09. October 2017 · Comments Off on Best hiking trails in New Jersey · Categories: Adventure Travel, Blog Post

“I took a walk in the woods and come out taller than the trees.” – Henry David Thoreau

When you think of New Jersey the first thing that comes to mind is the Jersey Shore and the turnpike, not hiking and nature. But I am constantly pleasantly surprised at all the hiking opportunities and forces of nature that occur in this state. I have put together some of New Jersey’s best outdoor adventures that I think everyone should check out at least once.

Wawayanda State Park

Located along the New York border in Sussex and Passaic Counties this park appeals to any outdoor enthusiast in some form or another. It has Lake Wawayanda where you can swim, boat, and fish or you can head into the woods for some peace and great hiking. A twenty-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail runs through this park so you may see some thru hikers during your day hike. There are lots of options for hiking here, with 60 miles of trails, so whether you are a novice hiker or a more serious hiker you will be able to find a trail that suites your needs. We consider ourselves more serious hikers and we brought along our dog to explore the trails that Wawayanda had to offer. We ended up doing a large loop trail across the road from the first parking area that eventually came around to Wawayanda Lake where there were a lot of people enjoying a day of swimming and tanning on the beach. We hiked in the woods for 4-5 hours and for a significant portion of the hike we did not see another person, it was as though we were completely alone in the forest, aside from the fresh bear scat we encountered which was a little unnerving. It was extremely peaceful in these woods and somewhat unsettling to not see another soul for such a long span of time. You couldn’t hear a single car noise or manmade noise of any sort, it was as though you were completely alone in the world. Just you and the nature around you. It put you into a meditative state as you lumbered along well-groomed, relatively easy trails surrounded by the crush of vegetation. So, if you really want to get away from the craziness that sometimes is New Jersey, I highly recommend this park for a restorative get away that’s close to home.

Stokes State Forest

Here we hiked Tillman Ravine, which followed a stream with a swimming hole that looked like a teacup. The hike had brilliant greens from the trees to the vegetation, as though the entire forest were glowing with a vibrant green aura. The coolness in the forest made for an easy hike along the brook with minimal elevation changes. If you’re looking for a nice walk, one that’s not too strenuous this is the place to go. Stokes State Forest is nestled in Sussex County and also hosts a 12.5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail. There are plenty of hikes to choose from, it’s dog friendly, and there are lots of things to do from camping, hiking, boating to fishing and hunting.

Jenny Jump State Forest

Located in Warren County this park has stunning views of the Jenny Jump Mountain Range. Glaciers receded from this area at the end of the Wisconsin Ice Age about 21,000 years ago. This park consists of 11 miles of hiking trails and 3 miles of hiking/mountain biking trails. My favorite hike in that park is the trail to Ghost Lake. The trail is relatively easy hiking with a finish crossing over a small land bridge straddling the lake. You can stand right in the middle of the land bridge and take in the lake on both sides, the hazy mist coming off the water and on a hot day the snakes laying on the trail catching some rays. This is bear country and if you are interested in checking out the park just be aware that there are regular sightings of black bears in this area.

Hacklebarney State Park

Another glacial valley found in Morris County with the Black River cutting its way through the park. This park is lined in hemlocks with a coolness within the trees that makes for a refreshing hike. In the 19th century this area was mined for iron ore but is now a favorite hiking, camping and fishing spot for locals. The hiking trails are found in the northern part of the 465-acre natural area and give you great views of the River. Also, not a significantly strenuous hike, this is a nice, dog friendly day hike in a high traffic area. Lots of people visit this park but for good reason. This is by far one of our favorite places to hike in New Jersey.

Point Mountain Trail

This trail, in Hunterdon County, is a dog friendly trail that winds its way up to a lookoff point and then back down along the Musconetcong River for a loop trail that offers a plethora of landscapes. From the rocky 606-foot elevation change up to the peak on the 2.9-mile loop trail this is a high traffic area of day hikers and anglers. The river is stocked with trout and as you hike along the river it is dotted with fisherman, fly fishing for catch and release trout in the conservation stretch of the river. From the peak you get stunning views of Warren and Hunterdon Counties with the farmland all around and then you plunge back down into the forest, pushed in close by the trees, with small streams running through the trail and the smell of the river all around you. There are lots of opportunity for bird and mammal watching on this trail so bring some binoculars.

The Delaware Water Gap

This recreation area offers spectacular hikes with stunning views and nature that surrounds you completely and takes you by surprise at every turn. The New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap is home to part of the Appalachian Trail and boasts the top ranked Mount Tammany, a 3.3-mile trail that is heavily trafficked and pretty challenging with a steady uphill climb over large rocks. The views at the top are spectacular (minus the view of the highway below) and the hike provides one heck of a workout. Fall is by far the perfect time to go when foliage is at its peak. Since New Jersey gets hot and extremely humid in the summer be careful when planning to hike this trail and pack lots of water and snacks.

Another top hike in the Delaware Water Gap and one of my personal favorites in the hike up to Sunfish Pond. You can take a section of the Appalachian Trail up and back to Sunfish Pond or you can make a loop by taking Dunfield Creek Trail up and the Appalachian Trail back, or vice versa. Dunfield Creek is a beautiful hike the weaves around the creek running through the woods. It is much less travelled than the Appalachian Trail, with the woods crushing in around you. It can be a tough trail if there has been a lot of rain because you have to cross over the creek several times and if its overflowing crossing can be a little treacherous. But Sunfish Pond is a peaceful, solitary pond in the middle of the forest, a beautiful surprise amidst the trees. Though one word of warning, be careful on the rocks, they can be extremely slippery. I know this from experience and have the marks to show for it.

The Pine Barrens

The pine barrens in Southern New Jersey is like entering an entirely different world. The soil is not soil at all but sand and the trees are the stunted knotty pines you see in old horror movies and the rivers are a wine color due to the acidity of the water. This area is like nothing else in New Jersey, compared to the mountainous, thick forests in the northern part of the state. One trail, that is particularly beautiful is the Mullica River Trail, traversing from Atsion Lake to the historic Batsto Village. Batsto Village started as an iron ore mining village in the 1700s, switching hands several times before being purchased by the state in the mid-1950s. You have the option of parking at Batsto Village, where you can check out the buildings that used to be home to the mine workers and their families, or you can park in a large field at Atsion Lake filled with jeeps planning on doing some off-roading in the area, horses and their riders, bikers, and day hikers. This area offers a plethora of trails for all types. The Mullica River trail is 9.5 miles one way and is not a loop so you will have to come back the same way you went in. However, part way through the hike there is the Mullica River Wilderness Camp where you can set up a tent and spend the night. You will need to purchase a camping permit at the Atsion office prior to setting out but this gives you the flexibility to take your time, enjoying the eerily beautiful scenery and do complete the 19-mile round trip.  If you are looking for a completely different hiking experience, with easy terrain but otherworldly sites, this is a must see. The only thing to be wary of is to take note of the time of year as the summer brings out the greenheads and strawberry flies, which can be brutal. I have, however, hiked this area several times without incident.

What are some of your favorite hikes in New Jersey? Is there something I missed that you think should be on this list? Or did I list one of your favorite hikes? Why do you love it?