Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Meyersville, New Jersey 07933

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Venture into the only federally designated wilderness in the New York metropolitan area. Many hikes are particularly enjoyable in summer, since that is when the ideal combinations of blue skies, green woods, and golden sunshine present themselves. While there are several reasons to hike in other seasons of the year, including winter, the full splendor of nature reserves itself mostly for the warmest months of the year."

More Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Best Easy Day Hikes: Northeast New Jersey (Falcon Guides)
Paul E. DeCpste and Ronald J. Dupont Jr.
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"Visit the former 18,000-year-old glacial Lake Passaic, now called the Great Swamp. It doesn’t take long hiking this level loop to learn why it’s designated a National Natural Landmark. Within the 450-acre park’s natural lands, the route meanders through marshes, meadows, swamps, and woodlands, while hugging the Passaic River and series of ponds. This hike takes us through rich bottomland meadows, once part of a glacial lake. It was prime farmland—and responsible for the park’s name, indirectly. William Alexander, who lived here, was a Lord who died creating a democracy. He was born in 1725 to a wealthy family with a profitable provisioning business. He married Sarah Livingston in 1748; his brother-in-law William Livingston was a future governor. He had land interests in the East Jersey Board of Proprietors, and became one of the founders of King’s College in New York, now Columbia University."
Best Hikes with Children in New Jersey (The Mountaineers Books)
Arline Zatz
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"When English investors purchased 30,000 acres of land from the Delaware Indians in 1708 for a barrel of rum, four pistols, fifteen kettles, thirty pounds sterling, and other miscellaneous items, they probably went away laughing. But the Native Americans felt pretty good too, knowing that a good portion of the land sold was under water! Settlements quickly sprung up, and during the Revolutionary War, wood was collected from the upland areas for making wagon wheels. Through the years, additional acres have been added. More than 244 species of birds have been spotted in the refuge as well as a variety of mammals. While traversing the woodland and cattail marsh, imagine how this area was created 25,000 years ago when the Wisconsin Glacier stopped abruptly on its way south. As it melted, long ridges of sand and gravel were left behind, blocking the outlet of an ancient river basin. Eventually, a huge lake formed, although it was drained when the retreating glacier created a second outlet. What remained were marshes and swamp. Waterproof shoes or boots are advisable. Fall and winter are the best seasons to visit, when ground is firmer and insects are gone."

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Trip Reports

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The great swamp is one of my all-time favorite places and is a local treasure (and to think it almost became an airport). I have been here many times. Perfect place to bring younger children. This part of the great swamp is nestled between Lord Sterling Stables and the raptor refuge. Its a network of beautiful swamp trails, with overlook towers and some boardwalks. Most intersections have a map, so even amateur hikers can never get lost. Its quite muddy so bring boots. I have done it with a jogger stroller- I don't recommend trying it with a regular stroller.

I don't recommend any part of the great swamp in the summer as the mosquitoes can be be quite bothersome. Swamps are best visited in the fall (in my opinion). The great swamp seems to turn colors early (probably due to the soil composition and water) so don't wait too late into the fall. But the colors and hues are incredible. If you have never been to the G.S. this is a great place to start. It does have a visitor center but I have never been there. This is a spot where they do lots of guided activities (including getting maple syrup from the tree in the winter) often geared for kids. I have never actually done any of the guided things, so I can't rate them, except to say if you look at their calendar, they have a lot of things going on.

The actual hiking is easy. You go here for the incredible experience, not for hardcore hiking. When I get a chance I will review the other hikes in the G.S. as I have explored virtually every nook and cranny of the entire swamp and surrounding area.
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I believe the marker is referring to the Great Swamp Wildlife Observation Center trails within the refuge. It's a series of boardwalks that lead to several wildlife observation blinds and totals around 2 miles. The trails aren't listed in any books that I know of, though you can find a map here: . It's a nice, easy hike through the refuge, and wildlife is abundant. When we went, the swamp was all but dried up due to a periodic drought, however, I hear the trails are worthwhile when the swamp is more "swampy".

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
Elevation Gain
Easy to Moderate
Skill Level
1.5 hours
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Local Contacts
USGS Chatham; available at website
Local Maps

Trail Log