New Jersey may be one of the nation’s most densely populated states, but lucky for us, it’s also teeming with extraordinary nature trails. A plethora of preserves and parkland invite you to stretch your legs and wander among mountain ridges, marshes, ponds and pines. Thanks to the local visionaries who carved out these stunning sanctuaries, hiking in NJ has become renowned. Here, we present some of the best places to hike in NJ.
The Ultimate Guide to NJ Nature Trails
Allaire State Park, Wall, NJ
With over 20 miles of nature trails, Allaire is one of the most historic NJ state parks where you begin your hike in the restored 19th-century iron-making village. Feeling adventurous? Take on the full 2.7-mile loop or get muddy on the Floodplain Trail, which leads from the mill pond to the old blast furnace, clinging to the Manasquan River with orange-tinted soil. Prefer a shorter hike? Follow the red blazes to The Nature Center Trail. Into mountain biking? Roll on over to the southern section of Allaire.
Cattus Island County Park, Toms River, NJ
This 530-acre county park offers gorgeous views of Barnegat Bay along 6.9 miles of trail loops with wetland wildlife on display. It’s one of the best places to hike in NJ because no matter which of the four trail loops you choose, you’re treated to a laid-back stroll on the sand, pine needles and boardwalk. When you’re finished, stop at the Butterfly Garden or the newly renovated Cooper Environmental Center to enjoy hands-on educational displays including, a bird-viewing area, live view osprey camera, children’s activity corner, and live reptiles and fish.
Mt. Tammany, near Columbia, NJ
When it comes to hiking in NJ, this is one of most popular trails in the state, stretching 3.5 miles. It’s considered a more moderate hike because it heads steeply uphill to the fantastic overlook of the Delaware Water Gap, but there are shorter, flatter options that give you the same spectacular views of the surrounding area and Mt. Minsi across the way.
Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park, NJ
Another one of the most popular NJ state parks, Island Beach offers eight short trails, each less than a mile long through the narrow, brushy interior of the area. However, the best way to take in all its beauty is to grab a friend, leave one car at the entrance, drive the second car to the southern tip and hike north for 10 miles on unmarked nature trails along the tideline.
Franklin Parker Preserve, Woodland Township
In the heart of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens lies 21 miles of various trail loops amid 10,000 acres of wetlands, reclaimed cranberry bogs and pine forests. The red trail is known as one of the best places to hike in NJ, with mixed terrain and a short suspension bridge. Regardless of which loop you land on, be sure to have waterproof footwear to fend against the soggy wetland flooding.
Palmyra Cove Nature Park, Palmyra, NJ
Are you a bird lover? The wildlife nature trails at Palmyra Cover extend 1.7 miles one way, hugging the shoreline of the Delaware River between the Pennsauken Creek and the Tacony Palmyra Bridge. Hikers are sure to catch their fair share of sightings of owls, herons, warblers, catbirds, other friendly fliers. The trail is mostly flat while spanning woodlands, wetlands and views of the Philadelphia skyline, meeting up with the rocky, sandy River Trail at the halfway point, for a beachy experience.
While many of us spend hours binge-watching Netflix, NJ hiking offers you an enjoyable (and free!) activity at any age. And don’t let the term “hiking” intimidate you. There are an abundance of nature trails throughout the state and within NJ state parks that are perfect for a leisurely walk in the great outdoors. So, what are you waiting for? Take a hike!