Spring is the perfect time to explore the great outdoors, so before the dog days of summer (and mosquitoes and humidity) creep along, why not grab your pup and hit a hiking trail? There are a number of great hiking trails in New Jersey, and to make things easier, we’ve broken them down by region. These top picks are based on feedback from local dog owners.
Remember, even though dogs are welcome in most of New Jersey’s public parks and recreation areas, pets must be kept on a leash 6 feet or less in length (unless otherwise posted) and you should always check for special rules and regulations.
Ramapo Mountain State Forest
Located off Route 287 in Bergen and Passaic counties, Ramapo Mountain State Forest offers several hiking trails of varying difficulty that pay off with views of the New York City skyline while offering an escape from the bustle of urban life. Throughout the 4,200-acre park, there’s a lake, a ‘castle’ and plenty of opportunities for you and your best buddy to become one with nature.
Morristown National Historic Park
If history is your thing, make sure to check out the Morristown National Historic Park. There are more than 27 miles of trails featuring historic sites from when the park served as a winter encampment for Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army. Still standing along the 2.25-mile Yellow Trail are what’s left of the 1,000 soldier huts built to house Washington’s troops.
Kittatinny Valley State Park
Kittatinny Valley State Park is home to trails that will appease the most adventurous hiker. Not to worry, though, there are other, more serene trail options if your four-legged friend can’t navigate the rocky terrain. If you enjoy your visit in the spring, make it a point to visit again in the winter, when dogsled teams are known to frequent the trails.
Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve
Not a single trail at the Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve in Princeton is longer than two miles, but the nine total miles of trails cover a lot of ground. The preserve features old-growth forests, open fields and rocky streams, making you forget that you’re in one of the most well-known college towns in the U.S.
Ken Lockwood Gorge Wildlife Management Area
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, the Ken Lockwood Gorge Wildlife Management Area has a longer and more demanding trail along the bank of the Raritan River. The eight miles are an investment, but your dog will love the time outdoors and you’ll love the picturesque scenery along the water.
Parvin State Park
Spring is on dazzling display at Parvin State Park, where more than 200 types of flowering plant life – including dogwood, wild azalea, magnolia and holly – come to life during the season. Hiking trails of a variety of lengths wind through the 2,000-acre park for a create-your-own botanical tour.
If you can’t make it up north to Ramapo for the views of New York City, try the Blueberry Hill Trail in Gibbsboro, which will lead you and your dog to a view of the Philadelphia skyline instead. The trails are accessible to all levels of walkers, and it’s not uncommon for hikers to spot deer while on their trek.
Island Beach State Park
The Discovery Trails System at Island Beach State Park is designed for learning, with interpretive signs located along the trails to educate you on the plants and wildlife you may encounter while on your hike. The eight trails are short (all are under one mile) but worth exploring, and, as a bonus, dogs are allowed on some of the beaches. Be sure to check in with the Department of Parks and Forestry before planning your trip, though, as there are date restrictions.
Estell Manor Park
Just 3.5 miles south of Mays Landing, Estell Manor Park is home to the Swamp Trail Boardwalk where you’ll come across streams, a cedar swamp and coastal forest, as well as roughly 20 miles of hiking trails. While most of the trails are on flat terrain and not too sandy, they occasionally get a bit wet, which you can blame on the beavers.