New Jersey has over three dozen incredible state parks and forests, the largest of which is Wharton State Forest. At over 110,000 acres, it is the largest tract of land owned by the state park system. The official mailing address is in Hammonton, though it takes up much of the Pinelands.
Abandoned tracks running through the forest.
Wharton is a hiker's paradise and, best of all, there is no entrance fee to the park. There are 19 marked trails, several of which are wheelchair-accessible. Certain trails allow for biking and horseback riding.
Sunrise in the woods.
Trails are available at all difficulty levels and range from just .5 miles to over 18 miles. Wharton Forest also includes a large portion of the 53-mile BaToNa trail. BaToNa stands for 'back to nature' and it definitely does not disappoint. For a walk-through of the Batsto Trail, enjoy this video by NJHiking:
Boating at Atsion Recreation Area.
If hiking isn't for you, there are so many outdoor activities to enjoy. There are opportunities for fishing, hunting, boating, canoeing, swimming and cross-country skiing.
The lovely Atsion Lake.
Electric motors are permitted on the Mullica River and canoeing/kayaking can be enjoyed on the Mullica, Batsto, Wading and Oswego Rivers. A nominal launching fee is charged on the Mullica River beginning on Memorial Day weekend and ending on Labor Day. Swimming is permitted at the Atsion Lake Recreation Area, when lifeguards are on duty. Entrance fees are charged during swimming season and are $10 per carload on weekends and $5 per carload on weekdays, for New Jersey Residents.
The historic Atsion Schoolhouse.
One of my favorite parts of Wharton State Forest is the history. You'll find numerous abandoned sites and historic villages. Atsion Village, pictured, includes a church, cemetery, school, store and remnants of a cotton mill, along with the famed Atsion Mansion. The 1826 home serves as a stunning example of Greek Revival architecture and is available for tours seasonally.
Harrisville Village is a genuine ghost town from the late 1800s. The area includes the ruins of a paper mill, gristmill, several homes, the Howard Harris Mansion and the McCarty Mansion.
The most well-known historic village at Wharton is Batsto Village. This beautiful settlement is spectacularly preserved. Between 1766 - 1877, the area served as a bog iron and glass making center. There are 33 buildings in the village, including the Batso Mansion, which is available for tours.
Company houses in Batsto Village.
Other buildings include a gristmill, sawmill, general store, workers' homes and post office. There is also a blacksmith shop which is open seasonally for live demonstrations. For more about Batsto Village, watch this wonderful video by Wanda Kaluza:
Atsion Lake cabin.
With all there is to do and see at Wharton State Forest, you'll probably want to give the trip more than just a day. If you're looking to spend the night, you'll find numerous camping options. Primitive tent sites (hand pumps for water and pit toilets) start as low as $3 per night. You'll also find tent and trailer sites with potable water, flush toilets and showers within walking distance. I'm more of a cabin girl, and they don't disappoint. You'll find furnished cabins with kitchenettes and private baths starting as low as $55 per night. These cabins are available between April 1 - October 31.
A truly unforgettable trip, Wharton State Forest is affordable, too. I’d highly recommend a visit to nature lovers, history buffs, and everyone in between. Have you been to Wharton State Forest before? Share your experiences in the comments! Are there any other New Jersey state parks you would like to see featured? Let me know.