With more than 124,000 acres spanning three counties, the Wharton State Forest is the largest single tract of land in New Jersey’s park system. It’s also one of the state’s most popular outdoor destinations, offering everything from hiking to swimming to off-roading. Plus, one of the more unique aspects of the park is its range of camping options. It’s one of the few places to go in the Garden State that allows primitive camping.
Best Time to Visit
According to the park’s website, Wharton State Forest is open year-round, but some activities are seasonal. Camping is available from April 1 through Oct. 31, and you can recreate on the water from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Things to Do in Wharton State Forest
Visitors say Wharton State Forest is a great destination for people who like to walk as the trails are well-marked and interesting. Plus, there are more than 50 miles of marked hiking trails. According to AllTrails, the best trailheads include:
- Batsto Lake Trail (4 miles)
- Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower (8.6 miles)
- Mullica River and Botona Trail Loop (13 miles)
- Harrisville Pond (4.1 miles)
- Tom’s Pond Trail (1.7 miles)
- Batona Trail: Batsto to Rt 563 (9.3 miles)
- Goshen Pond Camping Area (3.6 miles)
- Batona Trail: Rt 563 to Bass River (10.3 miles)
- Huckleberry Trail (8.4 miles)
- Mullica River Wilderness Camp Trail (15.1 miles)
Additionally, the 50-mile-long Batona Trail connects Wharton, Brendan T. Byrne, and Bass River State forests.
As long as you have a driver’s license and a street-legal vehicle that’s registered and insured, you can access more than 250 miles of sand roads. However, ATVs are not permitted in state parks. According to OnXMaps, the best trails for off-roading include:
- Tow Towers Loop (5.1 miles)
- Greentown Sale Road (0.7 miles)
- Egypt Road Wester Section to Tanner Falls (1.7 miles)
- River Road (3.7 miles)
- Lake Atsion to Lake Oswego (19.6 miles)
- Balish Road (2.1 miles)
- Montage Road (2 miles)
- Ore Mine Road (3.2 miles)
- T-743/T-727 (12.8 miles)
- Big Valley Road (2.1 miles)
Wharton State Forest has hundreds of miles of sand roads for mountain biking and according to TrailForks, the best trails include:
- Batsto Penn Branch Trail (Orange)
- Batsto Oak Hill Trail-Southern Half (White)
- Batsto Oak Hill Trail-Northern Half (White)
- Batsto Teaberry Trail (Red)
- Batsto Huckleberry Trail (Blue)
- Batsto Fire Tower Trail (Green)
With multiple bodies of water, Wharton State Forest is open to a wide range of water sports, including boating, canoeing, kayaking, and swimming. However, activities are limited to certain bodies of water.
- Mullica River allows boats with electric motors as well as trailer and car-top launches.
- Mullica, Batsto, Wading, and Oswego Rivers allow canoeing and kayaking.
- And swimming is allowed at Atsion Recreation Area when lifeguards are on duty.
Bird and Wildlife Watching
There are two nature areas: Batsto Natural Area and the Oswego River Natural Area. The Batsto is 9,449 acres, bordering Batsto and Mullica Rivers, and forest communities within the Pine Barrens. The Oswego is 1,927 acres of extensive white cedar and pitch pine forests bordering the Oswego River.
Wharton State Forest is home to various birds and wildlife, including hawks, river otters, foxes, deer, and much more. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection also said it’s home to 43 threatened or endangered animals such as the Pine Barrens tree frog, timber rattlesnake, and pine snake. Additionally, it’s filled with approximately 750 species of plants like wild orchids and rare plants like bog asphodel.
Where to Stay Near Wharton State Forest
Campsites and cabins are available at Wharton State Forest by reservation and they’re open from April 1 through Oct. 31. While you can reserve space 11 months in advance, the length of stay varies by site and location.
- Atsion Campsites consists of 50 tent and trailer sites. They feature fire rings, picnic tables, and potable water, flush toilets, and showers within walking distance.
- Godfrey Bridge consists of 34 tent and trailer sites, water, picnic tables, fire rings, and pit toilets.
- For an additional fee, pet-friendly campsites are available at the Atsion Family Campground, Godfrey Bridge, Goshen Pond, buttonwood Hill, Lower Forge, and Batona Camp.
- Primitive Campsites are available at Bodine Field, Hawkins Bridge, Batona, Mullica River, and Goshen Pond (and they all have hand pumps for water and pit toilets), but no water is available at the Buttonwood Hill and Lower Forge sites. Mullica River and Lower Forge can only be accessed by hiking, canoeing, or horseback.
- There are nine furnished cabins. Each one has a screened porch, fireplace, outdoor campfire rings, refrigerator, hot and cold running water, bathroom with toilet and shower, and single beds.
How to Get to Wharton State Forest
- Atsion Recreation Area, US-206, Shamong, NJ 08088
- Batsto Village Office, 31 Batsto Rd, Hammonton, NJ 08037
If you’ve enjoyed our guide to Wharton State Forest, check out our other travel articles.