Top 10 Spots in New Jersey for Hiking
Fall is settling in. Our days are getting shorter. Temperatures are a little cooler. And Mother Nature has turned our landscape into a riot of bright reds, yellows, and oranges. In short, it’s a great time to be outdoors in New Jersey. From High Point to Cape May and everywhere in between, the Garden State offers a smorgasbord of opportunities to enjoy fall outdoors. We’ve picked ten great spots for hiking in New Jersey. While some are a leisurely walk and others a more strenuous hike, all are excellent reminders of how beautiful fall can be.
High Point State Park
We’re starting at the top – literally. High Point State Park is the home of the highest elevation in New Jersey. High Point Monument is 1,803 feet above sea level, and it’s said you can see three states from that vantage point. The Delaware River snakes through the view to the west, dividing New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and to the east, you can get a fantastic view of New York City on a clear day. The surrounding park was designed by the Olmstead Brothers of Boston, sons of Fredrick Law Olmstead who designed Central Park.
The Giant Stairs
The Giant Stairs offer a challenge for an adventurous hiker. Made from boulders that have tumbled from the Palisades over time, you’ll enjoy scenic views of the Hudson River as you climb over a mile of fallen rocks. The New Jersey Palisades Interstate Park Commission is your best source for information about the trail and the activities you can enjoy as part of your hike.
Head west to the Delaware Water Gap to hike to the top of one of the tallest waterfalls in New Jersey. Once you’ve reached the top, you can continue your climb up to the Appalachian Trail where you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the valley below. This trail is rated moderate to difficult, so consider that when making your plans. Visit the National Park Service website for more information.
Hacklebarney State Park
A majestic forest in the heart of New Jersey, Hacklebarney State Park is home to more than 100 species of birds, three rare plants, and wildlife including black bears. The freshwater Black River runs through it, making it an excellent spot for fisherman. Visit the park’s website for hiking trail maps and other resources to make the most of your visit.
Stairway to Heaven
When you hike the section of the Appalachian Trail that takes you from Pochuck Valley to Pinwheel Vista, you’ll get to experience a few different sights – including the rocky 2.9-mile segment nicknamed the “Stairway to Heaven.” You’ll start your trip with an easy walk along the Pochuck Boardwalk, and along the way you’ll cross several wooden bridges and a few scenic areas including Annie’s Bluff. But the highlight of your trip will be the rocky “stairs” that take you to the top of Waywayanda Mountain. Enjoy the view from the top for a while before you start your trip back down.
Another Delaware Water Gap gem is Mt. Tammany in Worthington State Forest. This spot is the southernmost peak of the Kittatinny Mountains in Warren County. This is a shorter hike, so it’s a great opportunity to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the view when you reach your destination. With views of northwestern New Jersey, it’s a great spot to experience vibrant fall foliage.
Located in Central Jersey, the Sourland area is the largest contiguous forest in the state. While Sourland Mountain might not offer sweeping views, hikers do get the opportunity to enjoy the tranquility of expansive flower fields, and they can challenge themselves hiking the boulders of Devil’s Half Acre. The Sourland Mountain Preserve website says October is a peak time to visit.
Delaware and Raritan Canal
The Delaware and Raritan Canal offers more than 70 miles of trails for hikers to choose from. If you’re a history lover, this hike will take you back in time with its covered bridges, 18th century homes, and remnants of the canal’s locks. You’ll have the chance to imagine how goods used to move between two historic economic centers: Trenton and New Brunswick. A relatively flat trail, this route is fit for hikers and bikers alike.
Hartshorne Woods Park
If you head over to the coast, you’ll find Hartshorne Woods Park overlooking the Navesink River. This is the highest elevation on the Atlantic Coast. The Navesink Military Reservation was built there during WWII, and Battery Lewis, the larger of the two batteries built during the time, was fully restored in 2017. Hikers can enjoy 14 miles of trails and scenic areas including Rocky Point, Claypit Creek, and Buttermilk Valley.
Cape May Point State Park
Because the 157-foot-tall Cape May Lighthouse is the focal point of the park, many people don’t know about Cape May Point State Park’s extensive trail network. A hike through the 153 acres takes visitors through dunes, marshes, forests, and other coastal habitats. Fall is a particularly great time to visit, as the park offers multiple viewing platforms to watch birds beginning to migrate south. In fact, Cape May Point is known as the Fall Birding Capital of the East Coast!
Fall is an ideal time to get outdoors before winter sets in. From strenuous hikes for experts to leisurely walks for novices, the Garden State has every kind of trail imaginable. There is no better way to enjoy a crisp fall day than to spend it outside admiring the natural beauty of our fall foliage. Enjoy the best New Jersey has to offer with a fun fall hike!