If your idea of the quintessential childhood involves exploring woods, fields, lakes, and streams worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting, the Watchung Reservation is for you. Located in the heart of Union County, the beautiful Reservation has over 2,000 acres of protected forestland, a myriad of hiking trails, lakes, and historical sites.
The Olmsted brothers, famously known for designing Central Park, planned the Reservation to showcase the region’s natural beauty, and it does not disappoint. The Watchung Reservation is the largest nature reserve in Union County, NJ, and there’s no shortage of fun diversions to do with your kids. So, if you’re looking for activities to do with your family, here are 5 fun things to do in the Watchung Reservation.
1. Go for a hike on the Watchung Reservation’s many trails
Watchung Reservation offers numerous hiking trails from the Sierra Trail, a 10-mile loop that encompasses the Reservation, to the History Trail which marks old uses of the land. The Reservation’s Sensory Trail incorporates various sensory zones–nature-themed instruments, raised flower beds and outdoor classroom spaces–so people can learn about local flora and fauna. It is one of the most extensive trails of its kind in the U.S.
The Reservation offers many other large and well-maintained hiking trails, spanning a full 13 miles. Pathways are clearly marked, and most trails are easy enough for families to manage. Before getting started, you can download a trail map to find the hiking area that works best for you, whether you have toddlers who stumble easily or energetic teenagers. Trails are rated based on hike difficulty and length, making it easy to pick the most suitable path. Don’t forget to bring your camera and binoculars to observe the wildlife along the way.
2. Explore the historic Deserted Village
In 1845, David Felt developed a small village where 175 people resided. By 1860, the village, formerly known as Feltville, had been completely deserted. Today, visitors can explore the abandoned site and even take a self-guided walking tour to learn its brief, fascinating history. Featured in Weird NJ, the Deserted Village, sometimes referred to locally as the Enchanted Forest, has many strange legends attached to it. If your family enjoys spooky holiday traditions, you can catch the Haunted Hayride, which travels through the Deserted Village during the Halloween season.
3. Spend a day at the Trailside Nature and Science Center
The Trailside Nature and Science Center is the perfect place to spend the day with kids. Sift for fossils at the sand pit in the discovery room, listen to stories in the library, and explore interactive displays and exhibits like the Lenape Native Americans Backyard Habitat. After discovering all the unique activities the three-story museum has to offer, venture outdoors to look at the local topography and observe natural phenomena like basalt, puddingstone boulder, and hardened lava. The museum also organizes seasonal programs like the “Journey from Sap to Syrup,” where visitors witness first-hand the collection of sap from a tree.
4. Set up a play date at the Watchung Reservation Loop Playground
The newly renovated Loop Playground has play areas for children of all ages. The playground contains a fake boulder for climbing, various connecting tunnels for kids to crawl through and lots of slides. Picnic tables reside outside the play area for families to enjoy a light lunch or a few minutes in the shade. For families with little ones, a rest stop and drinking fountain are located close to the playground as well.
5. Visit Seeley’s Pond
Formed in the late 19th century, Seeley’s Pond originated as a man-made pond used to power a mill. Today, it has evolved into a popular hiking, fishing and camping destination. Residents can also go for a morning jog or walk their dogs along the various footpaths that encircle the pond. With its vibrant-colored trees in autumn and stunning waterfalls, visitors find no shortage of breathtaking views around the pond in fall.
Interested in learning more about the beautiful homes or activities in Union County, New Jersey? I would love to assist you. If you would like more information about towns like Summit, Westfield, New Providence, Mountainside, and Berkeley Heights along the Midtown Direct train line, contact Victoria Carter at (973) 220-3050 or email [email protected].