Sensory Friendly Trail
The Watchung Reservation Sensory Friendly Trail opened in 2018 as the first of its kind in the Union County and the most extensive one in the nation.
The Sensory Friendly Trail is accessible to all visitors, and is designed with various features that enable persons with disabilities and special needs to experience the natural surroundings at Union County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center, and to learn about the history of the Watchung Reservation.
“We continue to champion equal access and inclusion for all residents, and the Sensory Friendly Trail provides a way for everyone to interact with nature,” said Commissioner Board Chairman Sergio Granados. “We are committed to providing children and adults of all abilities with access to recreational opportunities.”
Along with the opening of the Sensory Trail in 2018, the Commissioner Board also created the Office for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs.
The trail is open free of charge to all visitors, seven days a week from dawn to dusk all year. It, is located on the grounds of the Trailside Nature and Science Center at the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside. Ample free parking is provided at Trailside.
The Sensory Friendly Trail is a 0.3 mile loop with a central gazebo. Special features include talking kiosks, a sensory play, musical features, and raised sensory garden beds.
The trail also includes a 0.2 mile Braille trail loop with guide ropes features multiple stops to learn about the local flora and fauna.
The Commissioner Board continues to champion equal access and sensory friendly opportunities for all ages including recreational classes, special events, the Sensory Friendly Theatre series, and funding for inclusive equipment.
For more information about the Office for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs visit ucnj.org/special-needs.
To register for programs hosted by the Office for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs, visit Union County’s secure registration page ucnj.org/opdsn-reg.
This short hike reveals the geological history of the Watchung Reservation.
The trail is about one mile long, and all the stops are marked with corresponding numbers on the trail.
Welcome to the Watchung Reservation, a 2,142 acre Union County Park complete with woodlands, fields, lakes, brooks, picnic areas, nature center, riding stables, historic village and miles of bridle and hiking trails.
The park takes its name from the Lenape Native American word “Wachunk,” meaning “high hills.” The Reservation is situated along the First and Second Watchung Mountains, with the Blue Brook Valley in between, spanning an area one mile wide by three miles long.
Acquired primarily in the 1920’s, the Watchung Reservation was established “to preserve the entire tract in its largely primeval state, avoiding the polish or finish of a city park to make it more accessible and reasonably available for picnickers, campers, fisherman and lovers of nature.” (Union County Park Commission Annual Report, 1923)
- Lake Surprise
- Seeley’s Pond
- Moxon Pond
- The Blue & Green Brooks
- Watchung Stable
- Trailside Nature & Science Center
- Historic Deserted Village of Feltville
- Scout Camping Area
- Loop Playground
- Union County Master Gardener’s Gardens
- Picnic Areas
Solar System Trail
Experience Union County’s New, Groundbreaking Space Walk Through The Park
The Solar System Walk is open daily from dawn until dusk. Four audio guides offer inspiring and educational content for all age groups about the Solar System, the atmosphere and the structure of the Earth. Every step of the walk represents a million miles in space. To activate the Audio Guide, visitors can scan the QR code with their cell phone using a QR Scanner App, or visit www.x-trails.com/audio-guide to download the guides.
The STEM-oriented audio guides feature the following:
- The Solar System Experience for all ages, Go on a tour of the Solar System all the way to the furthest known planet, Neptune.
- A mission to Mars for ages 4+ Climb up and join Astro, Comet and Professor Edwin Horatius Quintus Van Oort, on a mission to the red planet Mars.
- A voyage to Saturn for ages 7+ Join commander Steve ‘the Zoom’ McRocket, Anna and Ben on a daring voyage to Saturn
- A Comet’s Journey for all ages Follow the journey of comets and asteroids across the Solar System as you walk back to the Sun.
This new, innovative trail is in partnership between Trailside Nature and Science Center and X-Trails, a company which specializes in outdoor astronomical observation and STEM-related activities. “We are excited to be part of Union County’s Trailside Science Center’s latest development and hope it will add another dimension to an already excellent facility,” said Roni Waserman, founder of X-Trails.
The Watchung Reservation History Trail is a 6-mile trail that visits and identifies sites of historic interest in Union County’s Watchung Reservation, a 2,000+acre preserve located in the northern portion of the County. The Reservation is an integral part of the Union County Parks system, designed by the Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Mass., the celebrated landscape architects who designed New York’s Central Park and scores of other notable public lands.
The stops along the History Trail recall features from the early years of the Watchung Reservation, or describe uses of the land before it was incorporated into the park. The trail is marked with pink blazes, with signs on posts along the trail identifying the location of each site. The trail is designed to start and end at the Trailside Nature & Science Center, but can also be accessed from parking areas at the Deserted Village of Feltville and Lake Surprise.
This virtual version of the trail is designed so that people with disabilities can also experience the trail. It also includes features enabling hikers to identify trees and animal life encountered along the way.