City Hiking Guides

Exploring The Best Hikes in New Jersey

POSTED ON March 6, 2024 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

New Jersey, often overshadowed by its bustling urban centers, is a treasure trove of scenic landscapes waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just someone looking to take your four-legged friend out for an adventure, the diverse trails of central New Jersey offer something for everyone. From the historical rail trails near Jersey City that cater perfectly to dog walkers to the serene paths winding through the unique ecosystem of the New Jersey pine barrens, there’s no shortage of natural beauty. Venture down to Asbury Park for coastal views, or seek the tranquility of New Brunswick for a quieter hike. Not to forget, the challenging terrain leading to Osio Rock presents hikers with rewarding panoramic views. If you’re feeling adventurous, some trails even rival those you’d find in New Hampshire, proving you don’t need to leave the state to experience magnificent hikes. Join us as we uncover some of the best hikes in New Jersey, a guide for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

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Delaware Water Gap

Delaware Water gap

The Delaware Water Gap is one of the most beautiful natural areas in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, with the Delaware River cutting between the Appalachian Mountains. The New Jersey side (in Warren County) of this park offers captivating views and a variety of trails, including the Hemlock Pond Trail, suitable for all skill levels. Hikers can find themselves in the presence of awe-inspiring waterfalls like Silverthread Falls, the Sunfish Pond, and the 80-foot-tall Raymondskill Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in all of New Jersey.

The Gap also provides plenty of outdoor activities as it winds through a forest that is home to a rich diversity of wildlife.

Here are the four most popular trails in the area:

Appalachian Trail Section in New Jersey

  • Location: Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey
  • Distance: 28 miles (45 km) are within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. 
  • Hiking Duration: Approximately 2 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Appalachian Trail, one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, stretches over 2,000 miles (3,500 km) from Georgia to Maine. New Jersey is home to a significant 74-mile (119 km) portion of the trail, famous for its ridge walks and, in places, a notably rough and rocky terrain that challenges even the most seasoned hikers. Notable stops along the New Jersey section include the Stairway to Heaven hike, culminating in a panorama of rural New Jersey from Pinwheel Vista, and the Pochuck Boardwalk, a two-mile stretch of wooden path that traverses the beautiful Pochuck Valley.

The New Jersey part of the Appalachian Trail offers a variety of terrains, from mountain ridges with expansive views to subtropical terrain with indigenous plants such as the Mountain Laurel. This section of the trail is also steeped in history, with the chance to explore an old mine and a section dubbed “The Lemon Squeezer,” a narrow crevice through which hikers must squeeze.

Dunnfield Creek Trail

Dunnfield Creek Pond Pretty little pond on the Appalachian Trail.

  • Location: Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey
  • Distance: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) one-way
  • Hiking Duration: Approximately 2–4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Dunnfield Creek Trail, nestled within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, offers an immersive nature experience. Renowned for its moderate difficulty, the trail appeals to both seasoned hikers and those looking for a moderately challenging day out. The path takes adventurers along Dunnfield Creek, enveloped by a lush, verdant forest that showcases the area’s natural beauty. Hikers can enjoy the serene melodies of the creek’s flowing waters and the diverse regional flora and fauna, making it a picturesque escape into nature.

The trail’s unique appeal lies in its varied attractions, including small waterfall views and the creek itself, which serves as a perfect backdrop for a peaceful hike. The trail’s endpoint rewards hikers with the opportunity to explore other parts of the Delaware Water Gap, making it an ideal starting point for a day of adventure. Being a point-to-point trail, planning a return trip, or using two vehicles can enhance the experience, allowing hikers to take in the beauty of Dunnfield Creek without retracing their steps.

Mount Tammany Red Dot Trail

Delaware Water Gap View From Red Dot Trail

  • Location: Worthington State Forest, New Jersey
  • Distance: 1.2 miles (1.9 km) one-way
  • Hiking Duration: Approximately 2–3 hours
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Trail Type: Out and back

The Mount Tammany Red Dot Trail is a standout hiking path located in Worthington State Forest, renowned for its rigorous climb to the mountain’s summit. This trail, although only 1.2 miles one-way, is labeled as difficult due to its steep and rocky terrain, which challenges even seasoned hikers. Despite the physical demands, the trail rewards adventurers with an unparalleled view of the Delaware River and the surrounding landscapes, making it a rewarding experience for those who undertake the challenge.

Worthington State Forest serves as a vital connector to the larger Appalachian Trail, establishing the area as a significant point for hiking enthusiasts looking to explore the expansive network of trails in the region. The Red Dot Trail offers an awe-inspiring peek into the natural beauty and geological wonders of New Jersey, presenting hikers with sweeping vistas and a sense of accomplishment upon reaching the peak.

Buttermilk Falls Trail

Lots of Falls Along Buttermilk Creek Trail

  • Location: Buttermilk Falls, New Jersey
  • Distance: 1.4 miles (2.25 km), one-way
  • Hiking Duration: Approximately 2–3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Trail Type: Out and back
  •  Directions to Buttermilk Falls trailhead

The Buttermilk Falls Trail offers an adventurous route that begins with a majestic climb to the top of Buttermilk Falls, one of New Jersey’s tallest and most stunning waterfalls. The first mile of the trail is notable for its steep ascent, rewarding hikers with amazing views of the falls. This section is particularly appealing for families and photography enthusiasts who wish to capture the natural beauty of the waterfall amidst the surrounding forest.

Beyond the waterfall, the trail becomes even more challenging as it continues its steep climb to connect with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. This segment offers spectacular panoramic views of the valley below, making the strenuous hike worth the effort. For those looking to extend their adventure, heading south on the AT connects hikers with the Crater Lake and Hemlock Pond loop trails.

Stairway to Heaven Hike

Stairway to Heaven Hike

  • Location: Wawayanda State Park, New Jersey
  • Distance: 1.3 miles (2.1 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate-to-challenging
  • Trail Type: Out and back

The Stairway to Heaven hike is a visually stunning and physically stimulating trek that is part of the Appalachian Trail. This hike takes adventurers through the vibrant landscapes of Wawayanda State Park, ultimately climbing Wawayanda Mountain (location). The trail’s culmination is the breathtaking Pinwheel’s Vista, which offers panoramic views of Vernon Valley, Kittatinny Ridge, and, on clear days, the distant Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains. Recognized for its natural beauty, this trail segment is lauded as one of New Jersey’s most celebrated hikes.

Given its popularity, hikers should brace themselves for the company of others, particularly on weekends and holidays. The trail is known for its rocky terrain, cow pasture, and steep inclines, particularly the final half-mile ascent to Pinwheel’s Vista. This portion of the hike is where it earns its moderate-to-challenging rating.

Despite the physical exertion required, the rewarding views at the summit make this one of the must-visit trails in the state. It’s an ideal adventure for those seeking to experience the best of New Jersey’s natural landscapes, intertwining rigorous activity with the tranquility of nature.

Columbia Trail

Columbia New Jersey

  • Location: High Bridge in Hunterdon County to the border of Mt. Olive and Washington Township in Morris County, NJ
  • Distance: 15 miles (24 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Varies by segment
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Columbia Trail, stretching from High Bridge in Hunterdon County to the border of Mt. Olive and Washington Township in Morris County, offers tranquil scenery and a flat route that appeals to hikers, dog walkers, and cyclists alike. The trail can be divided into three distinct segments: High Bridge to Califon; Califon to Long Valley; and Long Valley to Bartley Road. These segments allow explorers to experience a variety of landscapes, from serene cow pastures to hill views, providing a picturesque backdrop for a leisurely day out.

Whether it’s a sunny afternoon or a rainy day, the Columbia Trail provides a reliably pleasant route for outdoor enthusiasts. The trail’s easy-to-moderate difficulty level makes it accessible for visitors of all ages, including families looking to enjoy a day in nature. Along the way, landmarks such as the historic towns of Califon and High Bridge offer delightful detours, where one can immerse in local NJ culture. The trail’s well-maintained path also ensures that it’s a favorite amongst dog owners, providing a safe and scenic environment for pets to enjoy.

Palisades Interstate Park Trails

The Palisades Interstate Park, New Jersey, USA

  • Location: Alpine, New Jersey
  • Size: 2,500 acres (3.9 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: undefined
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Over 30 miles (48 km)

The Palisades Interstate Park, a historic New Jersey park nestled along the Hudson River, has more than 30 miles of hiking and ski trails. Located just a stone’s throw from the bustling metropolis of New York City, this expansive riverfront park provides a serene escape with its sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and a diverse landscape that ranges from rocky cliffs to lush cow pastures. It’s an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure within proximity to urban life.

Among its most notable features is the Giant Stairs Trail, a rugged and exhilarating hike that leads adventurers alongside the dramatic cliffs bordering the Hudson River, offering stunning and direct views of its flow. Another highlight is the New Jersey State Line Lookout, the highest point in the park, which provides visitors with breathtaking vistas of the surrounding area.

Jenny Jump State Forest Trails

Jenny Jump State Forest

Jenny Jump State Forest offers a unique natural sanctuary in the northwestern section of New Jersey. This expansive park, characterized by its verdant pine barrens and rugged terrain, presents an array of activities set against the backdrop of the Wisconsin glaciation’s legacy. With a few miles of hiking trails, visitors can explore the extensive mountainside, adorned with large glacial boulders and outcroppings that narrate the earth’s ancient history. The park also features the 6-mile-long (9.6 km) Jenny Jump Mountain ridge, providing hikers and nature enthusiasts with an exhilarating outdoor experience.

The open terrain, particularly striking during the winter months, becomes a pristine landscape for cross-country skiing. Beyond the physical activities, the park serves as a haven for wildlife observation, with the dense woods and clear skies perfect for bird watching and stargazing.

Exploring Trails in Stephens State Park

Stephens State Park

  • Location: Western Morris County, NJ
  • Size: 805 acres (3.26 sq. km.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: 6
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: 6 miles

Stephens State Park, nestled in Warren County, is a serene park that presents an ideal retreat for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Besides its picturesque picnic areas by the river, the park is a haven for freshwater fishing, catering to both novice and experienced anglers looking for a quiet spot to cast their lines.

For those keen on exploring the natural beauty on foot, mountain bike, or horseback, there are 6 miles (9.6 km) of marked trails winding through the park. These trails offer varied experiences, from leisurely walks to more challenging hikes, ensuring there’s something for every level of adventure seeker.

Saddle River County Park Hikes

  • Location: Bergen County, NJ
  • Size: 577 acres
  • Number of Hiking Trails: Multi-use pathway that serves as the main trail
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Approximately 6 miles

Saddle River County Park, located in Bergen County,  is a sprawling linear park that gracefully follows the course of the Saddle River and its tributary brooks. Designed with both serenity and recreational activity in mind, it features a continuous, shared-use path that extends around 6 miles (9.6 km) from Ridgewood to Rochelle Park, making it perfect for cyclists, joggers, and families looking for a scenic outing.

This park distinguishes itself with five interconnected park areas, each offering unique attractions, including playgrounds perfect for kids, tennis courts, and a model boat pond, as well as several picnic areas with convenient parking lot access. The multi-use path also encompasses circular trails around some of the ponds, offering beautiful views and an immersive experience of the park’s natural beauty.

Overpeck County Park Hikes

Bergen County Line NJ Transit

  • Location: Bergen County, NJ
  • Size: 805 acres (1.26 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: Not specified
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: 5 miles (8 km)

Overpeck County Park, within Bergen County, emerges as a multi-faceted recreational area rich in natural beauty and activities. The park is segmented into different areas, each offering unique experiences for visitors. It includes trails designed for hiking, walking, and biking, cutting through scenic woods and providing compelling views of the surrounding landscape. The availability of a spacious parking lot ensures easy access for all visitors, making it a convenient escape location.

Beyond the trails, Overpeck Park caters to a diverse array of interests, with features appealing to both children and adults. Its vast expanses include well-maintained grassy fields perfect for picnics, sports fields for organized activities, and serene spots for those seeking tranquility within a short distance of bustling urban areas. The park’s layout encourages exploration amidst the amazing views.

Hikes in Cheesequake State Park

Cheesequake State Park

Cheesequake State Park, stands out as a unique natural oasis nestled in Old Bridge, Middlesex County, offering a blend of habitats, including coastal salt marshes and lush forests. This diverse ecological setting allows for a variety of recreational activities, including hiking on five designated trails with varying lengths and difficulties, from easy to moderate. The Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue trails are primarily for walking and hiking, while the White Trail is a multi-use path suitable for both hiking and mountain biking.

The park is not just limited to trails; it provides comprehensive facilities such as a nature center, a camping area equipped for both tents and RVs, and a fishing lake, further enriched by its proximity to the Raritan River.

Conclusion

New Jersey may be small, but each hiking spot unveils a world unto itself, offering unique experiences and landscapes. Exploring these trails offers a chance to connect with the natural beauty and rich history that New Jersey has to offer.

Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself on the rugged paths of the Appalachian Trail or seeking solitude in the wetlands of the Great Swamp, the Garden State has a hike for you.

So, lace up your boots, pack your water and snacks, and head out to discover the best hikes in New Jersey.

If you’re looking for more amazing hikes in the United States, check out our City Hiking Guides Archive.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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