New Jersey offers hundreds of incredible hiking opportunities, though some are more manageable than others. There’s nothing more relaxing than a long hike, but we don’t all have the time and energy. Shorter hikes are perfect for families, beginners, or anyone looking to take a brief, but rewarding stroll through New Jersey’s natural beauty. I’ve searched through dozens of trails to bring you some of the best short hikes in the state. I’ve chosen 5 trails under 5 miles, from North, Central and South Jersey.
1. Van Campens Glen, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Van Campens Glen, located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, may be the most rewarding short hike in New Jersey. This easy to navigate trail comes in at just 1.6-miles round trip and offers spectacular views of several waterfalls.
2. Tillman Ravine, Stokes State Forest
This 2.3-mile hike is often combined with the adjoining Van Campens Glen Trail for a longer (yet still manageable) hike. As a standalone hike, it still has plenty to offer, featuring several cascades and the historic Walpack Cemetery.
3. Hawk Rock Viewpoint, Ramapo County Valley Reservation
Starting at the wooden kiosk near the parking area, take the main path past Scarlet Oak Pond and then follow the green trail toward Hawk Rock. The trek offers lovely pond views and an incredibly scenic outlook, pictured. The hike to the viewpoint is just 1 mile long, though you'll need to take the same trails back for a total of 2 miles.
4. Hacklebarney State Park
There are only 6 miles of trails in this state park, so you really can't go wrong here when looking for a short hike. All of the trails are enjoyable, though there are two that I feel stand out. The first is an approximately 2.6-mile loop that takes you around the Main and Red Trails. The Red Trail runs along the beautiful black river and offers numerous spots for fishing and picnicking along the way. The second trail is even shorter at just around .75 miles. Take the Main Trail to the Waterfall Trail, and make a left on the Red Trail to get back to the parking lot. It's that easy, and you'll score great views of Hacklebarney Falls.
5. Boardwalk Hike, Appalachian Trail
Most hikers dream of taking on the Appalachian Trail, and New Jerseyans are lucky to have an incredibly easy Appalachian Trail hike available to us. From the Pochuck parking area, head to the Boardwalk Trail and take it to the end. Then, loop back. It's 2 miles round trip and you'll enjoy some gorgeous scenery and a spectacular suspension bridge.
6. Thompson Park, Middlesex County
Enjoy a short hike and a long day of family fun. Besides offering several short trails, you'll find a lake, playground, picnic areas, dog park, basketball and tennis courts, and even a small sanctuary featuring farm and barn animals.
7. Perrineville Lake Park, Millstone
There are several multi-use trails at Perrineville Lake Park, but one of the easiest is also the most scenic. The 1.5-mile Lakeside Loop trail takes hikers along the lake and features opportunities for fishing and boating, there is also a picnic area at the very end, right near the parking lot.
8. Cove Trail, Manasquan Reservoir
This Howell hike is absolutely breathtaking at sunrise and sunset. The 1.1-mile Cove Trail will take you past a portion of the reservoir itself, wetlands for wildlife viewing and the environmental center. If you're up for a longer hike, the 5.1-mile Perimeter Trail loops around the entire reservoir offering incredible scenery from all angles.
9. Jakes Branch County Park, Beachwood
The highlight of this Pinelands park is the 5-story visitor's center with an amazing observation deck. I highly recommend the .5-mile Plant Discovery Trail for an easy pondside stroll surrounded by gardens. For a more challenging hike, consider the 3.8-mile Tindey (Blue) Trail.
10. Goat Hill Overlook, Washington Crossing State Park
About 2 miles out and back, this short hike offers some seriously scenic viewpoints. Look out on the Delaware River, New Hope and Lambertville from atop Goat Hill. There are several other, more rugged, trails to enjoy though they aren't as clearly marked.
11. Batsto Village Trail, Wharton State Forest
Begin by exploring Historic Batsto Village and then choose either the Batsto Red (.5 miles), Batsto Blue (1.8 miles), or Batsto White (4 miles) trail to score some great views of the beautiful Batsto Lake. With three scenic options to choose from, all under 5 miles, a hiking trip to Wharton State Forest won't disappoint. There are also several other short (and significantly longer) trails throughout the forest, though those beginning at Batsto Village offer some of the best views-per-mile payoffs.
12. River Overlook Trail, Peek Preserve
This easy hike comes in at around .75 miles round trip, offers views of the Maurice River, and exceptional odds of spotting a bald eagle. To up your chances even more, add the 1.5-mile Red Overlook Trail to your trip. Combined, they still come in at under 5 miles, and you'll also enjoy white cedar swamp views.
13. Cattus Island Park, Toms River
This waterfront park is a popular spot for birdwatchers and has two great trails to choose from. While there were once more, several are currently closed due to storm damage. The 1.5-mile Yellowbrook Trail is the easiest of the two, located right off the Bandon Road Parking Area. The 2.2-mile Island Loop is also bike friendly and offers several osprey nesting areas along the path. The trek to and from the Cattus Island Boulevard Parking Area will add an extra .75 miles or so to the trip.
14. Cape May Point State Park
All three of Cape May Point State Park's trails offer something extra special - both pond and lighthouse views. Ranging from .5 to 1.5 miles, these trails also provide several spots for wildlife viewing, and the park features a concession stand and interpretive center.
15. Blue Trail, Rancocas State Park
There are several trails to choose from here, and this 3.2-mile loop is the longest. You'll pass through woodlands, wetlands, and the Rancocas Creek on your journey. Hikers may spot hawks, heron, eagles and deer, and will also enjoy a seemingly displaced abandoned home along the way.
Who says a hike has to last forever to be amazing? These short trails offer a bit of everything and they’re only just the start. For directions, additional information, and alternative options, check out