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The trails and viewpoints in these state parks prove the Garden State deserves its title.
When you think of New Jersey, the first thing that might come to mind is the I-95 corridor between New York City and Philadelphia, an area sometimes referred to as the “armpit of America.” But beyond the fences and parking lots, the Garden State is full of nature, rivers, and mountains galore. From over 130 miles of Atlantic coastline to the rolling terrain of the Skylands region, New Jersey is ripe for outdoor exploration.
Of all the gorgeous natural areas worth visiting in New Jersey, its state parks hold some of the most special scenes. Whether you’re on the hunt for new trails, sweeping viewpoints, or historical relics, these Garden State parks hit some of the highlights.
Home to (you guessed it) the highest peak in New Jersey (1,802′), High Point State Park is located in the state’s Sklyands Region along the New York border. Accessible year-round, but difficult during the winter months due to snow-covered covered roads, the park holds 12 of New Jersey’s 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail. (Hiked it? Share your knowledge!) With several trailheads and connections throughout the park, hikers can easily access one of the most notable trails in the country as well as the 220-foot-tall high point monument in one fell swoop. With a wide variety of landscape throughout the miles of trails, hikers can journey through swamps, rocky ridges, dense forests, fields, and valleys.
Worthington State Forest
There are over 26 miles of trails at Worthington State Forest, including 5 miles of canoe trails on the Delaware River, and over 7 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The park’s biggest draw? One of the most notorious hikes in New Jersey: Mt. Tammany. The peak, which towers more than 1,500 feet above the Delaware River, is accessed via a short-but-challenging 3.4-mile hike over steep, rocky terrain–well worth the effort for the panoramic views at the top. It’s so good, in fact, that Hiking Project users have voted it into the top spot on the list of best hikes in New Jersey.
On the complete opposite (south) end of the state, Wharton State Forest is home to over 50 miles of trails, including an interconnecting trail system between the Bryne and Bass River State Forests. There is an abundance of wildlife that can be found in this region of the state, including bald eagles, various hawks, great horned owls, turkeys, foxes, and beavers. The mostly-flat Mullica River Trail is a great option for visitors who hope to catch a glimpse of the aforementioned fauna. The park’s many miles of unpaved roads also make it a popular destination for mountain biking and horseback riding.
With over 60 miles of well-marked trails ranging from easy to strenuous, Wawayanda State Park is paradise for hikers of all ability levels in northeastern New Jersey. Of those trails, you can trek along a narrow and rocky 20-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, marked by its signature white blazes. Thanks to the park’s rolling topography, there are plenty of great overlooks to choose from. Hike to the Pinwheel Vista or the top of Wawayanda Mountain for some of the best panoramic views at Wawayanda.
Home to Allaire Village, a collection of historic buildings that was a bustling iron making town in the 19th century, Allaire State Park in Farmingdale, New Jersey, is centrally located and offers a wide network of trails. Throughout this region, you will find a great variety of wildlife, including a large habitation of migrating birds during the season. Also unique to the layout of the land is over 200 species of plant life, that is not normally native to the Jersey shore region, but finds life here due to the flood plain. The park’s four primary marked trails are interconnected by a vast system of unmarked trails, making essentially limitless options for loops. Want to stay longer than a single day? Book a night in one of the park’s yurts and keep warm by the woodstove while planning your next hike. (Hiked here? Share your trails!)
Known for the best trout fishing in the state, Allamuchy is a unique state park that’s also home to some excellent hiking. The park is divided into several sections and boasts over 50 miles of hiking trails total. It is home to the Muscanetcong River which allows a unique hiking perspective through marshlands. Looking for a leisurely hike? You can hit a three-mile section of the Sussex Branch Trail at Waterloo Road, which is on an old railroad bed that treks northwest to Kittatinny Valley State Park. There is also a 10-mile stretch of the Highlands Trail on the northern section of the park that ranges from moderate to rugged difficulty. (Hiked here? Share your trails!)