Hiking the History of Voorhees State Park

Planetarium in forrest

One of the most visionary components of the New Deal was the Civilian Conservation Corps.; one of the local beneficiaries of this program was Voorhees State Park. In the early 20th century Hill Acres Farm in rural Lebanon Twp. was home to chickens, orchards and fields of wheat, rye and hay. These 325 acres owned by former Governor of NJ, Foster Gowan Voorhees, would be donated to the state in 1929. In 1933 the CCC stitched this land, plus two other parcels together and in 8 years created the 1,4000-acre park we now know as Voorhees State Park.

We began our hike heading right from the Parking Lot on the Blue Trail (Hill Acres Trail). It starts out as a leafy, dirt trail.  As you follow along the Blue Trail it becomes a wide gravel road.  On the top of the hill continue to follow Blue blazes as you transition back to a dirt trail. Follow the Blue Trail across the gas line cut.

Once you come to the “Scenic View” sign, pick up the Purple Trail. This is the Solar System Trail. Follow the planetary signs that lead you to “Paul Robinson Observatory.” This is the world’s largest working telescope open to the public in NJ run by the NJ Astronomical Association.

Make a right to get on the Pink Trail (Vista Trail). Follow the paved road to the right to stay on the Pink Trail and head back into the woods. The Pink Trail will end at the road; from here take the Teal Trail (Highlands Trail).

This part of the trail has lovely elevations and lots of streams. At the highest peak, before the trees fill in, you can look over the horizon and see Round Valley and Spruce Run Reservoirs in the distance. There are also two chairs made of stone, a nice place to pause and reflect.

Due to its history, this park has a diverse variation of trees along the trails.  In some sections you’ll find an abundance of shade tolerant trees such as Sugar Maple and American Beech. In the newer growth forests the shade intolerant trees; Big Tooth Aspen, Hickory and Tulip Poplar, are more prevalent.  

Heading Up Hill

A final couple of miles have exhilarating up and downhill elevation changes.  You pass through a lovely pine forest before coming to the final gas cut tract. Remnants of stone walls are scattered along the trails, a nice reminder of the parks farming history.  At the fork in the trail, stay straight on the Teal Trail.  This will take you back to the Parking Lot.

In addition to rolling hills, numerous streamy, beautiful overlooks, and a working observatory, Voorhees State Park has lots of other amenities. There are playgrounds, picnic areas, ball fields, and facilities for all kinds of camping from tents, to trailers to cabins.

It seems only fitting that during our visit the woods echoed with the sounds of woodpeckers jackhammering for insects, or love. That’s probably reminiscent of what it sounded like during the eight years of construction when these silent hills echoed with the sounds of saws and hammers.

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