Camps & Workshops

Summer Camps

Summer Camp 2023

Registration begins at 9:00 am on Saturday, March 4 for residents of Union County

The Union County Board of County Commissioners invites you to take part in outdoor, educational summer programs offered in the scenic Watchung Reservation. Children ages 6-12 can enroll in a morning session, afternoon session or a full-day.  Programs are   designed to foster an awareness & appreciation of the natural world.

Session Times

  • A: 9:00 AM  – 12:00 PM
  • B:   1:00 PM   –  4:00  PM
  • A & B Combination: 9:00 AM –  4:00  PM
  • *Combination rates A & B include a ½ hour lunch & ½ hour free time.*

5-Day Program:

  • Single Session Rate: 
    • Union County Resident $165 / A or B
    • Out of County Resident  $210 / A or B
  • *Combination Rate:
    • Union County Resident   $330 / A & B
    • Out of County Resident  $420 / A & B

3-Day Program: July 5-7 only (Wed – Fri)

  • Fee:  Single Session Rate:
    • Union County Resident   $100 / A or B
    • Out of County Resident $125 / A or B
  • *Combination Rate:
    • Union County Resident   $200 / A & B
    • Out of County Resident  $250 / A & B
    • *Combination rates A & B include a ½ hour lunch & ½ hour free time.*

Family Evening Programs: Fee:

  • Union County Resident $7/person
  • Out of County Resident $8/person
  • *Combination rates A & B include a ½ hour lunch & ½ hour free time.*

Please read all general and cancellation policies before registering. Children must be age appropriate by the first day of their program.

In order to accommodate everyone, please let us know in      advance if you or a member of your family has special needs.

Program Chart for Children Aged 6-12

Trailside Summer Camp Programs for Children Ages 6-7

ARCTIC, OCEAN & DESERT – Take an imaginary journey to some of the world’s most extreme habitats.  Find out how animals such as arctic fox and polar bears survive the sub-zero temperatures of the arctic, while camels and armadillos thrive in the heat of the desert.  Learn about the magnificent ocean and its inhabitants, including whales and sharks.

AROUND THE WORLD – Become a world explorer and travel to different continents each day.  Learn about amazing animals that live in the Rocky Mountains, creep through the Amazon rainforest, run in the African deserts and inhabit the outback “down under.” 

FEATHER, FUR & SCALES – Have fun learning about birds, mammals, reptiles & amphibians as we explore the fascinating world of the animal kingdom.  Investigate the different habitats of the     Watchung Reservation in search of our animal neighbors, their homes & hideouts.  Meet live snakes and turtles from Trailside’s reptile collection.

HAVE TO HAVE A HABITAT – Food, water, shelter and space are necessary for all animals to survive.  Discover the diversity of animals that live in the forest and use sweep nets in the meadow to catch, identify and release insects. Investigate nearby wetlands in search of frogs, salamanders and aquatic insects.  Through crafts, games and hands-on activities, have fun exploring nature.

MYTHICAL CREATURES of Field & Forest Use your imagination to explore near-by forests, meadows, lakes and streams in search of mythical creatures such as fairies, elves and gnomes.  Through art projects, stories and hikes, participants will enjoy a world of make-believe set within the natural world. 

NATURE’S OLYMPIANS – Discover who is the fastest flier, strongest swimmer, highest jumper & quickest sprinter as we explore nature’s most extreme athletes.  Through active games, hikes & experiments, campers will find out who are our nature’s champions.

SEASONALLY ARTISTIC – There are many ways nature can influence art.  Find out which season inspires you the most!  Use your creativity to make tools from natural objects.  Have fun turning pine needles into a paintbrush to paint a winter scene, let flowers be your inspiration for a springtime watercolor painting and harness the sun’s rays for a summertime solar printing. 

WANISHI, WIGWAMS & WAMPUM – Use your imagination to see what it was like to live as a Native American child.  Touch real Native American artifacts, visit a wigwam and play games such as mamandican and corn darts.  Listen to stories, work with clay and learn how the Lenape Native Americans survived in the wilderness. 

Trailside Summer Camp Programs for Children Ages 8-9

LIFE IN COLD BLOOD – Take an in-depth look into the world of reptiles and amphibians. Find out important facts about these fascinating creatures. Search each day at different sites in the reservation to find out where they live. Discover what adaptations help these cold-blooded animals survive. Meet live snakes and turtles from Trailside’s reptile collection.

MAGICAL & NATURAL MARVELS – Prepare to have fun in this entertaining camp based on ideas from the ever-popular Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling.  Campers will enjoy learning about medicinal and useful plants (herbology), practicing chemistry experiments (potions), learning about transfiguration (metamorphosis) and exploring the solar system (astronomy). Investigate habitats suitable for natural creatures such as snakes and salamanders, and use your imagination to discover which magical animals may inhabit these different environments.

ART OF NATURE – Nature has inspired artists for many years. Investigate different habitats in the Watchung Reservation in search of nature’s beauty.  Discover art in nature through sketches, painting and storytelling. Using natural items, create rock cairns, clay pots and water color paintings. Let nature be your inspiration. 

BIRDS OF A FEATHER – Explore the diverse world of birds and discover what makes them unique in the animal kingdom. Find out about different bird groups and the characteristics that make them different from one another. Explore some of the finer points of bird identification and start your own life list of bird sightings.

JUNIOR NATURALIST – Learn about the plants and animals living in and around water; develop a heightened awareness about the importance of conserving and preventing pollution of this natural resource. Use special nets to collect, identify and release aquatic insects, fish, frogs, toads, crayfish and salamanders. Find out how these animals indicate the health of the environment.  

CALL OF THE WILD – Have fun learning all about mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and fish throughout the week. Discover the variety of mammals that inhabit the Watchung Reservation, from flying squirrels to white-tailed deer. Listen to bird songs and find out how to identify our feathered friends by sight and sound, and have fun investigating local wetlands in search of amphibians, aquatic insects and fish. Meet live snakes and turtles from Trailside’s reptile collection. 

SOLAR SYSTEM SURFERS – Join the Space Team and discover Trailside’s new Solar System Walk. Learn about the planets in our solar system, the sun, stars, comets and asteroids.  Each day will be a fun-filled adventure in the Milky Way. Activities include playing the Weightlessness Race and navigating the astronaut obstacle course.   

HABITAT HEROES – You can be the next generation of environmental experts to help protect wildlife and their habitats. Join a Naturalist and investigate the habitats around Trailside. Explore the streams, pond, forest and meadow and discover how each animal is specially adapted for their environment. Learn about the fastest animal on earth, play the food web game and have fun catching salamanders, tadpoles, crayfish and insects.

Trailside Summer Camp Programs for Children Ages 10-12

EXTREME EARTH – Through hands-on experiments, explore the reasons for Earth’s natural disasters. Understand the science behind avalanches and earthquakes and investigate the causes and effects of tsunamis, tornadoes and volcanoes. Learn about the three lava flows in the history of the Watchung Reservation and collect rocks that help tell the story. Learn to use Mohs scale of hardness, find out why minerals fluoresce and excavate for “fossils.”   

BACKWOODS LORE – Learn how to identify plants that are safe to eat, build an emergency shelter that can keep you warm and dry and follow a course using only a map and compass. Find out how to identify and track local wildlife and see what it takes to get a fire going without matches. Are you ready for the challenge?

NATURALLY ARTISTIC – The beauty of nature has inspired many artists.  Explore the world of visual arts with Trailside’s very own, talented exhibit artists.  Enjoy using mixed media such as acrylics, charcoal, water colors and clay to create your own masterpieces.  From realistic to abstract, have fun as you try your hand at different forms of art.

NATURE TREKS – There’s a lot happening in nature during these hot summer months. Take a hike on a different trail each day and investigate the natural world around you. Look under rocks and logs for nature’s recyclers, try to catch a frog, fish or tadpole at Lake Surprise, explore the river for salamanders and find out how all living things are connected.

Family Evening Programs

EVENING POND SEARCH – Join us at Seeley’s Pond as we search for aquatic life as the sun goes down. Use dip nets and strainers to catch, identify and release frogs, fish, insect larvae and tadpoles. Wear: Shoes that can get wet and muddy.  Meet at: Seeley’s Pond upper paved parking lot.

NOCTURNAL NEIGHBORS – As we are getting ready for bed, many animals are just waking up! Have fun exploring the forest and fields around Trailside for our nighttime neighbors such as: bats, owls, flying squirrels, opossums and raccoons.  

FULL MOON HIKE – Take a walk by the light of the moon and discover the diversity of wildlife active at night. A full moon occurs when the Earth is directly between the Sun and Moon so it is fully illuminated.  August’s super moon is called the Sturgeon Moon. Find out why they call it the sturgeon moon and have fun investigating the Watchung Reservation at night.

General Policies for Summer Programs

General Policies for Summer Programs

  • Program spaces are non-exchangeable and non-transferable.
  • You may register your family members in your household only.
  • In developing programs, Trailside keeps in mind the abilities of different aged children.  Please pay attention to age guidelines when registering.  If an inappropriately aged child attends a program, the child will be removed and no credit or refund will be issued.  
  • Children must be age appropriate by the first day of the program.

Cancellation Policies for Summer Programs

  • Credits will not be given at any time for summer programs. 
  • Refunds will be given from March 6th to June 16th with a non-refundable registration fee of $35 charged for each half-day session.  No refunds will be given after June 16th.
  • Trailside is unable to process refunds for summer programs directly to your credit cards.  Call Trailside at 908-789-3670 for refund procedures.

Cancellation Policies for Evening Family Programs

  • Refunds will not be given at any time for Evening Family Programs.
  • Credits will only be issued for Evening Family Programs cancelled by Trailside due to inclement weather


Toddler Time

Programs designed to foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural world for adults with children ages 3 and younger. Registration Required

  • $10/family (max 4 per family) for Union County residents.
  • $12/family (max 4 per family) for non-county residents
  • Time:   Wednesdays or Saturdays, 10:00 – 11:00 AM  

March 15 or 18Maple Sugaring Sugar maple sap is collected in February and March and is used to make delicious maple syrup. Hug a maple tree to see if it is big enough to give sap, and find out what equipment is needed to collect it. Take part in a taste test and find out if you like the real thing.

March 22 or 25Patterns in Nature Learn about the honeycombs in a beehive, spots on a bird and stripes on a snake. Take a walk to look for trees that have branches that are opposite, evergreens with needles of five and footprints that are heart-shaped.  Enjoy searching the reservation for signs of repetition.

March 29 or April 1 – Critter Camouflage The spots on a fawn help it to hide from predators, while the bright colors of a monarch butterfly warn birds to stay away.   Camouflage, warning colors and mimicry help animals to hunt, hide and survive in the wild.  Search outside for animals using crazy colors and cool camouflage.

April 5 or 8 – Nifty Nests Spring has sprung and birds are hard at work. Find out why birds build nests and how long they use them.  Become a nest detective and learn how different birds make their nests using items such as mud, twigs, hair and spiderwebs.  Take a walk and see how many nests we can find.  

April 12 or 15 – Spring Scavenger Hunt Take a walk to look for signs of spring. Go on a scavenger hunt to see if we can find red birds, orange rocks, yellow insects, green leaves, blue skies and purple flowers. Have fun looking for all the colors in the rainbow.

April 22 – Earth Day Bug Brigade Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22. Discover how bugs like beetles, millipedes and ants help to keep the earth healthy. Have fun searching for bugs under rocks and logs. Use a special magnifier for a close up look before returning our tiny friends to their home.

May 3 or 6 – Celebrate Space Day National Space Day is celebrated annually on the first Friday in May. Take a walk along the Solar System Trail and have fun learning about planets, stars and comets.  Discover fun facts about everyone’s favorite Red Planet on a Mission to Mars.

May 10 or 13 – Peregrine Pals The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on the planet and can be found on all continents in the world except Antarctica. Have fun learning all about this spectacular bird of prey.  Using Union County’s falcon cam, take a peek inside of a peregrine falcon nest located atop the Union County courthouse in Elizabeth. Find out what these raptors are doing at this time of the year.


  • October 7     Solar System Trail Walk Take a guided walk along Trailside’s Solar System Trail, where each step you take represents one million miles in space. Learn how to use the audio guides to discover fun facts about our solar system.   
  • October 7     Solar Eclipse Talk with Paul Cirillo Join Paul Cirillo for a presentation on solar eclipses. Paul is a member of the NJ Astronomical Association, which operates the largest public observatory in NJ and a volunteer outreach “Ambassador” for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Paul’s easy style of communicating allows diverse audiences to understand the wonders of the universe. His presentations include the latest astronomical images from observatories both on and off the Earth!  
  • October 14   Eclipse Watch with Amateur Astronomers, Inc. On October 14, 2023, an annular solar eclipse will cross North, Central, and South America.   Join members of the Amateur Astronomers, Inc. for a brief presentation on the partial solar eclipse that will occur on this day.  This presentation will be followed by a solar eclipse watch, weather permitting.  Eclipse starts at 12:08 PM.  Mid-eclipse is at 1:22 PM with coverage of the sun at 35%.  Solar viewing glasses will be provided for all registrants.  The Sun is never completely blocked by the Moon during an annular solar eclipse. Therefore, during an annular eclipse, it is never safe to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection designed for solar viewing. You can also use an indirect viewing method, such as a pinhole projector.
  • October 14   Solar System Trail Walk Take a guided walk along Trailside’s Solar System Trail, where each step you take represents one million miles in space. Learn how to use the audio guides to discover fun facts about our solar system.   

Registration Required

Join a Trailside Park Naturalist on a walk by moonlight and discover the many animals that become active at night.

For:  Adults with children ages 6 and older.  Children must be accompanied by an adult.  Both adults and children must register and pay for the program.

Fee:  $7/person for Union County residents. $8/person for non-county residents

Time: Tuesdays orThursdays, 6:30 – 7:30 PM

Program is all outdoors so please dress for the weather.  Programs may be cancelled due to inclement weather.

  • Thursday, September 28 – Harvest Moon Walk
  • Thursday, October 26 – Hunter’s Moon Walk Enjoy a walk under the Harvest Moon light. Find out how this moon got its name and enjoy looking for nocturnal animals such as raccoons, bats, opossums and flying squirrels.
  • Tuesday, November 28 – Nocturnal Neighbors As we are getting ready for bed, many animals are just waking up! Have fun exploring the forest and fields around Trailside for our nighttime neighbors such as bats, owls, flying squirrels, opossums and raccoons. Use your ears to listen for the night sounds of the Watchung Reservation.
  • Tuesday, December 5 – When I’m Sleepy Come in your pj’s for stories about animals and their sleeping habits. Say “good night” to Trailside’s snakes, turtles and fish, and take a short walk in search of some nighttime neighbors.  Wear: shoes for an outdoor walk. 



Teacher Training – Project Learning Tree

Project Learning Tree “PLT” is a nationally recognized activity guide that provides educators with tools for increasing student environmental awareness.  Whether you are a formal or informal educator, PLT activities will engage your students in inter-disciplinary, hands-on experiences that develop skills in problem solving, evaluation and research.   

Time:  9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Participants receive six (6) NJDOE professional development credits.

  • Fee: $25 which includes activity guide with over 100 lessons. 
  • Bring:  Lunch
  • Morning refreshments will be provided. 
  • Dress for outdoors.

Register online


Fall Nature Walks for Seniors

Seniors, ages 55 and older, are invited to investigate Union County Parks with a Trailside Park Naturalist.

Registration Required

Fee:  $5/person for Union County residents. $6/person for non-county residents

Time:   Tuesdays, 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM  

October 3 – Pollinators Visit the Girl Scout Meadow and gardens that surround the Trailside Visitor Center in search of important pollinator animals. Bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and hummingbirds are some of the many pollinators that help to keep our ecosystem healthy. Discover the importance of these animals and find out what challenges they face. Learn what you can do to help them in your own backyard.

October 10 – Solar Eclipse Celebrate Space Week at Trailside as we learn all about eclipses in preparation for the partial solar eclipse happening on Saturday, October 14. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves in front of the sun, blocking the sun’s rays and casting a shadow on the Earth. Enjoy a walk along the Solar System Trail to discover information about the planets, stars, asteroids and comets that are part of our solar system.  

October 17 – Spotted Lanternfly Get the facts about our most recent invasive pest, the Spotted Lanternfly. Find out about the threats they pose and what efforts are being taken to control them. Discover what we can do to aid in these efforts, and be prepared to do some stomping!

October 24 – Fall Foliage Walk Enjoy a walk to identify trees and plants while witnessing the brilliant colors shown during the autumn season. Find out how nature is preparing for the upcoming winter, and discover why the leaves change color.

November 7 – Fall Stroll at Oak Ridge Park in Clark Explore Union County’s beautiful Oak Ridge Park in Clark and find many of the seasonal surprises Autumn has to offer. Enjoy learning about the colorful trees and the diversity of animals that inhabit the park.  **Meet at Oak Ridge Park Athletic Field in Clark. ** 

November 14 – Living Lenape Watchung is the Lenape word for “hilly place.” Take a walk in an area the Lenape Native Americans once called home in search of plants used by the Lenape people for tools, medicine, food, dyes and cordage.

November 28 – Deserted Village Tour Over the course of three centuries, this area has been a farming community, a mill town, a deserted village and a summer resort. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the Deserted Village of Feltville and discover the rich history of this popular attraction.  **Meet at Masker’s Barn in the Deserted Village – 2 Cataract Hollow Road Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922**

December 5 – Echo Lake Walk As days get shorter and cooler, both flora and fauna are beginning preparations for the cold winter months ahead. Find out how the trees and plants adapt to the changing seasons. Learn which reptiles, amphibians, mammals and insects spend their winters in a dormant state known as hibernation or brumation.   **Meet: at Echo Lake parking lot by the Sledding Hill.**