When it comes to hikes, New Jersey has it all. The Garden State offers lengthy trails, short strolls, waterfront views and so much more. Everyone has a favorite hike, but there are some trails here in New Jersey that we should all take at least once. You know exactly where they’ll lead you, but you never know what you’ll find.
1. High Point Monument
High Point State Park has a variety of trails, ranging from .5 - 4.3 miles; you can even combine trails for a longer hike. For maximum impact with minimal hiking, park by the monument, hike down to Lake Marcia and back. It's less than two miles round-trip, and you'll get lovely views of the monument, three states (NY/NJ/PA) and the lake.
2. Buttermilk Falls
While you don't need to hike to see the falls (there's a parking lot and viewing area), it's a great starting point for several other trips. Start at the falls, head to Hemlock Pond and make your way back in under 5 miles. Add in Crater Lake for a 7.5-mile loop. The falls are best viewed after recent rain; in very dry conditions they can be little more than a trickle.
3. Manasquan Reservoir
You'll find four designated trails at this reservoir, ranging from just .2 miles to a more challenging 5.1 miles. There are also several wildlife viewing areas and an environmental center to enjoy. Since the majority of hikes here are very manageable, it's a great option for families or photographers looking for great shots with minimal exertion.
4. Pochuck Boardwalk
The easiest way to hike the Appalachian Trail, this 1.5-mile stretch of boardwalk (3 miles out and back) offers some stunning scenery. Manageable for most skill levels and pet friendly, a fun feature is the suspended bridge over Pochuck Creek.
5. Pyramid Mountain
This Morris County park provides visitors with a variety of trails, combine them as you see fit. I highly recommend making a stop at Tripod Rock (pictured), though getting there requires a moderate hike with a small section of difficult terrain. Other attractions include ruins, streams, overlooks and additional glacial erratic boulders.
6. South Mountain Fairy Trail
This whimsical, family-friendly hike can be found along the Rahway Trail (white blazes) of the South Mountain Reservation. It is dotted with charming fairy abodes, made of all natural materials. To learn more about the Fairy Trail,
. Remember to be respectful of these delicate structures. If you do decide to contribute to the trail, use only natural materials (wood, rocks, shells, etc.).
7. Island Beach State Park
There's nothing like a good beach hike and this stunning natural area offers 8 different trails, all under a mile long. You'll notice interpretive displays along the way, taking you on a journey through the island's natural and cultural history. If you're lucky, you may spot one of the famous foxes.
8. Batsto Lake Trail
The Batsto Lake Trail is one of many magnificent trails in Wharton State Forest, taking you on an easy 4.2-mile loop around the lake. I highly recommending adding an extra mile or two to your trip and visiting the historic Batsto Village.
9. Belleplain State Forest
Every New Jerseyan needs to hike through our picturesque Pinelands at least once. Belleplain State Forest (in Cape May and Cumberland Counties) is the perfect place to do so. There are two dozen trails to enjoy, of varying difficulties, which will lead you through a variety of natural landscapes including ponds, lakes, bogs, wetlands and forests.
10. Delaware & Raritan Canal Towpath
Offering 70 miles of flat, level terrain, this scenic towpath is ideal for hiking and biking. It is wheelchair and stroller accessible in most areas and takes you through towns from Trenton to Lambertville. Be sure to stop at Washington Crossing State Park.
While everyone’s definition of an ideal hike varies, I think this list (much like New Jersey) has something for everyone. Hiking opportunities abound throughout the Garden State, and you can find many more at
www.njhiking.com, who took several of the photos featured in this article. For more ideas on what trail to conquer next, check out my article on Mount Tammany or these 15 Easy Hikes.