If you have only a very limited amount of time available, you can actually do a hike in Teaneck itself. The 46-acre Teaneck Creek Conservancy (part of Overpeck County Park) is located between Teaneck Road and I-95 in the southeast corner of the township. It offers a small network of level trails that traverse a natural environment. This 1.2-mile easy hike, which should take no more than 45 minutes, loops around the Conservancy.
Once used as a dump for debris generated during the construction of the nearby interstate highway, the area has been rehabilitated and a trail system constructed. For the most part, the vegetation screens the adjacent developments from view, and even the noise from the nearby highways is often drowned out by the chirping birds. At times, it is hard to believe that you are in the midst of densely developed Bergen County!
The Conservancy underwent an “ecological restoration” during the past two years, in the course of which many trees were removed. As a result, the area has a more open appearance than it did prior to the restoration. All trails in the conservancy are nearly flat, but they are not accessible to the handicapped (the stepping stones used to cross several streams cannot be navigated by wheelchairs or scooters). The trails are marked intermittently with paint blazes on trees. Despite the small size of the conservancy, it is easy to lose your way if you are not familiar with the area, so be sure to take a map along (a trail map is available online at www.teaneckcreek.org/maps-and-directions). Dogs are allowed on leash, but bicycles are not permitted.
The address of the parking lot where the hike begins is 20 Puffin Way, Teaneck, NJ 07666.
To begin the hike, descend wooden steps near the southeast corner of the parking lot and turn right onto the Red Trail. On your left, you will notice several concrete plaques – formed from rubble that was dumped in the area – on which information regarding various species of migratory birds that frequent the area has been inscribed.
After crossing a bridge, you’ll pass on the left the entrance to the Dr. Ben Burton Butterfly Garden. Just beyond, you’ll notice an interesting silver maple tree with numerous trunks.
At the next intersection (just beyond a bridge), turn left onto a wide path surfaced with finely crushed gravel (to the right, the path leads to DeGraw Avenue). This is the route of the Green Trail. After traversing an open area, you’ll cross two streams on stepping stones. Just beyond the second stream crossing, turn right onto a wide path covered with wood chips. This section of the Green Trail, which follows a winding footpath through a forested area, has a more natural appearance than the other trails in the Conservancy.
After crossing the next bridge, you’ll notice on the left a gate in a fenced area, known as the Labyrinth. Here, chunks of concrete (“rubblestone”) have been arranged to form a circle in the center. Along the sides are several animal figures that have been carved into tree trunks, as well as an elaborate wooden teepee frame. You may want to spend a few minutes here to examine these interesting features.
Soon, you’ll cross a wet area on stepping stones and reach the banks of Teaneck Creek. Here, the trail bears left, following the creek. You’ll pass a concrete-and-steel footbridge over the creek, which leads to office buildings on Frank Burr Boulevard (do not cross the bridge). On the left, you’ll notice a wetland with cattails, a native species. You’ll also pass a huge willow tree.
At the next intersection, turn left onto the Red Trail, passing a color trail map on the left. Just beyond, you’ll reach the Five Pipes – huge sections of concrete piping, left behind during the construction of the nearby interstate highway. These pipes have been painted by students with scenes depicting the various natural features of the area and the human relationship to the land in several historical eras. This section of the Red Trail follows the route of the Public Service trolley line that operated between 1899 and 1938, connecting Paterson with Edgewater (where a ferry took passengers to New York City). A section of the trolley rail has been placed adjacent to the trail.
Continue ahead on the Red Trail to the next bridge. Here, on the right, is Dragonfly Pond, where you may observe various species of wildlife during the warmer months (the pond may be dry during periods of drought). Now retrace your steps to the Five Pipes and the map, and turn left, crossing a bridge. Teaneck Creek is on your right, and the Glenpointe development is visible through the trees beyond. You’ll pass a large wetland, as well as some more huge willow trees, on the left.
At the next intersection, there is a bridge on the right, but you should bear left and continue on the Blue Trail. Follow this trail to its end at Puffin Way. Here, you cross an area covered with gravel and enter the parking lot for 20 Puffin Way, from where the hike began.