Spring is finally here, and it’s the perfect time to hike in New Jersey. Temperatures are just right and the flowers are starting to bloom, our trails come alive with color. The Garden State is home to hundreds of trails, but not all of us can enjoy every one. Some are quite strenuous and, while I love a good challenge, sometimes it’s nice to take it easy. These shorter trails (including several ADA accessible options) are perfect for hikers of all skill levels.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Pochuck Boardwalk, Appalachian Trail, ADA Accessible
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. The Pochuck Boardwalk spans over a mile and you'll need to take it out and back. The first 2/3 of a mile is wheelchair accessible, the last leg will take you over a beautiful suspension bridge. Be aware that the trailhead is located in a residential area, be sure to respect local parking regulations.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Maurice River Bikeway Trail, ADA Accessible
This 1.6-mile trail runs from Ware Avenue in Millville to Sharpe Street Park, along the Maurice River. Short and scenic, it is entirely paved and will take you through Waltman Park and Steward Estate along the way.
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. Delaware & Raritan Canal Trail, ADA Accessible
This riverfront hike can be as long or short as you like. The trail runs approximately 70 miles from Frenchtown to New Brunswick, much of which is ADA accessible. Both the Main Canal Trail, which runs 34 miles in length, and the Feeder Canal Trail at 31.5 miles are made of crushed stone, gravel or other more easily traversable surfaces with little to no elevation change.
What’s your favorite trail in New Jersey? Do you know of any wheelchair accessible trails? Please let us know in the comments. For a more difficult (but still manageable hike), check out this New Jersey hike that was named one of the
most beautiful in America. For even more hiking options, check out NJHiking.com.