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The Union Transportation Trail follows the path of the former Pemberton & Hightstown Railroad, which began operating in 1868. The original purpose of the railroad was to allow local farms and dairies to more easily ship goods by providing access to larger railroad hubs. The times haven’t changed much in this part of the Garden State—today, the Union Transportation Trail still traverses farmland and countryside along its route.
In 1888 the Union Transportation Company—after which the trail is named—leased the line and used it for several decades. Passenger service ceased in 1931, but freight rail service continued until 1977, after which Jersey Central Power & Light acquired the line. The current trail operates as an easement granted by the utility company, and the power line runs along the length of the trail. Users heading out on a hot summer day should take precautions; a hat and extra water are in order because the trees are trimmed back due to the power line, and there is no shade along the trail. The trail is part of a developing network in the Greater Philadelphia region called the Circuit Trails, which will encompass 800 miles of trail when complete.
Starting from the southern terminus at the Millstream Road trailhead, you will cross Millstream Road itself before continuing through wooded areas, and it isn’t long before the first farmland scene appears. About 0.8 mile into the trail, you will see a small horse farm on your right—and perhaps even a horse or two grazing beyond the fence that abuts the path. Nearly another 0.4 mile farther, the trail crosses Forked River Road. Trail users can activate flashing beacons to warn oncoming drivers, but take care when crossing this higher-speed road. The path continues, flanked by trees on either side that obscure the farm fields that lie beyond them. Another 0.9 mile farther, after you cross Jonathan Holmes Road, a trailhead lies to your right. Not long after, a spur trail on the left leads to the parking lot of the Upper Freehold municipal building.
Heading north, the trail passes more fields and a tree farm and crosses Burlington Path Road before passing by a small suburban development on the right, beginning about 3.5 miles from the start of the trail. The trail crosses Davis Station Road before turning sharply to the left to parallel it. The path turns right again and, in this section, parallels busy Forked River Road. Vast farmland flanks your right, while a small shopping center and green fields appear on your left. In this section, the trail goes up and down several gentle hills, which may result in some huffing and puffing for inexperienced or infrequent trail users.
At 4.7 miles from the start, the route turns back to the right and enters a short, wooded area—the only portion of the trail offering significant shade. Even in this small space, wildlife thrives. Frogs sing to each other from a muddy pond beside the trees. Immediately after this quiet respite, you pass over a bridge, and the sky opens up again as you go up a short but steep hill and head back to the familiar, flat railroad grade of the trail.
From here on, you’ll encounter eight more bridges as the trail crosses many small streams. About 5 miles into the trail, the trees on either side make the space feel wooded, but farmland is never far away—farm vehicles and equipment can be seen peeking through the trees. Another 0.9 mile ahead, the path crosses a creek via a small bridge before going through an underpass, with I-195 overhead. The underpass itself contains clues to the wildlife and people that frequent the trail. Horse hooves from equestrian users mingle with deer tracks and smaller paw prints—perhaps left by a bobcat or a fox—imprinted in the trail’s crushed-stone surface.
At about 6.75 miles from the start, you’ll pass more fields that, in summertime, are planted with tall corn stalks on either side, spreading far and wide. Farther down the trail, you may even see farmers hard at work; take care as large tractors cross from one side of the trail to the other. After another 0.75 mile, the trail passes over another bridge to cross a stream, but the countryside views continue for 2 miles—this time with short, verdant green crops on either side.
You will see the Sharon Station Road trailhead on your left, 8 miles from the start. The path crosses Herbert Road and soon enters the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area. You’ll know when you reach it, as the swampy Horse Brook flanks either side of the trail bridge. As you overlook the wetlands here, the sounds of cars and farm equipment fall away, with frogs taking their place, talking to each other as waterfowl fly overhead. Not long after, you will cross over Assunpink Creek, thick with vegetation on either side, and soon reach the end of the trail at Old York Road.
There is no parking available at the northern terminus. The closest parking is located 0.9 mile south at the intersection of Sharon Station and Herbert Roads. To reach the Sharon Station Road trailhead from the New Jersey Turnpike/I-95, take Exit 8 and merge onto NJ 133. In 0.1 mile take the Milford Road exit, and merge onto Milford Road, heading south. Continue 1 mile, and turn right onto Etra Road. In 0.2 mile make the next left onto Cedarville Road, and continue 1.4 miles. Turn right onto Windsor Perrineville Road, and continue 1 mile. Turn left onto Old York Road, and go 2 miles. Turn left onto Herbert Road, and go 0.7 mile. The trailhead is located on the right at the intersection of Herbert and Sharon Station Roads.
To reach the Jonathan Holmes Road trailhead from I-195, take Exit 11 and head south on Imlaystown Hightstown Road. In 0.8 mile, turn right onto County Road 526, and continue 1.4 miles. Turn left onto Sharon Station Road, which becomes Forked River Road. Continue 3.8 miles. Turn left onto Jonathan Holmes Road, and the trailhead will be located on the left, just after the trail crossing in 0.2 mile. Alternatively, while on Forked River Road, just before reaching Jonathan Holmes Road, users may also turn into the Upper Freehold municipal building lot and park there; a spur trail leads from the parking lot to the main trail.
At the southern terminus, to reach the Millstream Road trailhead from I-195 W, take Exit 16 and turn left (from I-195 E, take Exit 16A) onto CR 537 W/Monmouth Road. Continue 6.9 miles. Turn right onto Millstream Road, and go about 400 feet. The trailhead is located on the left.
I was there yesterday (1/15/20) and most of it was closed due to maintenance activity. Only the length north of Herbert was open. ( about 1 mile). Hope to go back after the work is complete
I was just down at the south end of the trail a few weeks ago and it looks like there’s construction in progress to extend the trail; not sure how far but it’s great to see! This was about September 7.
Nice trail. Fairly even and well maintained ... not many people on it. Good for walking, biking, jogging. Good parking on Herbert Road to enter trail. Recommend wearing headphone if biking, gravel crunching can be noisy.
Mostly soy fields and horse farms, plus a touch of suburbia along this Monmouth County trail. Good news recently in that East Windsor will fund an extension into Mercer County (through vineyards!).
Rode this entire 9 mile trail out and back in September. North end terminates at Old York Road.
The Union Transportation Trail is very well marked and maintained. There are a few Road crossings with only one being very busy even on a nice Sunday. The trail is mostly flat with a few very small hills a very doable end to end ride of about 17 miles.
I found the scenery mostly bland. Mostly farms and the backs of businesses. This is the only complaint I have about this trail.
I ride this from the parking lot on Herbert Road down to the southern end and back several times a week. The trail is in excellent condition and a real pleasure to ride. Hikers, walkers, and bikes share the fine gravel route. It features wooden bridges over the plentiful streams, including an impressive restored tressle near the southern end. Lots of birds and wildlife because the trail passes through woods and fields. Early morning riders can sneak for coffee through Hornerstown to the Dunkin Donuts on 537 and there is a great ice cream store on Rt 539 there as well.
We rode the entire 9-mile trail and back from Millstream Road parking lot to just beyond Herbert Road parking lot. The trail was in great condition, very well marked, and entirely off the road except for the few road crossings we had to do. Not many people using the trail considering it was a beautiful summer Sunday.
Just finished 17.8 miles on this trail. Started at the Millstone Rd parking lot, rode just past the 8.5 mile marker and turned back around. Rode the trail with my husband and 2 children (12,9) who both did a fantastic job. Will being going again. This time might park closer to the Sharon Station lot to take advantage and see where the trail goes as it enters into the Assunpink Wildlife Area.
Only slight inclines nothing difficult. Crushed stone the entire path. Great scenery and the wonderful aroma of honeysuckle the entire ride.
okay - here's the latest & greatest on the recently completed UTT Trail. We parked at the Herbert Road parking lot (which is the northernmost parking lot). We went south on the trail (go right) and rode traffic free for about 8.25 miles one way (16.5 round trip). All crushed gravel, all off road, all through farmland or woods. A few road crossings, only one we got off the tandem for. Port-a-johns at all the parking areas. One picnic table at the next to last parking area when heading south. A few of the crossings had the "push a button, slow down traffic, warning signals for the cars" - only used it for the busy 539 crossing. We saw one snake, some sheep and goats and a wandering little puppy. Saw other walkers and riders. This is a great antidote for people who believe NJ is only smokestacks and junkyards. We did not head north which supposedly goes another mile or so, but that section has been done for a few years, so I am presuming it too is traffic free.
I just completed the ride from the northern section, Herbert Rd to Route 524 (this is where this section ends). The next section is still under construction, and will connect to Davis Station Road, where you can ride all the way to the southernmost part at Millstream Rd. Can't wait for the entire trail to be completed. One of the best trails in NJ.
Work is underway to extend the trail from its current end at Herbertsville Road to Route 539. This section will go through the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area.
This trail was well maintained and had gentile hill. It was great for an evening ride. Loved riding behind the farms. I can't wait for them to extend it. We rode the length and back.
As of the middle of Feb. 2015 the newest section of the UTT between Herbert Road/Sharon Station Road and 526 is now open. Work is underway to extend the trail north to 539 and south to the remainder of the trail at Davis Station Road. New parking space is available at the Herbert Road/Sharon Station Road trailhead.
Nice, wide trail, not too crowded. We've done it twice and I'm sure we'll go back.
Did this trail on mountain bike in March 2013, it has some ascent/descent in a couple areas. Parked at 114 Jonathan Holmes Road, and started out north first. In the afternoon there, I was the only biker and encountered a handful of people jogging or walking dogs. It was a pleasant ride to the current terminus at Davis Station Road (crossing at Burlington Path is very quiet), but the wind must have been at my back coming north because it was a challenge coming back towards the parking, which I continued past, crossing Jonathan Holmes Road, rounding a bend, crossing Forked Road and Hornerstown Road before ending at Millstream. The crushed stone surface is great and even. I'm glad to have finally gotten to this trail; I had been following its progress once I heard of the plans. Passing mcmansion after mcmansion though gets old but is interspersed with farms, got to see sheep and horses along the way. Forked River Road crossing I can imagine being a hazard, there should be more than just warning lights there.
This trail in particular had a good solid gravel foundation and it passes through several horse farms and even a sheep farm. There is a long and easily passible bridge connecting the trail along with several safe and passable walkways.
TIPS: Be extra careful when you cross Forked River Rd. because the flashing light beacon's lights are not working when you press the button to cross.
I hiked the portion of the trail from CR 27 to CR 539 back in Sep. '10 before the trail officially opened with my father. I found the pavement to be quite smooth, even though it is mainly crushed gravel. The best part was the newly-restored bridge over Lahaway Creek--what a nice treat! Hope to re-hike it in the near future. 4/5
Parking lot at 8 Millstream Road, Upper Freehold easy to locate on GPS, nice trail surface(fine crushed stone), Nice scenic quiet area. Did not expect much of the trail as the description on the traillink only had it as a 2 mile trail, but was pleasantly suprised as trail continued far north of the other parking area at 114 Jonathan Holmes Road, Upper Freehold. Checked the mommouth county website & it states : Miles 3 & 4 of of this trail (from Jonathon Holmes Road to Davis Station Road) opened in 2011. Website also states: When completed, the trail will measure 8.6 miles in length.
County website for trail is http://www.monmouthcountyparks.com/page.aspx?ID=3777
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