14 Best Hiking Trails in New Jersey (For All Fitness Levels)

best hiking trails in new jersey

Finding the best hiking trails in New Jersey was my personal repentance for partying way too hard in Las Vegas for the Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather boxing match. 

After initially having my ESTA visa denied, I was lucky enough to find myself in New Jersey after an impromptu road trip on my first visit to the US.

Admittedly, all I knew about this part of the world was the distinctive accent, The Sopranos was set there, Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen was born in the state and it was *kind of* close to New York!

I came, I saw, I hiked and these were the best hiking trails in New Jersey that I researched for all fitness levels.

1. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

A valley with lush greenery surrounding it
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Delve into Delaware Water Gap’s rugged beauty in New Jersey. The Mount Tammany trail offers a challenging yet rewarding hike alongside the Delaware River, flanked by the overlooking cliffs. 

Witness eagles in the sky and deer in the woods as you trek around Delaware.

The Red Dot Trail, a popular route, provides panoramic views and hints of history with old village remnants. A blend of natural allure and a dash of history makes this hike a must-visit when in New Jersey.

Location: Hardwick Township, NJ

Cost: Fees may apply during peak season

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Challenging

Time needed: 3-5 hours

2. Wharton State Forest

Trees near a lake
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Explore the heart of the Pine Barrens at Wharton State Forest. Navigate sandy paths that tell tales of New Jersey’s iron-making past, with stops like historic Batsto Village. On the Batsto Lake Trail, you’ll be surrounded by cedar swamps and a “birdie’s” dream (I won’t pretend that I am well-versed) on anything other than penguins!

Apart from its scenic beauty, the area is steeped in legends of the Jersey Devil…

…The legend of the Jersey Devil is one of the most enduring folktales in American history, particularly in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where the creature is said to inhabit. Here’s a summary of the legend:

In the early 18th century, it’s said that a resident of the Pine Barrens, known as Mother Leeds, discovered she was pregnant with her 13th child. 

She allegedly cursed the unborn child out of frustration, exclaiming that it would be the devil. On the stormy night of its birth, the child was born normal but soon transformed into a grotesque creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. After lashing out and harming the midwife and family members, the creature flew up the chimney, disappearing into the woods of the Pine Barrens.

While I was not accosted by a hideous ghoul during my hike in November, in the heart of the rainy season, I did survive a few close scares while slipping and thought I might need a South Jersey personal injury lawyer during my well-intentioned hike in Wharton State Forest.

Location: Hammonton, NJ

Cost: Free, but parking fees might apply.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Time needed: 2-4 hours, depending on the trail.

3. High Point State Park

Autumn-coloured trees in a forest

High Point State Park in New Jersey offers hikers an unparalleled vantage: the state’s peak elevation. 

The Monument Trail, a favoured route, leads directly to the iconic High Point Monument — a tribute to war veterans. As you tread this path, be prepared for varied terrains, from dense woodlands to open meadows. 

The park’s altitude makes it a habitat for diverse wildlife, offering keen-eyed hikers sightings of native bird species and deer. 

For those seeking both challenge and serenity, High Point State Park ticks both boxes.

Location: Sussex, NJ

Cost: Entrance fee during peak season.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Time needed: 2-4 hours.

4. Palisades Interstate Park

Hiking trail with a clear bath surrounded by trees
Source: Flickr

Palisades Interstate Park, stretching along the Hudson River’s western edge, offers rugged cliffs and pristine water views. 

One of its premier routes, the Giant Stairs, challenges hikers with rocky terrain and steep ascents while providing awe-inspiring overlooks. Amidst the park’s natural beauty, hikers can spot peregrine falcons soaring above and white-tailed deer weaving through dense woodlands. Beyond its natural allure, the Palisades carries historical weight, bearing scars from quarrying operations that once threatened its existence until conservation efforts prevailed. 

This park stands as a testament to nature’s resilience and the importance of preservation. For seasoned hikers seeking both challenge and rich history, Palisades Interstate Park is at the top of the list for one of the best hiking trails in New Jersey.

Location: Alpine, NJ

Cost: Free.

Difficulty Level: Challenging

Time needed: 3-6 hours.

5. Island Beach State Park

Sandy beach with greenery growing out
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Island Beach State Park, a slender barrier island in New Jersey, is a haven for hikers desiring coastal experiences. The park’s network of sandy trails offers views of unique ecosystems, from tidal marshes to dense maritime forests. 

As you traverse these well-trodden paths, you might glimpse ospreys overhead or a fleeting, shy fox. 

The Fisherman’s Walk Trail, a notable route, provides intimate encounters with dunes and birdlife. 

Beyond its ecological wonders, the park holds traces of old fishing communities, giving a nod to its past. Island Beach State Park is a beach and hiking destination in one, in my opinion, it’s best to earn that downtime after a good hike before chilling out (but that’s just me!)

Location: Seaside Park, NJ

Cost: Entrance fees during peak season.

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Time needed: 2-4 hours.

6. Stokes State Forest

A tree bark overlooking a small waterfall
Source: Flickr

Stokes State Forest in New Jersey is a testament to the rugged beauty of the Appalachian foothills. 

Hikers find themselves immersed in a landscape of dense forests, babbling brooks, and commanding vistas. The Sunrise Mountain hike stands out, taking adventurers to one of the state’s best panoramic views atop an Appalachian ridge. 

As you ascend, watch for the diverse wildlife that calls this forest home: deer, wild turkeys, and even black bears. Though the forest feels timeless, remnants of old settlements and Civilian Conservation Corps projects speak to its rich history. 

For those who seek both challenge and a connection to nature’s past, Stokes State Forest is there for the taking.

Location: Branchville, NJ

Cost: Parking or entrance fees might apply.

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Challenging

Time needed: 2-6 hours.

7. Worthington State Forest

Trees and greenery surround a pristine lake

Nestled along the banks of the Delaware River, Worthington State Forest in New Jersey is a hiker’s sanctuary

The Dunnfield Creek Trail is a standout, guiding trekkers through dense forests to the serene Sunfish Pond, a glacial beauty formed millennia ago. 

The dense canopy is alive with birdsong, and vigilant hikers might spot graceful deer or a cheeky river otter near the water’s edge. 

As the terrain varies, the region’s geological past reminders become evident in the cascading waterfalls and rocky outcrops. For those keen on tracing the footsteps of ancient glaciers and revelling in relatively undisturbed nature, Worthington State Forest promises a rewarding escape.

Location: Columbia, NJ

Cost: Parking or entrance fees might apply.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Time needed: 3-5 hours.

8. Ramapo Mountain State Forest

A forest with a few boulders on the ground
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ramapo Mountain State Forest in New Jersey offers hikers a glimpse into the rugged beauty of the Appalachians.

The popular Vista Loop Trail captivates with its ascent to Hawk Rock, where views of the New York City skyline contrast starkly against nature’s backdrop. Deep within these woods lie traces of old iron mines, echoing a bygone industrial era. 

As hikers navigate the rocky paths and cross cool streams, the calls of native birds provide a melodic soundtrack to a harder than beginner-level hike. 

Sightings of white-tailed deer amplify the sense of wilderness. Embarking on this journey on Ramapo Mountain, the harmonious blend of history and nature really does make it one of the best New Jersey hikes.

Location: Oakland, NJ

Cost: Free.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Time needed: 2-5 hours.

9. Allaire State Park

An old parked train

Allaire State Park in New Jersey beckons hikers with its blend of history, unique terrains, and decent biodiversity for this part of the world. 

The Pine Creek Railroad Loop, a revered trail, winds its way through thickets of trees and by the scenic Manasquan River, where deer, songbirds, and the occasional fox make appearances (such as is the theme for quite a lot of these Jersey hiking trails). 

On a good day (and the right season for New Jersey) birds serenade you, while curious squirrels dart across trails. 

Location: Wall Township, NJ

Cost: Parking fees might apply.

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Time needed: 1-3 hours.

10. Sourland Mountain Preserve

A well-kept lake surrounded by trees during the day
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sourland Mountain Preserve, set in the heart of New Jersey, promises a lovely hiking experience amid rugged landscapes. 

As you trek through its dense forests, popular routes such as Ridge Trail challenge you with boulder fields that demand your attention. These rocky terrains are home to unique plant species, which offer a canvas of colours throughout the seasons. 

The preserve is a sanctuary for a plethora of wildlife; keep an eye out for migrating birds, woodpeckers, and even the elusive Eastern box turtle. 

Location: Hillsborough Township, NJ

Cost: Free.

Difficulty Level: Moderate to Challenging

Time needed: 2-4 hours.

11. Jenny Jump State Forest

An open view lake surrounded by trees
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In New Jersey’s Warren County, Jenny Jump State Forest offers an undisturbed hiking retreat. 

The Summit Trail, its crown jewel, winds its way through dense hardwoods, gradually revealing the storied “Ghost Lake” – a glacial lake enveloped in local legends

The forest is rife with native wildlife; deer, wild turkey, and a lot of pretty birds that I have no idea what their name is! As you make your way down, panoramic vistas of the Kittatinny Mountains emerge, rewarding hikers for their summit of Jenny Jump. 

Location: Hope Township, NJ

Cost: Parking or entrance fees might apply.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Time needed: 2-4 hours.

12. Cheesequake State Park

A wooden bridge with a few hikers on it in New Jersey's Cheesequake State Park
Source: Flickr

Strategically positioned where northern hardwood forests meet southern salt marshes, Cheesequake State Park presents a nice sample of New Jersey’s diverse terrains. 

Cheesequake offers serious hikers an engaging blend of terrains from the marshlands of the saltwater estuary to hardwood forests, the park’s trails provide a varied hiking experience. 

The Green Trail is particularly renowned, taking adventurers through the heart of the park’s unique ecosystems. 

The terrain can be a challenge in some parts but it’s more of a sensory one, offering panoramic views of both the water and dense forest. 

Alongside its natural beauty, keen-eyed hikers have more of a chance of seeing a fox on this hike and if you don’t – they will see you.

Location: Matawan, NJ

Cost: Parking or entrance fees might apply.

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Time needed: 1-3 hours.

13. Parvin State Park

Cars parked up near a large lake
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In Jersey’s Pine Barrens, Parvin State Park offers beautiful landscapes for hiking enthusiasts. 

The park’s trails, such as the popular Parvin Lake Loop, take visitors on a journey through swamp hardwood forests, pine stands, and the serene shores of Parvin Lake. Notably, the park’s location made it a refuge camp during the 1930s for the Civilian Conservation Corps, lending historical weight to the scenic beauty. 

As you trek through its paths, the panoramic views make you feel a long way away from Tony Soprano and the boys (thankfully).

Location: Pittsgrove Township, NJ

Cost: Parking or entrance fees might apply.

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Time needed: 1-3 hours.

14. Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook

A large sculpture of a white stone eagle spreading its wings
Source: Flickr

Perched at 266 feet, this vantage point represents the Atlantic coastal plain’s loftiest natural elevation.

With the bragging points of being the highest summit on the Eastern Seaboard, the trail up to the overlook promises rewarding vistas. 

From the peak, the expansive view of Sandy Hook Bay is juxtaposed with the distant New York skyline. 

The site’s 9/11 Memorial adds depth to the visit and although the trail to the summit is relatively short, the climb is a fun and steep march, and the surrounding flora and occasional wildlife sightings make every step worthwhile. 

For those seeking a blend of history, views, and a quick yet satisfying hike, Mount Mitchill is an unmissable hiking spot in Jersey.

Location: Atlantic Highlands, NJ

Cost: Free.

Difficulty Level: Easy (short hike but steep)

Time needed: Less than 1 hour.

Seeing the local wildlife and learning about the history behind the name of each trail that I went on was a perfect way to see some of New Jersey during my short stay there.

I sweated out the hangover and all of my sins in Las Vegas and I felt re-energised.

As with all trekking routes, the “best” hiking trails in New Jersey are usually largely subjective and I hope that this article helped you choose the best one for you.

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Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
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Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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