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Sunday, 24 September 2017
Great Places to Hike In NJ: Clayton Park


Emley’s Hill Road, Upper Freehold (Imlaystown), NJ 


This scenic 443-acre tract in Upper Freehold is located amidst the rolling farmland of western Monmouth  County. A tranquil, wooded property, Clayton Park is known for its stately stands of oak, beech, ash and birch trees. The meadows and Doctor’s Creek add another dimension of natural interest to the park. Nearly 6 miles of forested trails are a popular destination for bicyclists, hikers, and equestrians.

The area surrounding Clayton Park retains its historic charm with older buildings and rural landscape. Pass through the winding main street of quaint Imlaystown nearby to glimpse an authentic 18th-19th century  New Jersey mill village with its narrow roads, closely spaced houses, and old-fashioned landmarks located alongside Imlaystown Lake.
The Park System purchased the first 176 acres of this park in 1978 from farmer Paul Clayton and his daughter Thelma.  Mr. Clayton avoided modern farming methods and worked the fields  by hand with his five horses growing potatoes, tomatoes, grain and corn until 1971 when he retired at age 87. After resisting offers from people interested in purchasing the property to harvest the trees, he sold his farm to the Park System for a price below market value. The remaining acres were added through the years as the Park System acquired adjacent property from local landowners.
 Clayton Park offers rustic appeal and the following limited facilities: an informational kiosk at the trailhead, marked trails, portable toilets, and a gravel parking lot.
 The most outstanding feature of Clayton Park is the natural setting–the trails, creek, fields and forested areas. As such, it is best suited for outdoor recreational pursuits (bicycling, walking, horseback riding, hiking) and nature activities such as birding, or tree and flower appreciation.
 The Park System preserves and manages natural and cultural resources on more than 14,000 acres of land in Monmouth County. Protecting water quality, eliminating invasive plant species, and promoting healthy wildlife populations are just a few objectives. Please help protect the park by leaving flowers, plants, animals, and other features as you found them; adhering to the posted park rules; using designated containers for trash, recyclables, and pet waste; and keeping  your pets leashed. Possessing or consuming alcohol beverages is not permitted.

An overabundance of white-tailed deer in and around the parks is threatening the health of native plant and animal species. Portions of Clayton Park may be open for deer hunting during some or all of the State regulated hunting seasons. All areas open for hunting are clearly posted.
 Clayton Park protects a “high quality” forest with a good structure of herbs, shrubs and trees, and a highly diverse assembly of plants and animals. Notable tree species include the large American beech, black oak, and tulip  poplar. Many ferns such as grape, Christmas and hay-scented line the trails under spicebush and viburnums in the shrub layer.
Clayton Park is one of the best spring wildflower sites in the Park System.  Look for jack-in-the-pulpit (photo right), trout lily  (dogtooth violet), spring beauty, wild geranium and the rarer trillium and wild ginger during April and May. The spotted jewelweed  (Impatiens capensis) pictured on the cover can be seen from July to October.

Also, note how the plant life changes on  trails near the creek, keep your eyes peeled  for bird species (such as the wood thrush and red-tailed hawk), and experience the beauty  of the park’s meadows – a natural habitat  that is quickly disappearing from the county’s suburban landscape.
Trails A favorite spot for all-terrain bicyclists, Clayton Park offers approximately 6 miles of rugged, mostly moderate trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Please obey the rules of protocol for right of way on the trails: bicyclists yield to all other trail users, and pedestrians yield to equestrians. Stay on the marked trails, plan your route and take a trail map with you.

At a brisk pace, it takes approximately  20 minutes to walk 1.0 mile.


 Trail Key Glen Trail - An Easy 0.7 mile (1.1 km) loop trail through the solitude of Clayton Forest.
Bridges Trail - Moderate 1.8 mile (2.6 km ) diverse hike through forest and fields.

Access to the following trails requires traveling some  distance along Bridges Trail.

Doctor’s Creek - This Moderate 1.6 mile (2.6 km) trail provides great wetland views       from the forest as it winds along Doctor’s      Creek, which drains into the Delaware River.

Old Forge Trail - A Moderate 1.5 mile (2.4 km) trail that explores the core of  Clayton forest. It takes it’s name from an old  forge previously located on the property.
Trail Standards Easy: well-maintained or paved, shorter trails intended for casual walking.

Moderate: longer trails with some grades/obstructions intended for hiking,  equestrians and all-terrain bicycles (may be   suitable for some walkers and runners).

Challenging: long, more primitive trails, with steep grades or obstructions; intended for hardy experienced hikers, equestrians, and all-terrain cyclists.

Fitness: walking/running trails with exercise stations. Follow signs for stations

Posted by tammyduffy at 6:09 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 24 September 2017 6:10 AM EDT

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