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Off-Roading in the Pine Barrens

Off-Roading has become increasingly popular in NJ's Pine Barrens. Wharton State Forest alone has over 500 miles of unpaved roads in its hundred thousand-plus acres of forests! There are a few important things to know before going out, especially if you're new to the area!

First and foremost, your vehicle must be "street legal". All this means is that if it's properly licensed and registered to operate on the public roadways, you are permitted to drive it on the public roads within State property, whether they are paved, gravel or sand. It is strongly recommended you have a 4WD vehicle, though not mandatory.

Do NOT stray from the roadways. Aside from the obvious pitfalls, such as getting lost, these forests are environmentally and historically sensitive; you may inadvertently damage or kill plants or animals, or destroy historical artifacts. Stop at one of the forest offices, either at Batsto or Atsion, and pick up a brochure with a basic map of the sand roads, natural areas, campgrounds, etc.

Do not rely on your GPS, as it is not always accurate if you get lost, which is very easy to do. Also, do not rely on certain Internet map searches, as some services indicate roads as paved when they are not. Some services also indicate roads where there are none. Also, cell phones may not work in some areas.

After rain or snow, large puddles are common in the Pine Barrens. While some roads have "go-rounds" where puddles often form, many less travelled roads do not. Don't try to drive through the puddles! They may be deep, and it's easy to get stuck. Unless you have a winch (and be sure to use a tree-saver), you'll be stuck until someone finds you! Better yet, don't drive alone.

Forest Rangers patrol the roads daily between 9AM and 4PM, during regular office hours. If you get lost or stuck during the day, you can call the Wharton office 609-561-0024 (if you have phone service!). They can arrange a tow from a private company - AT YOUR EXPENSE - they do not perform this service. If you're lost, don't give them your coordinates; tell them where you turned into the sand road, how far you travelled, and what turns you made.

Stay off private roads, driveways, and gated areas. If a road is marked PRIVATE, that means it's privately owned and you will be trespassing. If a gate is across a public road, it's because you shouldn't go beyond that point. It does not mean you can drive into the wooded area, around the gate, and continue on. It means STAY OUT. These gates are placed for numerous reasons, and it's often for the safety of the vehicle and/or driver.

Remember that you're sharing the sand roads with other off-roaders (some coming from the other direction on rather narrow roads), hikers, bikers, hunters, campers, equestrians, and yes, even active environmentalists. PLEASE use common sense - don't speed, keep to the right, and PLEASE DON'T LITTER. In this way everyone can enjoy the beauty that the NJ Pine Barrens has to offer.

Visit NJ Off Road Vehicle Park in Chatsworth, NJ



The Pine Barrens is becoming a popular tourist destination. It offers history, nature, boating, camping, fishing, swimming, and most of all, peace and tranquility. It's important to families who live here, whether for a few years or many generations, that our peace and tranquility be preserved.A local lawyer or doctor won't look any different than his neighbor who works the land. Thousand dollar suits aren't what impress people of the Pines - taking care of nature and fellow man is what matters. To that end, it is important for you to know that as a visitor to our precious Pine Barrens, you should show respect for the flora and fauna, for the historical buildings or their remains, and show respect for the "locals". Walk and drive gently. Treat our Pine Barrens as you would want a visitor to treat your own home town - and your own family. Thank you.


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