No need to pack away your hiking boots just because the temperature has dropped. In fact, winter can be the most beautiful time of the year to hit New Jersey’s many trails. Frozen waterfalls and glistening piles of snow will turn your favorite outdoor destination into a winter wonderland. And with no leaves on the trees, the views from atop the state’s mountains can be stunning.
So dress in layers, pack the trail mix and take the family out for some winter hiking. Trust us, you’ll be happy you braved the cold.
Apshawa Preserve, West Milford
Winter is the perfect time to hike the trails in the Apshawa Preserve. This 575-acre piece of land offers diverse habitats and beautiful views (including the NYC skyline) in the heart of Northern New Jersey’s Highlands. Many of the trails have water views, plus there are some beautiful waterfalls. The preserve offers more than 5 miles of blazed trails that are relatively easy to traverse so it’s perfect for a family hike.
More info: http://njconservation.org/apshawapreserve.htm
Bass River State Forest, Tuckerton
This beautiful State Forest offers some easy trails through the Pine Barrens, with the serene Lake Absegami as its centerpiece. Flat trails with little to no elevation changes make Bass River an excellent winter hiking option for the entire family. Several of the trails are less than a mile long so no need to leave your little ones at home. Camping and fishing are also available in season.
More info: http://www.state.nj.us/parksandforests/bass.html
Cheesequake State Park, Matawan
Cheesequake features a unique combination of saltwater and freshwater marshes, a white cedar swamp, Pine Barrens and a northeastern hardwood forest. The park’s trails are relatively short and easy to navigate, making it a great choice for an outdoor adventure. At three miles, the Green trail is the longest and offers a pleasant hike over rolling hills and though beautiful marsh lands. During the winter months, cross-country skiing, sledding and snowshoeing are permitted in the Park.
More info: http://www.state.nj.us/parksandforests/cheesequake.html
Jockey Hollow, Morristown
Part of the Morristown National Historical Park, Jockey Hollow is known for its rich history. The area served as headquarters for the Continental Army during the harsh winters of 1777 and 1779-80. Hikers can witness history as they explore the park’s many trails and historic buildings. The Grand Loop Trail is an easy, well-marked route that features wide foot paths, rolling hills and babbling brooks along 7.4 miles of trails. Shorter options include the red (1.13 miles), yellow (2.25 miles) and blue (3-mile) trails.
More info: http://www.nps.gov/morr/index.htm
Round Valley Recreation Area, Lebanon
The beautiful waters of Round Valley Reservoir attract hikers year round. Round Valley features two trails that are great for family hikes during the winter months. The Pine Tree Trail is about one mile long while the Family Hiking and Biking Trail is a ½ mile loop. Both pass through pinewoods, offer great views and are ideal choices for young children. Round Valley is also a popular winter destination for sledding and cross-country skiing.
More info: http://www.state.nj.us/parksandforests/round.html
Thompson Park, Lincroft
Hikers at Thompson Park are treated to 14 miles of multiple-use trails, passing through fields and forests. This is a terrific spot for a family hike as several of the trails are less than a mile. Easy options for casual hikers include the Marshy Walk and the Woodland Trail. During the winter months, cross-country ski trails are groomed when there is enough snow. Visitors can rent cross-country skis and snowshoes at the Ski-Hut, located within the park, from December 1 through March 15.
More info: https://www.monmouthcountyparks.com/thompson
Washington Valley Park, Bridgewater
With an icy babbling brook and mountain views, Washington Valley Park (also known as Chimney Rock Park) is the perfect place for a cold weather hike. The Park includes more than 700 acres of undeveloped wooded areas, consisting of Pine and Hemlock forests, freshwater wetland marshes, waterfalls, numerous historic features and a 21-acre reservoir. In addition, the park’s Hawk Watch provides stunning panoramic views. Various trails comprise the park, most of which are rated as easy to moderate. The white trail, great for winter hiking, is relatively short and runs along the reservoir.
More info: http://somersetcountyparks.org/parks/washValley
Watchung Reservation, Union County
Watchung Reservation offers hikers 13 miles of trails along the scenic Watchung Mountains. Home to Lake Surprise and the Blue Brook, the Reservation features several easy-to-navigate trails that are wonderful for a cold-weather outing with the family. Enjoy one of the four nature hikes near Trailside Nature & Science Center, then pop in for more family fun. Trailside is home to interactive exhibits, a children’s discovery room and various seasonal activities.
More info: http://ucnj.org/parks/watchung-reservation
Wharton State Forest, Hammonton
An ideal location for winter hiking, Wharton State Forest features easy, flat sand trails through New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. Throughout Wharton, you’ll find several lakes, ponds and fields that are great for wildlife observation. The Batsto Lake Trail is an easy loop that runs along the Lake. After your hike, stop by to explore historic Batsto Village, also located within the Forest.
More info: http://www.state.nj.us/parksandforests/wharton.html
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