Looking to cool off from summer’s scorching heat? Sure, you can always visit New Jersey’s beautiful beaches to wade in the water. But the state also boasts numerous waterfalls, offering breathtaking views and a welcome respite from the hot temperatures. Most of the falls are located near hiking trails or in state parks, making them great spots for a summer excursion. See below for our picks of the best places to see these magnificent works of nature in the Garden State.
Location: Grace Lord Park, Essex Avenue & Plane Street, Boonton
Details: Many people don’t realize that Boonton is home to an amazing waterfall. (Years ago, the falls generated power and attracted industry that is now gone). The picturesque spot is located off Main Street in downtown Boonton, making it easy to reach. You’ll find a small park, a river, picnic benches and hiking trails which follow both sides of the river, making it worth a visit. Encounter a large rock formation that’s fun to climb and offers you a great view of the tumbling water. Or grab your fishing rod or kayak (experts only!) to use in the rapids below the stone bridge.
More info: www.mtnlakes.org/trails/boonton-falls-trail/ or call 973-402-9410
Location: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Mountain Road, Walpack Township
Details: At the start of the trail, climb up to the top of the falls, which is one of the tallest in the state. The waterfall flows down the mountainside just a few feet from the road. You’ll see informative displays along a wooden stairway that’s built into the mountain and takes you to the top of the waterfalls. Just be careful as the staircase is steep, uneven and likely wet. Adventurers can travel the Buttermilk Falls Blue Trail, where you’ll climb 1,000 feet above the falls and reach the Appalachian Trail after about 2 miles.
More info: www.nps.gov/dewa/buttermilk-falls-trail.htm or call 570-426-2452
Location: Hacklebarney State Park, 119 Hacklebarney Road, Long Valley
Details: In the 19th century, this park was a mined iron ore site. Today, it’s a favorite spot for hikers, picnickers and anglers. It’s beautiful in the summer, as well as any other time of year, thanks to the gushing river that flows against the grey boulders and dark green hemlocks. Even in the heat of the season, the water is cool and refreshing. Rinehart and Trout Brooks empty into the Black River and you’ll see several beautiful waterfalls from the high trails. The park boasts rare and endangered plants, wildlife such as deer and fox, and over one hundred bird species.
More info: www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/hackle.html or call 908-638-8572
Location: South Mountain Reservation, Millburn
Details: Essex County is home to South Mountain Reservation, 2,100 acres of public land that contains 50 miles of hiking trails. The reservation boasts hills, rivers, woodlands and the dramatic and scenic 25-foot Hemlock Falls. Use the stone steps to climb to the top of the waterfall and then sit on the benches as you enjoy the beauty. On a clear day, you can even see New York City from the park.
More info: www.essexcountyparks.org/parks/south-mountain-reservation or call 973-268-3500
Musconetcong Gorge Preserve
Location: 182 Dennis Road, Bloomsbury
Details: This 501-acre park is found in the southernmost part of the New Jersey Highlands. You may spot gray squirrels and white-tailed deer in the oak-hickory forest, which is a major food source for wildlife. You might even see a flock of wild turkeys, thanks to the park’s plentiful supply of acorns and nuts. To take in some cascading waters, follow Waterfall Trail up the ravine to a scenic waterfall. You’ll pass through a forest that’s home to songbirds and salamanders, along with other reptiles and amphibians.
More info: www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/depts/parks/MusconetcongGorge/info.htm or call 908-782-1158
Paterson Great Falls
Location: 72 McBride Avenue, Paterson
Details: The Great Falls of the Passaic River is one of the nation’s largest and likely most well-known waterfalls, reaching heights of 77 feet. The views here are truly stunning. Great Falls inspired Alexander Hamilton’s vision of Paterson, America’s first industrial city. The outdoor areas of the park are open all year round. Guided walking tours, led by the National Park Service, are available, along with self-guided walking tours.
More info: www.nps.gov/pagr/index.htm or call 973-523-0370
Location: Stokes State Forest, 1 Coursen Road, Branchville
Details: Take in the breathtaking beauty of Stokes State Forest, whether you’re at the top of a mountain ridge (the crest of Sunrise Mountain is one of its most frequently visited sites) or exploring Tillman Ravine’s rushing stream and steep cliffs. Several trails are near the ravine, giving you views of various waterfalls. Note: Buttermilk Falls is about 3.5 miles from Tillman Ravine’s main parking area.
More info: www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/stokes.html or call 973-948-3820
Hero (Top) Feature Image: Syed Noman/Adobe Stock
Additional Body Images (in order) Courtesy:
Borough of Mountain Lakes
National Park Service
Nicholas A. Tonelli/Wikimedia