The Manasquan Reservoir County Park is located in Howell, NJ about 12 miles west of the Jersey Shore and it's sandy beaches and ocean surf. The 770-acre Reservoir not only serves as a major water supply for Monmouth County area residents, businesses and utilities; it is also the main outdoor attraction in the 1,200 acre park. Boating, fishing, birdwatching, cycling and hiking are popular activities.
While the park is a local Howell, NJ family outing hotspot, especially during the summer months, the 5.1 perimeter trail that circles the reservoir is a draw for mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners from nearby surrounding areas due to it's length, the opportunity to hangout on the boat docks or lounge in Visitor's Center's second level observation deck for birds eye views of the Reservoir, the facilities and park programs designed especially for children and the bike rentals available for parents with younger kids.
There are a few picnic tables situated around the Visitor Center. You'll find some near the west parking lot. The small picnic area accessed from the Perimeter Trail near the port-a-potty around Milepost 4 is more secluded. For the best unobstructed Manasquan Reservoir views, while doing lunch, the picnic area near the bait shop is the ideal spot to unwind while watching the sailboats and / or waterfowl glide over the water.
Visitors Center, bait shop, vending machines, Environmental / Nature Center, guided boat tours (seasonal), rest rooms, port-a-potty, picnic tables, wildlife themed playground and First Aid Station. Both Centers are wheelchair accessibile.
Boats: Rowboats, kayaks, electric motor powered rowboats, limited number of 12 ft. Laser Pico sailboats, boat ramps and docks, fishing dikes.
Bicycles: Adult and children's bikes (helmets included in rental price), standard kid's bike trailers
Manasquan Reservoir Trail Connections
There are several short hiking trails that branch off the main Perimeter Mountain Bike Trail. The 0.2 mile Wetland Spur Trail , the 0.5 mile Bracken Trail and . . .
Hiking only. The Cove Trail loops around a wetland area (Wetland Area #4) and along the eastern border of the reservoir shoreline. The trail was designed for observing reservoirscapes and wildlife watching. Bring your binoculars and camera for up close views of the elusive, long-legged Great Blue Heron camouflaged against the rushes.
There are 2 access points. From the Environmental Center parking lot head south across the parking lot entrance road. You can also access the trail about 0.7 mile from the Perimeter Mountain Bike Trail trailhead, after crossing 2 trail bridges just past the Ranger's Residence.
Bear Swamp Connector Trail
Hiking only. Wide path that branches off the Main Perimeter loop Trail. It passes through the Bear Swamp Tract and connects to Howell Township's Oak Glen Park.
About 0.5 mile past Mile Post 4. Cross Old Tavern Road to access the trail.
Manasquan Reservoir to Allaire State Park
The 5.4 mile Edgar Felix Bikeway is a 5.4 mile paved rail trail that travels between downtown Manasquan and Allaire State Park. There have been talks of officially extending the bike path to connect to the trails at Manasquan Reservoir. That would provide a safe bike route from the Manasquan Reservoir Trail System to the Allaire State Park Trail System and the Edgar Felix Bikeway which connects to the Manasquan beaches on the Jersey Shore. Food for thought - Delicous.
While there is no official, marked on road bike route; Google maps show there are several possible on road bike routes that lead from Manasquan Reservoir to the Allaire State Park Edgar Felix Bikeway trailhead at Hospital Road. One possible route is via Easy Street; one other uses a combination of Easy Street and Maxim Road and the third option utilizes Old Tavern Road.
Google Map: Manasquan Reservoir - Allaire State Park
Manasquan Reservoir Perimeter Mountain Bike Trail Description
The 5.1 mile Manasquan Reservoir Perimeter Mountain Bike Trail is a well-maintained, 5 foot wide, hard-packed crushed gravel trail that skirts around the Reservoir. It travels through woodland and wetland areas of mostly pine / oak, red maple / sweetgum, black willow and sassafrass which provide welcome shade in the summer. Mixed in along the trails and within wetland habitats are a wide variety of ferns, sedges, grasses, herb plants, rushes and vines.
Distance markers are located at mile intervals along the route. It is mostly obstacle free, and level with a few slight inclines. The trail crosses several foot bridges / boardwalks and the memorial park benches along the way provide a place to rest and enjoy wetland and shoreline views; and the Gray Catbirds playfully bopping along the trail. Everyone will enjoy this easy mountain bike ride. Off road mountain bikes or hybrid bikes recommended.
The trail heads west along the Reservoir's southern shoreline, crosses two trail briges, before bearing north across a shoreline dike. The next stretch takes you closer to Mile Post 1 and runs between the eastern edge of Wetland Area #4 to the left and the Manasquan Reservoir Shoreline to the right. Just past 1 mile, the trail boomerangs sharply to the west and travels on the Environmental Center entrance road about 1.3 miles into your ride. It's worth the time either before, during or after your bike ride to stop in at the Environmental Center (see Wildlife Watch & Photography below).
The trail continues and intersects with Georgia Tavern Road which runs along the western boundary of the park across a dike. You'll pass Chestnut Point, a popular fishing spot. There are pretty views of the wetlands on the left and across the Reservoir.
At Mile Post 2, the trail heads east along Peskin Road. About midway along Peskin Road there are nice views at Wetland Area 1. The trail continues eastwards before dipping slightly along Southard Avenue just past Mile Post 3. It then bends south and curves along Manissa Road between the Reservoir Dam and the Howell Park Golf Course.
The next stretch cuts diagnally through the park above the Bear Swamp Tract before ending up at the finish at Mile Post 5.
If you want to get in an exhilrating bike ride, try mountain biking on a clear winter day. The woods shield the trail from much of the cold wind. After your bike ride on the Manasquan Reservoir Perimeter Mountain Bike Trail, warm up by the fireplace at the Visitors Center.
The official Manasquan Perimiter Trail trailhead start begins near the Manasquan Reservoir Vistor's Center just below the parking area to the west.
Trail Highlights & Nearby Points of Interest
Wildlife Watch & Photography
Birds and waterfowl including the Great Blue Heron, Osprey, and Double-crested Cormorant are among the 200 species of birds that can be found at the Reservoir. Dragonflies, butterflies, frogs, turtles, snakes, deer, red fox and raccoon are some of the more common critters you might see around the park. The Manasquan Reservoir is also one of the best sites for sighting Osprey and Bald Eagles in Monmouth County.
Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center
We took the time to visit the center and walk along the Bracken Trail and the nearby wetlands area after our mountain bike ride. We were guided by a friendly bird watcher who often frequented the area. He pointed out many interesting birds such as the shy Cedar Waxwing and Osprey.
The center offers free nature progams, interactive exhibits, multi-media presentations and self guided Safari Backpack expeditions.
Address: 331 Georgia Tavern Road, Howel, NJ 07731
Garden State Parkway to Exit 98, Interstate I-195 west. Proceed on I-195 west to Exit 28B, Rt. 9 north-Freehold. Stay in right lane when entering Rt. 9 north. At first traffic light, turn right onto Georgia Tavern Road. Follow Georgia Tavern Road for 0.3 mile. Turn right onto Windeler Rd. Continue 1.5 miles to the Reservoir Area on left.
If approaching from Freehold: State Hwy. 9 south from Freehold to Georgia Tavern Rd. Use Jughandle to turn left onto Georgia Tavern Rd. Proceed on Georgia Tavern Rd. for 0.3 mile. Turn right onto Windeler Rd. Continue 1.5 miles to the Reservoir Area on left.
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