After reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv I’ve been on more of a nature kick than normal. Growing up I basically lived outside. Now raising a little girl in NYC it seems this would be a challenge. It’s actually not, we spend most of our days outside, but finding babbling brooks and catching minnows is something we’ve been missing…until yesterday.
Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, located in Englewood, NJ, is just a short drive over the George Washington Bridge. It’s a well maintained 150-acre forest preserve with 3.6 miles of trails, a babbling brook filled with minnows and turtles and woods full of birds and chipmunks. My boyfriend and I made this adventure with our 4 year old daughter during a heat wave. It ended up being the perfect reprieve from the heat and allowed us to be outdoors rather than chilling in the air conditioning with the TV, like we are today :).
It’s easy to navigate to the main nature center where you can pick up trail maps, use their bathrooms and learn more about the preserve. This nature center feels like it’s situated within a suburb, but this area is actually part of the western slope of the Palisades. We ended up driving to a side parking area on Jones Road which allowed us to park just steps from the brook and playground, where we spent most of our time. This area also has bathrooms and trail maps where you can choose from 3.6 miles of different self-guided trails. We enjoyed the crystal clear stream, saw turtles, various birds, wildflowers and tons of chipmunks. We also saw an egret and some other kind of bird catching fish from the brook, right in front of us! We spent most of our time trying to catch minnows and playing in the stream but we also enjoyed the playground which was fun and had an interesting ropes area. We spent only a short time exploring the trails, which I’d like to go back and hike further.
When a friend told me about Flat Rock I was excited to check it out. It exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return. Next time I want to explore some of the seven hiking paths which are mostly flat and easy to navigate. This area is perfect for families. It may not be challenging enough for the avid hiker but there is ample nature and wildlife to satisfy most anyone.
- There are two parking areas, the main Nature Center, or a smaller one off Jones Road. The Jones Road one takes you straight to the playground.
- If you want to play in the brook and catch minnows bring a net, bathing suit, water shoes and a towel.
- No dogs allowed.
- There are picnic tables but no grills allowed.
- No biking on the trails.
- The water is crystal clear and the park is well maintained.
- There are many educational and camp opportunities for all ages, check out their site if interested in this.
- This drive is about 5 minutes of the GWB.
- Bring insect repellent.