appropriate for snowshoes / microspikes / hiking versus casual wear. Hoping to figure something out before next weekend!

    1. They feel plenty wide to me. I can't attest to how waterproof they are since everything was frozen solid when I wore them but the bottom is rubber instead of leather.

  8. Thanks! Ordered two pairs of boots online, including these. Really hope one of them works for me. I think when I find hiking shoes/boots I like, I need to order multiple pairs, so when they die I have a backup.

    1. Yes, because when you find ones you like they stop making them. My favorite hiking shoes ever were Vasque Screes. I bought up every pair I could find when they were discontinued, have gone through all of those and have yet to find something I like as much as those. Why oh why do they do this?

  9. Oh boy, out of luck. Both were Merrell's. Heel feels wide, toebox is too narrow. Maybe my feet are getting wider as I get older. I thought one pair might be okay, but after wearing them in the house for 15 minutes, my soles are tingling from being squeezed. Sunday is rainy, maybe I'll go to Campmor or REI. I haven't tried men's boots. Maybe they might be wider.