Best Things To Do at Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge

Take a nature walk on the half-mile trail around Cedar Run.
Take a nature walk on the half-mile trail around Cedar Run.
3/7/23 - By Lisa Warden

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in South Jersey is a peaceful nature sanctuary on the edge of the unique New Jersey Pinelands ecosystem. This large, non-profit nature center sprawls over 171 acres and is a great place for family fun. My family loves to visit in all seasons to romp in nature and enjoy the many different animals. 

On weekends the nature center can be bustling with families and birthday parties, but you don’t have to walk far into the woods along a picturesque trail to find some solitude. The trail runs in a loop crossing over a creek, through the wildlife viewing area, and along a bridge over a pond surrounded by evergreen trees. Dozens of animals native to New Jersey call Cedar Run home.

Be sure to check out our rundown of New Jersey nature centers and other great activity ideas in our Outdoor Activities Guide for New Jersey Kids


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Exploring Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge

When you first arrive at Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge, there is a path to the left of the nature center. We usually hit the path running first thing. Along the half-mile trail, there are plaques with a nature-inspired book for kids to read as they run along the trail. It seems like they change up the book about every month or so, which is nice for keeping the experience fresh.

Some highlights of the short trail (other than the story) are a spot where a small bridge goes over the creek and an area where you can walk onto a small dock or platform that overlooks a marsh or wetlands area. Both are beautiful spots to stop and listen to the babbling brook as the water rushes along under you. When we visited in winter, the ice along the brook was beautiful and almost looked like a scene from Frozen.

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Best Things To Do at Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge
Meet Sassafras, the deer, who lives at the nature center.

Eventually, you come to the top of a small hill and see a large, fenced-in area. This is home to a deer named Sassafras that was found wandering around with a collar and leash attached and who now calls the refuge home. All the animals residing here can no longer live in the wild, either because they have become too comfortable around humans or because they are injured. The kids love to stop and talk to Sassafras, who usually comes up to the fence.

After that, the area opens up to a variety of pens and cages with all the animals to look in on. Some of our favorites are the rambunctious squirrels, the ever-cawing crow, the raccoon who seems to always be up to some antics, the rambling skunk, the peregrine falcon (the fastest animal in the world), and the bald eagle that sits stoically next to a large American flag. My toddler also loves the turkey vultures, but I think it might be just because they are at her eye level and interested in her. If you are a bird lover, there are a lot of different types of birds here to see.

The whole loop and looking in on all the animals will probably take you around an hour. After seeing the animals, you can walk over the bridge that traverses the small lake. This is a good spot for a photo op. After you cross the lake, walk up the stairs and you will be at the back of the nature center (the front is where you started your adventure). Inside is an indoor play area for kids, which our kids love. Inside is a tent, toadstool chairs, some books, and Legos. There are also bathrooms, a few birds, a stuffed bear, a small store, and a few more animals such as some snakes and turtles.

Wildlife Hospital at Cedar Run

If you ever find an injured animal, you can call the Wildlife Hospital they have on site. The hospital takes in 6,300 animals every year! There are two driveways off Sawmill Road, with one for the nature center and the other for the animal hospital where you drop off animals. They are clearly marked with signs at the entrances of the driveways. I would suggest checking the website first for hours and calling in advance before you make the trip.

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Best Things To Do at Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge
Snap a memorable photo after a fun day at the preserve.

Insiders Tips for Navigating Cedar Run

I would leave some time for the indoor play area. We let our kids spend an hour and we still have to drag them out of there. Also, it's easy to miss, but when driving into the nature center area there is an outdoor play area to your left, right next to the outdoor pavilion. The kids love playing in this area as well. It has a canoe they can row in, a sandbox, a stick teepee kids are working on, and a playhouse. And if you really want to make a day of it, there is even a playground right across the street on the lake with picnic benches. Even in winter, the parking lots fill up quickly on weekends, so I would suggest arriving before noon.

Annual Events at the Refuge

Cedar Run has loads of events throughout the year for kids and families, for adults only, and for members only. For kids, they have events during the day that include homeschooling classes, nature journaling for kids, and even guided evening hikes. They also have weekend events for families like brunches with a wildlife rehabilitator and photography lessons. For the 21+ crowd, they have crafting events and guided hikes just for adults. Most of the events have a fee of about $10-15 and you must be a member to attend some. In addition, they have after-school programs, birthday parties, and summer camps.

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Best Things To Do at Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge
Kids can learn about wildlife native to New Jersey.

Cedar Run: Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

You and Me Preschool runs monthly with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday sessions from 10-11am for kids 3-5 years old. There is a story, a craft, and an adventure. Classes are always held outside and there is a $10 fee per child.  

Knee-High Naturalists is similar to You and Me Preschoolers and also held outdoors. This program runs monthly on Wednesdays or Thursdays from 1-2:30pm and is for 4-5-year-old kids. Each session costs $12 per child. These classes coincide with the Homeschool Classes for 6-11-year-olds to make it easier on families with multiple children. They even have special monthly family night hikes for younger kids that run from 5:30-7pm in the evening. See the events page for more information.

Best Things To Do at Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge

Take time to enjoy the scenery on a trip to Cedar Run.

Know Before You Go to Cedar Run

  • Getting to the nature center: GPS can be spotty in this area of Medford, so it pays to look at a map before heading out. Some people find the two separate entrances confusing, but just be sure to read the sign carefully before you turn down the driveway. The hospital and the nature center have separate addresses you can plug into your GPS. 
  • Parking: There are two parking lots, one close to the Nature Center and one just beyond that a little further away. Parking is free, but we have noticed they can fill up when there are birthday parties on weekends.
  • Food: Other than maybe some drinks and pre-packaged snacks at the gift shop, they do not sell food at Cedar Run. But, if you feel like packing a lunch, there are benches around the sanctuary and the covered pavilion has tables which, when not in use, is a great spot for a picnic lunch.
  • Strollers: The hiking trail is not paved and would not be good for a stroller. I also believe there are some steps going down to the bridge that takes you over the lake to where most of the animals are located. We did bring a stroller once, but you do have to carry it down the steps. 
  • Bathrooms: The nature center has bathrooms inside.
  • Hours and Admission: The Nature Center is open 7 days a week from 10am-4pm. Admission for adults is $10 and children 4-12 are $5. Children 3 and under are FREE! They also accept monetary donations as well as items for the animals at the hospital and the sanctuary. There is a donation slot outside the nature center. You can buy tickets to the nature center online or when you get there. A membership costs $75 for a family and on top of admission for the year it also gets you 10% off the gift shop, a discount for birthday parties and summer camps, as well as access to the member-only events.

Photos by the author

Places featured in this article:

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge