If you’re looking for wilderness in New Jersey, Wharton State Forest is where you’ll want to roam. The center of the forest is the farthest point from a road in the whole state, and the Wharton State Forest campground lies in the thick of cedar, pine, and oak trees. Wharton State Forest covers 122,880 acres, which is but a small portion of the one-million-acre New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve.
Camping in Wharton State Forest can only be reached by hiking or boating in—the latter is a popular option for canoeists who enjoy winding streams through the Pinelands, as well as the 50-mile Mullica River. Campsites sit on both the Batso River and the Mullica River.
Wharton State Forest is home to some history as the previous site of iron furnaces and sawmills during the industrial revolution. Basto Village, established in 1776, was the central community of the industry, and some of the original buildings have survived and been restored by the state. Visitors can tour certain Basto Village structures, located at the southern edge of Wharton State Forest.
Visitors can reach the highest point of the Pinelands National Reserve by hiking the Batona Trail to Apple Pie Hill, where they’ll climb another 60 feet into an active fire tower with a bird’s eye view. The tower is only accessible while staffed by a fire watcher.
Campers will find primitive sites spread across Wharton State Forest, including Goshen Pond, Bartona, Hawkin Bridge, Godfrey Bridge, Bodine Field, Mullica River, Butterwood Hill, and Atsion family campground.
Wharton Forest has several campgrounds.
We tent camped at Atsion in 2015: had flush toilets and was close to the checkin station/store as well as the beach on the lake. Some sites were right on the water and the sites were very big.
We wanted a more rustic experience and tent camped at Bodine campground in 2018. Our site was right on Wading River and we launched our kayaks right at the site! Our tent is has a full view of the sky and at night it was like a planetarium as we admired the sky from our cots. Pit toilets, pump water, fire ring, nice big site. Road in is sandy but it is the pine barrens. Although we were there on Friday the 13th, sadly neither Jason or the Jersey Devil stopped by for s’mores.
Good campgrounds. There was moderate traffic and a few other people while I was there. Everyone was respectful inconsiderate. Facilities were under average.
I haven't seen a review since 2017 and that should have been my first clue. Let me start by saying the check in area was nearly 12 miles away from the site. At the site there were no bathrooms. One outhouse which smelled like death for the entire camp site. I would say there had to be about 60 people using one outhouse NO FLUSHING! Ewwwwwwwwwwwww Camp sites were one on top of the other. There were no clearly marked roads and several cars got stuck in the sand area, one car even drove through our site during the night. Luckily we werent run over. There were no picnic tables either. If you didnt have a table and/or chair you stood all weekend. The road leading to the actual site was full of twists and turns and we nearly smashed into a tree coming out of a turn doing about 20 mph. The police patrolled at 730 pm, 930 and then 1130. THERE WAS NO INTERNET, CELLULAR SERVICE. That didnt bother me but the fact that if there was an emergency there was no way to contact police was pretty alarming. I honestly didnt think the mosquitos or bug situation was bad. There was a questionable tick but didnt see much more than spiders and ants. The lake/beach area also 12 miles away was really nice. You could rent a paddle board, canoe or kayak for a reasonable fee. We will not be back because of the unkempt roads, no running water.(Hey if you want only port a potties ok but put enough to be sanitary for the 60 or so people you jam in on top of each other.) and no way to reach the outside world in an emergency.
Awesome campground! Always a fun time camping and driving around this park! Gorgeous!
NOTE: There are LOADS of ticks in this area.
This campground is hike-in or boat-in only, no car access. We camped here for one night on an overnight loop in Wharton State Forest. Wild blueberries abound during summer months!
Individual sites are closely packed, which was not a problem as we were the only ones there. Any more than 2-3 groups of campers and this ground would start to feel claustrophobic. Site boundaries are pretty clearly marked, and each has a fire ring.
Batsto River provides plenty of water for filtering--don't be weirded out by the brown color caused by tannins. River access at higher-numbered sites is marshy, water flow and quantity is more substantial downstream from the lower-numbered sites.
Trash bags are provided, but no trash receptacles, so pack it out! There is a pit toilet, but did not check its status.
This campground (Goshen Pond) was mostly empty while we were there in August. Our site was very quiet, but a lot of the sites are close together without any barriers, so if the campground got crowded it wouldn't be very private. It's only a one minute walk from the parking area to the site. Our site was right next to the Mullica River, and had excellent views if you walked just a couple steps from the tent. We were able to put our kayaks in right next to the site which was very convenient. It's also a 5 minute drive from Atsion lake, a great place for kayaking and swimming.
they are primitive, pet-friendly, hike-in sites with direct access to the Batsto River. The hike in is about a 1/2mile so you need to be conservative with gear but if you plan correctly the peace and quiet is well worth it. Not suggested for the rookie camper!
Great secluded sites available. There are also spots near the camp store and river that are more “centrally” located if that’s what you’re after. Only outhouses near the primitive sites. Lots of bugs (ticks).
Wharton State Forest has a few campsites available for primitive camping (my preferred choice). This is a review for HAWKINS BRIDGE.
Hawkin's Bridge campsite is located in the western portion of Wharton State Forest along the Wading River. The Pine Barrens overall have a fascinating ecosystem. Nutrient poor, sandy soil limits the amount of foliage, and the barrens are primarily populated with fast-growing pines that grow tall, die, and fall. These decaying trees give the rivers in the barrens its signature dark color (it's not dangerous or sewage, it's completely natural).
The unique ecosystem of the barrens give campers some advantages: the ground is soft and comfortable to sleep on (NOT rocky at all, like almost weird how few rocks there are). It also means that there is plenty of kindling to gather for fires.
Hawkins Bridge is very quiet and doesn't see a lot of traffic. There are three larger group campsites and a few smaller campsites. All are large and fairly quiet. It's not a busy site, so there's a high likelihood that you'll have a few sites to yourself.
There's water access behind Group Campsite A for kayaking or canoeing. The path down to it is steep and a little slippery, so use caution. If you're camping with a group, aim for this site. Each of the private campsites have a parking spot. It's really all the benefits of backwoods camping (the quiet, the solitude) with all the conveniences of car camping.
- Soft, even ground for sleeping.
- Drinking water at a pump central to all campsites.
- Quiet, private, relaxing.
- Ease of access with a car.
- Lots of fallen trees for kindling.
- No picnic table at the campsite. Bring a folding table or a cooler for a cooking surface.
- No trail access - you have to drive to a trail head or hike along the road for a good ways before accessing a trailhead.
- Pretty close to a road, so you'll get a bit of truck noise every once in a while.
Overall, highly recommended campsite.
Wharton State Forest has a few primitive campgrounds, which is what I'm looking for. I try to stay away from campgrounds with electrical hookups, because the sound of generators is not exactly the serenity of nature I'm looking for.
This is a review for GOSHEN POND campground, which you can reserve online. Goshen Pond isn't actually a pond, but actually just a very wide, slow moving section of the Mullica River. It's kayakable and canoe-able, but very shallow and swampy, so it doesn't make for good swimming. The Pine Barrens has a fascinating ecology - the ground is very sandy and nutrient-poor, which means that it suits fast-growing pines which live a short life and then die. The constant decay of trees in the area causes the copious amounts of rivers in Wharton State Forest to have a signature brown color. Just want to point it out - it's still clean and lovely, but not very clear.
The benefits to this Pine Barren ecology is that it makes for almost perfect camping. The ground is always very soft and sandy, which makes for comfortable sleeping. It's noticeably NOT rocky. It also means that there's always plenty of kindling available for collecting.
The GOSHEN POND camping area is great. Each campsite has room for 1-2 tents, and a fire ring. I personally prefer some privacy when I camp, and some of the sites offer this and some don't. There are some sites that the reservation site lists as RV sites, but they are rarely used by RVs and are actually the most secluded, so I would recommend them for tent camping as well. Site 3 is nice and private, and site 7 has the best view and easiest access to the pond. Avoid the sites in the center circuit of the map - they're very close together.
GOSHEN POND campground is connected to two equestrian trails, which make for great hiking. In your plans, keep in mind that Wharton State Forest is very flat, so you'll likely be able to cover a lot of ground much more quickly than you would on mountainous terrain.
There is a parking area, and the sites are variable distances from those areas. The RV sites will allow you to pull up directly to your campsite, but the rest of the tent sites are short walks away. You certainly don't need to plan for a backpacking adventure, but keep in mind that you won't have immediate access to your car.
There is a water pump near the parking area, and pit toilets. There are no flushing toilets, which I prefer at a campsite.
In review, the pros to GOSHEN POND are:
- Soft, flat sleeping surfaces
- Easy access to hiking trails and a kayakable "pond" that connects to the Mullica River system.
- Plenty of kindling in the area.
- Quiet and remote-feeling.
- Some sites are very private.
- Dogs allowed.
- Water available.
Some downsides to GOSHEN POND:
- No picnic table at any site, nor seating around the ring. I recommend bringing camp chairs and either a cooler to be a food prep surface or a folding table.
- MOSQUITOS. Holy crap. Goshen Pond is nearly stagnant, so it is a breeding ground for mosquitos. I came back looking like a leper. I'm going back this weekend, and am investing in some 97% deet bug repellent and a mosquito net for my campsite.
- Soot. Don't know what this is about, but at campsite 3, where I stayed the last time, there was a ton of soot in the soil, which just stuck to everything. You would wash yourself, and then be black with soot moments later. We eventually just succumbed to the soot and allowed ourselves to be dirty, but it was an annoyance. In the pictures, you can see the effect of it on my (normally) white dog.
Overall, I will definitely be returning to Goshen Pond and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in a primitive campsite that truly feels like it's away from everything.