Trails, Haunted Houses, and Lake Surprise: Watchung Reservation

On Spring days like the ones we have been enjoying lately, it’s pretty hard to stay inside. Museums and movie theaters become difficult to endure, especially if you love the outdoors as much as we do. Being in NJ has made it so much easier to access countless hiking trails and nature paths.

Our most recent find: Watchung Reservation, in Union County, NJ, 2,000 acres of protected land with 13 miles of trails to discover.

Watchung Reservation

Watchung Reservation

My family and I started our tour of the area with a stop into the Visitor Center, which is also the area’s Trailside Nature and Science Center, and a great little surprise. It showcases exhibits highlighting the wildlife that can be found in the area, as well as its history, a great place to stop into before going on the trails because we were able to point out things for our kids to keep an eye out for during our walk. You can also pick up an events list (they host several) as well as a trail map here.


We took the trail along Lake Surprise, where we climbed up large fallen tree trunks, skipped rocks, and posed for photos. We hiked up to the abandoned village of Feltville, established in 1736 by an Englishman named Peter Wilcox. The village includes eight houses, a carriage house, a church, and a general house – as well as a cemetery with the remains of the first settlers to the area. There have been tales of people seeing three ghosts who roam around the houses, though lucky for us, we didn’t encounter any of them.

Watchung Reservation

We ended a day of hiking and discoveries by letting the kids play in the area’s playground. Personally, I am not a big fan of playgrounds, but it was a good way for the kids to use up their last supply of energy, and as far as playgrounds go, this was a nice one.

Watchung Reservation

Watchung Reservation

In addition to hiking, visitors can enjoy other activities such as: horseback riding, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, outdoor ice skating, camping, and cross-country skiing.

For more information on hiking trails, both in NJ and beyond, I refer to the following sites:, and (Appalachian Mountain Club).

To read more about our hiking adventures in New Jersey, check out:

Opening My Heart to New Jersey, One Reserve at A Time

Searching for Waterfalls in New Jersey


All photos are property of the publisher and may not be used without permission.


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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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