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As you walk along the Elephant Swamp Trail, it’s easy to see where it picked up the swamp part of its name. As for the rest, legend has it that in the late 1800s, an elephant got loose in the swamp when a traveling circus passed through Elk Township by railroad.
In 1878 the former Pennsylvania–Reading Railroad built the tracks as part of a route from Camden to Bridgeton. The tracks were removed a century later, and the Elephant Swamp Trail now stands in their place. To this day, the trail guide bids visitors to “listen closely for the footsteps of a wandering elephant.” The pathway is part of the Circuit Trails, an expansive regional trail network across nine counties, including Gloucester County, which will eventually encompass 800 miles of trails.
The 5.1-mile community trail is unpaved, consisting mostly of large stones and wood chips that make it too bumpy for an enjoyable road or hybrid bike trip, though mountain bikes fare better. The natural flora and fauna of the trail (sometimes called the Elephant Swamp Nature Trail) make it ideal for a leisurely walk. From the path’s northern endpoint, the western terminus of the Monroe Township Bike Path is only 3.4 miles northeast.
Starting at Elk Township Recreational Park, follow the wide, trail-like sidewalks through the park past baseball fields and a soccer complex, where the wooded area becomes heavier and the trail begins. The recreational complex falls behind as greenery flanks you on both sides. Civilization is never too far, with the parallel Railroad Avenue—a nod to the trail’s history—just barely peeking through the trees to the right. This section attracts many hikers and dog walkers.
After 1.2 miles, you’ll arrive at the trailhead at Elk Road, with a parking lot on the left. Equestrians may enjoy the trail from this point on. Along this portion, you’ll find burbling brooks, bunnies hopping across the path, butterflies crowning your head, and a farm to the left completing this nature scene. Elk Township has provided nine interpretive signage stations detailing natural features, such as the pitch pine trees that define the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. No need to memorize what you read—if you have a smartphone, you can take this information with you thanks to the town’s Elephant Swamp Guide app, or you can download the brochure from the trail’s website.
The trail opens up around mile 2.9, when you’ll pass through the parking lot of a volunteer fire department and cross Monroeville Road. The pathway parallels Three Bridge Road before crossing Island Road and continuing into a wooded area. Not long after, you’ll encounter the verdant swamp itself. With sunlight peeking through trees, the swamp is more picturesque than it is spooky.
Around mile 4.25, the canopy gives way to open sky as you pass the low fields of a farm. The stillness and quiet here are punctured only by the low buzzing of nearby transmission lines that run through the farmland. The trail continues another 0.9 mile before reaching the southern terminus at Rotary Field in Elmer.
To reach parking at Elk Township Recreational Park from the intersection of the New Jersey Turnpike and the North–South Fwy./NJ 42 in Bellmawr, head south on the North–South Fwy., and take Exit 13. Drive 11.1 miles on NJ 55 S, and take Exit 48. Turn right onto Ellis Mill Road, and then immediately turn left onto Aura Road. Go 1.7 miles, and turn right onto Whig Lane. The park, which offers ample visitor parking, is on the left in 0.2 mile. Once parked, turn left onto Recreation Dr. to pick up the trail heading south.
To reach parking at the southern terminus from the intersection of the New Jersey Turnpike and the North–South Fwy./NJ 42 in Bellmawr, head south on the North–South Fwy., and take Exit 13. Drive 14.7 miles on NJ 55 S, and take Exit 45. Turn right onto Buck Road, and go 3.8 miles. Turn right onto US 40, and go 1.6 miles. Just after crossing Elmer Lake, turn right into Rotary Field. Look for a parking lot across from the baseball fields. Head north through the parking lot to the start of the trail.
Pros: Beautiful scenery! There are huge farms, pretty sunflowers, and interesting houses. I think I passed by an alpaca and saw a couple of horses and cows as well. There were a lot of dragonflies and butterflies in the air. I biked in 90 degrees weather but the land was vast and it made the weather feel more cool/clear.
Cons: Be careful when you are riding your bike on the road because the speed limit goes up to 50 mph for the cars. I always slow down when I hear a car coming up behind me, but it's always better to be safe than sorry!
Overall experience: Out of the three bike routes I took so far, this area had the most beautiful scenery. As a beginner, I didn't have any trouble navigating the area. I do have to say to not wander off too much because some of the driveways of the homes in the field look like off-bike routes. Don't get confused and stay on the road!
Great trail with lots to look at. Quite and scenic. Might be my favorite run now.
I hit this trail the summer of 2015 upon the recommendation from a fellow biker. The trail was different from what I was used too. The trail is mostly dirt with wood chips on top. Some parts are gravel.The first part is dense with woods and swamps.Then all of sudden, you are in farm field of corn. This just blew me away. The trail is very isolated. So you might want to ride with a friend. Also, it can be muddy in spots.
This trail deserves to be used. I have a special fondness for this trail.
It has great shade and is well kept plus not used too much. I keep going back to it because the 9 mile round trip is perfect for me. It's easy to miss parking lot so go slow for the last mile. if you use google make sure you type in Elephant Swamp Nature Trail. If you leave out Nature ... It takes you to a different place. Could get boring if you want to be challenged.
It is amazing what is right in our backyards! This trail is actually closer to 6 miles. It varies from gravel and dirt to a little bit of asphalt. There is a bathroom in the park at the one end, but when you get to Elmer you will have to go into one of the local businesses. Look out for horse dung on this trail, they clearly frequent this trail. It is a great way to spend the afternoon!
Well-maintained and quiet. We used it twice, and once there were dirt bikes. They did slow down, but still, not nice to inhale the fumes.
Wonderful place to take pictures and geocache.
This trail is not easily located. The entrance is located in the far end of the recreation fields in Elmer, NJ. A small portion of the trail was flooded but I was able to walk around it with little problem.
I had one brief encounter with an ATV (quad) rider. It was loud but the driver was respectful.
Most of all, I really enjoyed the peaceful solitude that the trail provided. It was a small slice of aloneness that I managed to find in southern NJ.
I did this trail and the Monroe Township trails on this trip. The Elephant trail was a very nice ride on a very nice day. It is a flat straight trail that is in the shade most of the ride. The surface changes from mile to mile but over all the surface was fine as I was on a very old Mt Bike with a Town & Country tire. Just two cross roads so it is a nice ride for a family. I would not drive a long way to do this trail but if you are in the area give it a try.
I've ridden my horse of this trail a couple of times. Parking at the Elmer, NJ Ball field. A few places get standing water, but there aren't many places like this. With the good stone base it has never been a problem. It is fairly straight so if a bike or jogger is coming, you have more than enough warning. Not that I've ever seen that many people using it at one time. Good fun.
I ran it yesterday for the first time, starting at the northern-most point at the Elk recreation park and going south for four of the five miles. Tree-canopied nearly its entirety, so ideal for running in the summer due to the shade. The first mile is grassy with some tricky footing due to sweetgum tree spiky balls on the ground. After you cross the first road, the trail becomes cinder and is pretty good the rest of the way. There were a few mud puddles just before the four-mile mark, but you could still get around them on dry ground. I didn't see another person on the trail the entire four miles down and then back.
We will definitely come back soon. I run a website, southjerseyhiking.com, and this is one of my favorite areas already. The history & lore may also have something to do with it. Very clean trail!!!
Took a quick ride on the first 3 miles of the trail, starting at the park at the north end of the trail. The trail was in ok condition, some deep gravel and rough areas. I would recommend using bug spray during the summer.
Today, 2 friends and myself went for a horseback ride on the Elephant Swamp Trail. Having never ridden on this trail before we weren't sure about it. We were worried about the footing, running into ATVs/Dirt Bike riders, bugs, etc. We needn't have worried. Even though the trail was a bit rocky at times for one of the horses that was barefoot, she still seemed to negotiate the terrain well. We did run into a large group of Dirt Bike riders but they pulled over and turned their bikes off long before we actually passed them. We thanked them and wished them good riding. We were amazed. We saw deer two different times and what looked like a coyote-we couldn't be sure. We saw no one else on the trail. Thank you for allowing horses on this trail. It was refreshing to be able to ride without fearing someone would yell at us for being on their property. Hopefully we can ride this trail again in the near future.
I rode this trail on Sunday with a friend. I was pleasently suprised to meet the gentlemen who helped maintain this trail. He was very friendly and welcomed us. It was a lovely ride and I will be back many times. Only advise I can give is use lots of bug spay on yourself and the horse. Beautifully shaded and lots of benches along the way. Nice job!
I did this ride with my 9 year old son. The scenery on this trail is great. You pass through the swamps and over creeks. You are almost always shaded by the trees. There are plenty of park benches along the way if you want to stop and relax. The roads you cross over have very little traffic so you can cross feeling safe. Two bad things about the trail - 1. the riding conditions are difficult in some areas thanks to the people with ATV's tearing up the gravel and packed dirt road. As a result, many portions of the gravel portion where rocks were packed in are now loose and difficult to travel over. 2. You have to be very perceptive to where the trail crosses over. At some points may think the trail is ending, but it really crosses over and may change to a dirt.gravel or grass path. For me, the most difficult spot to follow the trail was going North at Railroad Avenue and Route 538. A local resident showed me that you go through the parking lot, cross the street, cross over about 150 feet of grass and then re-enter the path on a grass path between the woods. There's also a crossover at the Monroeville Fire Company that you have to go through their parking lot and to the left rear of the property to continue. Bottom line - start the trail at an end point and use your GPS to track how far you went. If you are stopping before you hit about 5.4 miles then the trail still continues.
Went down the trail today and it seems to be fixed. I can't speak for the last mile of the trail (near elmer) since my partner was having trouble and had to turn around. That said it was quite swampy. I didn't choose the best day to go (cold, winter, and after rainfall.) That said it was still a great trail. The road is dirt and hard packed gravel except where the trail was patched; it is loose gravel there. Eitherway it was a good ride through mild terrain, no real hills and the scenery is fantastic and I can't wait to go in the summer when everything is in bloom.
We started on the trail at the northern access point off of Rt. 538 on Labor day, just a week after Hurricane Irene came through. About 0.8 miles in is a small stream that completely washed out the trail from all the water of the storm. There was originally a 3' diameter, 10' steel culvert that was under the trail to channel the stream, but the water carried that 15' or so downstream. The washout left about a 15' gap from one side of the trail to the other. Luckily someone placed orange barrels on the north side, otherwise if you were not paying attention the drop from the trail to the stream was about 8'-10'.
We chatted with a local fellow and his son who came up to check it out on their quads, also saw another person on a quad and another on horseback
The stream was small at this point, so we went off the trail to the left, down to the water and forded it across - it was shallow but moving fast. We continued for another 1/2 mile or so and then encountered a number of fallen trees completely blocking the trail. We attempted to get around that but there is private property on either side (very well posted) and water channels all over that prevented us from going on further.
Very disappointing, but the actual trail we were on was very nice and we will go back. We were out of time so we did not try to enter from the southern access.
Hopefully there will be trail maintenance efforts - it looks like a great place for a ride.
I really enjoyd this ride. I entered at the North terminus and parked at the rear of the township recreation facility. Most of this ride, more that 90%, is under tree canopy, which made it extra enjoyable in the summer heat. At the end of the ride in Elmer, NJ, is the Elmer Diner, which was packed this Sunday morning. It's a great place to stop before the return ride back.
Elephant Swamp Trail is a hard-packed dirt trail. By US 40, the rocks and dirt are usually stirred up by the 4-wheelers that go through, but north of Island Road it's pretty nice and smooth. You can see the farmers at work, view the swamps and a rolling stream crossing. I usually chase a turtle or two off the trail for their safety, and once in a while a black snake...and sometimes I startle a deer! Pretty flat with some whoop-de-dos, it is easy for any mountainbike to negotiate. I have seen walkers up by the Elk Road entrance. The Elephant Swamp sections has markers for plant and animal life in the area, and a few benches to sit upon.
Hopefully this trail will survive the encroaching development in the area.
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