Nestled in the heart of Union County, Watchung Reservation features over 2,000 acres of forest preserve boasting picturesque foliage, woodlands, lakes, fields, streams and more. This spectacular natural resource is home to numerous activities for the whole family, making it the perfect spot for a day trip any time of year.
Visit now to cool off from the heat or come back in fall as the leaves begin to change colors. Before you head out, check out our list of the Top 8 Reasons to Visit Watchung Reservation.
Watchung Reservation contains several hiking trails that vary in difficulty. At ten miles, the Sierra Trail is the longest and most challenging. It takes you past Lake Surprise and the Deserted Village, giving you ample opportunity to view wildlife such as turtles, cardinals, hawks, deer, snakes and squirrels. Shorter trails are also available for easy family hikes.
7. Horseback Riding
Lessons for budding and experienced equestrians alike are offered at Watchung Stable. Visitors can also opt for a guided trail ride on the weekend, a perfect fall activity. Enjoy the beauty of the reservation as you travel along the 26 miles of bridle paths. Birthday parties and barn tours are available too, along with boarding services.
6. Trailside Nature & Science Center
Learn about the natural world by visiting Trailside Nature & Science Center. The center hosts a library, a children’s discovery room, interactive displays and a 250-seat auditorium. Current educational exhibits include the Edge Habitat Night Theater, Meadow Geology of the Watchungs and the Lenape Native Americans Backyard Habitat. If you’re feeling outdoorsy, head out on the mile-long hiking trail to explore the local topography and observe basalt, puddingstone boulder, hardened lava flow and more. Special weekend events, such as story time and seasonal festivals, are scheduled throughout the year.
As you drive through Watchung Reservation, you’ll probably see road bikers getting a workout pedaling on the curvy, hilly roads that wind through the mountains. While biking in the reservation is a popular activity, please keep in mind that mountain biking on the trails is prohibited.
4. The Loop Playground
If you’re at the reservation with kids who have energy to burn, be sure to check out The Loop Playground. This awesome play area has equipment to entertain both older and younger children. The playground is newly renovated and features climbing walls, tunnels, slides, swings and more. Located nearby are picnic tables, a water fountain and public restrooms, making this the perfect stop for lunch al fresco.
3. The Deserted Village
Once a town of 175 people, Feltville was started by David Felt in 1845 to support his mill operation. The town was deserted in 1860 but then reestablished as a summer resort called Glenside Park in 1882. After the resort closed in 1916, the village formerly known as Feltville became part of Watchung Reservation as a historical site in the 1920s. Today’s visitors can explore the Deserted Village and tour two restored buildings. Take a self-guided tour of the village to see cottages, a barn, a cemetery, a church and the store. Be sure to return the weekend before Halloween for spooky Haunted Hayrides.
Geocaching is the act of searching for hidden treasures outdoors by using a GPS. Visit the Geocaching website, search for geocaches near you (several are listed in Watchung Reservation) and set off on an exciting adventure. The “treasures” are not golden dubloons and barrels of rubies, but rather little trinkets and doodads that stay where you find them. This is a perfect activity for a day of family fun!
1. Winter Activities
When the weather turns cold, Watchung Reservation is a great spot for winter activities. Hike through the woods after a snowfall and witness a snow-covered wonderland. To up the ante, grab some snowshoes and tromp your way through the trails. Trailside Nature & Science Center offers a host of winter-themed activities for the whole family. Don’t miss their “Journey From Sap to Syrup” program, where you witness first-hand the collection of sap from a tree and the syrup-making process.
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