Hike 14: Sourland Ecosystem Preserve

I’ve hiked the Sourland Mountain Preserve countless times over the last few years, but just recently discovered that there is more to the Sourlands than I ever realized. The Mountain Preserve is just one of several trail systems that this unique ecosystem of forest and wetland has to offer. For hike fourteen, I explored the Sourland Ecosystem Preserve trail system.Sourland-Ecosystem-Preserve-Track_001Hike 14 stats:
Date: April 10, 2016
Weather: 40°F, clear
Trails Hiked: Northern Stony Brook Yellow Loop > Stony Brook Connector Trail (out and back) > Picnic Rock Trail > Double Crossing Trail > Picnic Rock Trail > Northern Stony Brook Orange Loop
Distance:  4.14 miles
Time: 2.02
Total Ascent: 384′
Highest Elevation: 525′
Highlights: Stony Brook, regrowth area
Park Map: Sourland Ecosystem Preserve trail map at NJhiking.com

DCIM117GOPROI parked at the trail head on Mountain Road (map) and started hiking in a south west direction along the Northern Stony Brook Loop (yellow marks). The boards you see in the picture above are often put in place to help preserve the wetland ecosystem – I hiked along  similar trails while in Alaska a few years ago and was told that the boards help to minimize the impact on the land; so please always stay on the trails.DCIM117GOPROSimilar to Fiddler’s Creek (hike 13), the Sourland Ecosystem Preserve is in process of restoring sections of the land to its natural state – controlling the deer population and reinstating native plants being a big part of that effort.DCIM117GOPROShortly after passing the restoration area I decided to take the orange marked trail down to the Stony Brook. Not only are the preserve’s trails extremely well marked, but they also have “you are here” signs at nearly every trail intersection; making it extremely easy to navigate.DCIM117GOPROI then retraced my steps back to the yellow trail and soon started along the Picnic Rock Trail. The green markers take you down to and across Mountain Church Road where the the path becomes the Double Crossing Trail – which crosses Stony Brook two times before heading back across the road and returning to its previous name; the Picnic Rock Trail.Stony BrookStony BrookSourland Ecosystem PreserveSourland Ecosystem PreserveDCIM117GOPROThe complete hike doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain, and is a pretty easy four miles with a lot of great things to see!Sourland Ecosystem PreserveSourland Ecosystem PreserveSourland Ecosystem PreserveSourland Ecosystem PreserveSourland Ecosystem PreserveA few days after completing the hike, the Sourland Conservancy shared a picture of Skunk Cabbage on their Facebook page – finally helping me identify the lettuce looking plant above. You can learn more about the Ecosystem and the Sourland region at Sourland.org.

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