Black River Wildlife Management Area Trail

New Jersey

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Black River Wildlife Management Area Trail Facts

States: New Jersey
Counties: Morris
Length: 4 miles
Trail end points: Chester (Pleasant Hill Road) and Ironia (Main Street)
Trail surfaces: Ballast
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016544
Trail activities: Fishing, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Black River Wildlife Management Area Trail Description

This trail goes through the Black River Wildlife Management area along streambeds and forest. Equestrians must have a NJ Wildlife Permit, which is available from NJ DEP for a fee.

The trail follows the right-of-way of the former Chester Branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, from Chester Station to Ironia. The main spine of the Patriot's Path (white blazes), as well as the Liberty-Water Gap Trail, also follows much of this route.

The trail leads from west to east through Black River WMA on the south side of an extensive wetland sorrounding the Black River. The white blazes of the Patriot's Path depart to the right and ascend to the community of Ironia. Patriot's Path continues east to terminate in West Essex Park in Livingston, and east to Stephens State Park in Hackettstown area. Plans are under way to open the rail bed to Horseshoe Lake Park in Succasunna across water authority property.

Parking and Trail Access

Take route 206 to County Road 513 to Main Street. Go west on Oakdale Road. Then right on Pleasant Hill Road. The trailhead is on the left after the driveway of the Hermits of Behlehem.

Black River Wildlife Management Area Trail Reviews

On foot, at even a moderately fast pace, I was besieged by no-see-ums the entirety of the trail. Stagnant water abounds next to this trail so this is not surprising. They were attacking my face like something out of a Game of Thrones battle. (I think I saw one riding a tiny tiny dragon the size of a mosquito - or maybe they had just driven me stark raving mad by that point.) The only way to be free of them was to wave my hands in front of my face or run faster than they could keep up with me. I saw no one else on foot but saw several bicyclists. I think either running or bicycling is definitely the way to go on this trail.

I run trail on a regular basis from Horseshoe Lake Park. It's about 1.5 miles from Horseshoe Lake Park to the trail beginning. The trail is always fun and sometimes muddy in spots. I've encountered a bear on the link between Horseshoe Lake Park and the trail beginning. The bear is not aggressive and will leave if you make some loud noises. I've encountered hunters several times when running in the fall and winter. The was no problems with them. Please wear bright clothes during the hunting season just to be extra safe. See you on the trails!

Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, had a beautiful bike ride with family. Perfect for young and old. However, signage is different than published information. No sign of Black River WMA Trail, but Patriots Path sign is clearly posted at Start, 0 miles. Trail markers display MCG for Morris County Greenway. One may continue 1.5 milles beyond BRWMA trail end to large recreation complex. Total round trip @12 miles.


We started at the west end parking aera. The first mile or so there was some rocks and roots to watch out for. The trail was a fairly easy ride, with no traffic.

I don't want to offend, but I have heard some complaints (not here btw) about how hunters take the place and don't let hikers or people walk, they feel unsafe they say. But you have to remember a WMA was purchased for hunting with money from hunters (taxes, permits, licenses). I am just saying guys, little extra info doesn't hurt.

Today my wife and I road the West Morris Greenway (starting at Horseshoe Lake in Roxbury) to the Black River Wildlife Management Area Trail, ending at Pleasant Hill Rd in Chester. It was 6 miles one way. Surface was good with just 2 muddy spots.

It can't hurt to wear bright colors during hunting season but I wouldn't be too worried. If you hear gun fire remember...

Most of the sept - feb hunting season is bow only... Most likely you where near the hunter education area's public gun range. It is safely away from the path although it may sound very close.

I saw 2 groups of cyclists from my tree stand this morning,
heard them talking a long way before I saw them.

I also saw a big mamma bear and her 2 cubs walking down the bike path earlier in the day.

It seems that with the overpopulation of deer in NJ, hunting is now permitted in places it would previously have been very limited.
On 6 Nov. '13, we encountered a sign warning of this and advising users of the trail to wear orange.
Since we both had bright colors on, we decided to bike in anyway, figuring most hunters would be out early or late. We expected at least an 8 mile round trip, but we turned around before the 1.5-mile marker when we heard a rifle shot a short distance ahead, loud enough to echo off the hills to the north.

If you are a geocacher, then I have placed 26 geocaches along this 6 mile trail. There are about 25 more caches on side trails that are uphill. The trail can be very muddy after rain but is great during dry weather.

This seems like an older trail. I covered this on an early Spring day, so no bugs to worry about. It's a quick uninterrupted 4 miles from Pleasant Hill Road to Ironia. It does go through a swampy, wet area and I could imagine it is not so pleasant in the summer. Though this page does not say so, Morris County in the past year has created a new 1.5 mile path called the West Morris Greenway which connects the Ironia terminus of this trail to Horseshoe Lake Park in Roxbury right up to the current end of the Chester Branch rails just south of Route 10. In total, it is possible to ride almost 6 miles in one direction. The Black River WMA portion of this trail is very quiet, and the only downside I can think of is that it gets quite muddy and is flooded at one point near the start of the trail in Chester. As you go further east, the trail bed improves. Horseshoe Lake Park is a gem.

Does anyone know where the "stone living room" of Chester/Randolph is? I read about it in the Fall 2012 issue of Weird NJ and it seems similar to the well-known Stone Living Room in West Milford, but few clues were given to its precise location (on a small hill overlooking a stream near the Chester/Randolph border)

The trail, which I accessed from the Chester end, runs by a river there, and has a fine green canopy. However, since my approach was on foot, I was a bit deterred by mud and deep rutting of the trail surface by bicycles, apparently lots of them. The trail edges appeared well maintained with evidence of recent brush cutting, with some dead foliage left in place. Insects were in abundance and after less than a mile of coping with them I went back to my car and spent the rest of my outdoor time on the nearby Columbia Trail which I find to be a better choice for enjoying the outdoors on foot.

Parked at Hillside in Chester, rode the trail to the end (suburbia) and back. I would rate maintenance as "very good" a few fallen trees but the cinder was in good shape. Nice traditional rail-trail scenery. Was glad to have doused myself with bug repellent - while riding I thought "what bugs" then when stopping for water they surely appeared! Some one else posted there was no view of the river - hah! There is - the "river" is the swamp to the north!

To add some adventure to this trail:

1) take the the side trail up to the right as suggested by Christopher Mac Kinnon (Mountain Biking in NJ book) - added a bit more adventure to the journey. Climbed in gear 1 (of 21) and steep descent.

2) traverse the "western" side of Black River - off 206. Only parking I could find was at the "Hunter Park" lot at the intersection of Furnace Rd and Tanners Brook Rd. From there I went back down Furnace - east - til I saw the first Patriots Path sign. Enter here and the path takes you west to Tanners Brook Rd. Exit, turn right, and follow it til the end (lightly traveled). Turn right at the end, and finally get to Rte 206. QuickCheck there has water etc. South on 206 over the Black River - and right at Patriots Path sign. The trail meanders then takes you back to Furnace Rd. Right to the parking lot. Patriots Path is not continuous through the WMA - it uses the road for say 1/2 mile (contrary to the official PP map). This portion is definitely bikable but for the intermediate rider. Pretty and terrain and path not over used.

You could park at QuickCheck or nearby and do the same circle route. Part of the trail in the western section uses an old Rail Trail embankment (google maps shows you the old rail line). I really enjoyed this small remote trail and was glad in the end I had done it.

This trail is in very good condition. We rode in from the Chester Twp end and about 1/2 mile in we came across a small area that was muddy, but passable without dismounting.

About 1 mile in, we came across a Black Bear on the trail. We did the right thing, we stopped and made noise and did not turn our backs to it. In about 30 seconds the bear got bored and walked into the woods, we waited for about 2 minutes then continued through.

There were very few insects which surprised us with all the recent rain.

We are planning ride this trail often.

" This is a very pleasant trail with no road crossings (or direct road access for that matter). The trail parallels the river, but is almost never within view of it. It is wide and has a packed base for the most part, making it very easy to walk/ride. The western end is more of an earthen path, and can collect water.
The trail is popular for horseback riding, and this WMA is heavily used during hunting seasons. Take proper precautions during the various hunting seasons. Bug protection is also recommended from spring to fall. I carry a ""head-net"" everywhere in the bug season, just in case!
This trail is also, for most of it's length, a part of the Patriots Path. Just before the northern end, the Patriots Path turns east, up the hill and away from the river, and reaches the Dover-Chester Rd (Rte 513) where there is parking. At the southern end, a road walk around a missing section of the PP to Rte 206 will connect with a new section of the Patriot Path to Cooper Mill and Chubb Park. A PP map is available from the Morris County Park Commision.
This trail is ideal for cross-country skiing, if we ever get snow in New Jersey!

Rates a 6 out of 10!


"First of all, the best place to park if you're bringing your bike in by motor vehicle is at the designated parking area on Pleasant Hill Road in Chester. There's plenty of safe parking and the trailhead is right next to the lot. Also, this parking area is within ½ mile of Route 206 and 5 miles from Interstate Route 80.

The western end of this rail trail is not a ballast/cinder base; be prepared for mud during rainy seasons. The eastern end of the trail has a good packed base.

Equestrians heavily use the trail so be on the look out for horses. Also, there was much evidence of ATV/dirt bike use. The one rider I encountered slowed down when he passed me, but others might not be as courteous. By the way, ATV/dirt bikes are NOT permitted on the trail.

There really isn’t that much to see, but it is a very quiet place. I would guess that it's very buggy in the summer as it runs adjacent to wetlands.

If you're in the area, fine to take it in. If a long drive is involved there are more interesting places to ride.

The trail is great for families with children who want to experience off-road biking because there are NO street crossings."

"4 miles out, 4 back, bring binoculars for birding in the spring, runs along side of the pretty serpentine Black River, nice ride for little workout, level, cinder surface. Not a spectacular ride. Spotted Copperhead on trail during one ride, so be aware. Take the ride and then go into Chester Village for Lunch.

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