Nature April 05, 2021
A Nature Lovers Definitive Guide To New Jersey’s Natural Beauty – Parks, Beaches, Hikes And More!
New Jersey is known as the Garden State – which often surprises visitors who have only ever seen the Hollywood depictions of New Jersey. Sure the
Sopranos certainly told one tale of Jersey living, but anyone who has driven beyond the highways, turnpike, and parkway will tell you that our state is a treasure trove of natural wonder. You’ll find towering waterfalls, rocky ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountains, lakes that were once cranberry bogs, a larger-than-life forest in the Pinelands, and so much more! Whether you want to go for a scenic hike in New Jersey or just relax on the sand by the water – if you love outdoor recreation, the natural wonders of the Garden State certainly belong on your bucket list.
The Best Little Known Park In New Jersey
Lake Lenape Park in Atlantic County offers more than 2,000 acres of land to explore, split between the East and West sections of the park. This is a hub for kayakers, paddlers, hikers, and families, with plenty to see and explore. The park's iconic lighthouse is a South Jersey landmark, and the park sits along the newly established Pinelands National Scenic Byway. Despite offering so much to the community, this part in Mays Landing is seemingly under-utilized, and you'll rarely find a crowd gathered here.
Read more about the park and all it has to offer right here
The Most Pristine Beach In New Jersey
Seven Presidents Beach
is a hidden gem managed by the Monmouth County Parks system. Few people, aside from locals in the Long Branch area, even know that this secret public beach exists! The pristine sand is perfect for laying out a towel, and even in the middle of summer, you'll be able to float along in the ocean without dodging boogie-boarders or crowds of swimmers.
The Most Jaw-Dropping Lake In New Jersey
Round Valley Reservoir is one of the most beautiful places in the Garden State! This man-made reservoir boasts crystal clear waters, which make it a popular spot for scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddling. The reservoir is surrounded by a recreation area that's popular with hikers and trail runners, and you'll even find a primitive group campsite on the ridge across from the main beaches. However, despite the peace and quiet you'll encounter at Round Valley Reservoir, it's worth noting that the lake may be haunted, and
you'll find a ghost town beneath the surface
The Most Beautiful Island In New Jersey
New Jersey's barrier islands are known around the world. While many popular Jersey Shore towns draw huge crowds all summer long, if you're looking for a natural oasis, head to Brigantine Island. During the summer, you'll find a quiet beach here where you can escape the crowds. In the off-season, it's common to see horseback riders enjoying the sand! All year long, animal lovers can visit the
Marine Mammal Stranding Center
to learn about marine animal rehabilitation and rescue.
Brigantine is also a haven for photographers, and some of the most iconic New Jersey sunrise photos are taken on the shoreline near the pier. Birders and other nature lovers will want to visit the North Brigantine State Natural Area, a coastal marsh preserve that protects a delicate and beautiful ecosystem.
The Best Trail To Hike In New Jersey
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in New Jersey, and several of them truly stand out. However, one hike constantly ends up on top of the "best of New Jersey" lists, and for good reason! If you've never hiked up to the summit of Mt. Tammany, what are you waiting for?
Though it's not the tallest mountain in the state (that honor goes to High Point, about 40 miles away on the same Kittatinny Ridge),
it's one of the most popular trails for Jersey hikers
. The most common way to reach the summit is to park at the Dunnfield Creek parking lot and hike up the Red Dot Trail. After a grueling 2.5 miles, you'll reach the summit and stand approximately 1,500 feet above the Delaware River, which you can see right below you. From there, the downhill Blue trail takes you back to Dunnfield Creek, where you can continue to hike to Sunfish Pond along the Appalachian Trail or head back to your car for a well-deserved break.
Spring and summer are the busiest times on the trail, and the small parking lot (and adjacent overflow parking) tends to fill up by 8 a.m. on weekends. Hike in the fall for a breathtaking view of foliage across the river on Pennsylvania's Mount Minsi.
The Most Beautiful River In New Jersey
The gorgeous and wild Black River is an underrated natural wonder in the Garden State. When most people think of New Jersey's rivers, the big ones tend to come to mind - the Delaware, the Mullica, the Raritan, the Hudson, and the Passaic - but anyone who has spent time in the Skylands will be quick to tell you that it's the smaller creeks and tributaries that are truly awe-inspiring. The Black River is one of those smaller streams. As a tributary to the North Branch of the Raritan, it flows for just twelve miles from Sunset Lake in Mine Hill, NJ to the Raritan.
If you want to get a close look at this beautiful waterway, you're in luck! It flows through the Black River Wildlife Management Area, Black River County Park, and Hacklebarney State Park.
Hacklebarney State Park
, in particular, showcases the river against a stunning wilderness. Visit during peak fall foliage for a true treat.
The Most Scenic Mountain In New Jersey
Wyanokie High Point in Norvin Green State Forest isn't the tallest peak in the NJ-NY highlands but it is certainly one of the most stunning. On your way up to the high point, you'll walk past Otter Hole falls, you'll top Carris Hill, and you'll even discover abandoned mines! On your way down, you can reward yourself with a dip in the swimming hole at the base of the beautiful Chikahoki Falls.
There are dozens of trails you can take and connect to create a loop trail to Wyanokie High Point, but the most scenic way up is to park at Otter Hole falls and take the Highlands Trail up, and the Carris Hill trail down.
Learn more about this trail right here
The Most Unique Garden In New Jersey
Well, since New Jersey is the Garden State, this one was quite difficult to determine. There are so many stunning gardens tucked away in all corners of NJ! From Rutgers Gardens in New Brunswick to Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown, it's easy to find a natural oasis that delivers nothing but peace and quiet. However, only one of New Jersey's gardens is unlike any other spot on Earth. Grounds for Sculpture, just off of 295 in Hamilton, is one of the most surreal places you'll ever get to see.
Stroll through more than 40 acres of sculptures that live intertwined with gardens and structures like bridges and fountains. There are more than 250 sculptures, and it's nearly impossible to see them all on your first visit!
You'll want to return to Grounds for Sculpture again and again - it's truly a wonderful spot for curious minds to let their imaginations run wild. At least once, you'll want to treat yourself to a gourmet French meal at the garden's signature restaurant, Rat's.
As you can see, the Garden State is full of stunning places for nature lovers to enjoy. If you want to weigh in on the best places to get out and enjoy the outdoors in New Jersey,
nominate your favorite spots!