Where is the best hiking in New Jersey? That’s subjective, but this is my list of top 10 hiking trails in the beautiful Garden State. Most of these hikes – whether they’re easy or hard – feature great scenery.
#1. Mount Tammany
Why? Mount Tammany offers perhaps the most striking view anywhere in New Jersey, with a panoramic overlook of the winding Delaware River and Mt. Minsi on the Pennsylvania side. As an added bonus, you’ll pass the picturesque Dunnfield Creek on the way down. It’s a short but steep 1.2-miles to the summit and total of 3.5 miles for the whole loop. It’s a huge payoff for a relatively short hike. For an extra long hike, take the 11-mile Mt. Tammany and Sunfish Pond loop.
Cons: You’ll be hard pressed to find solitude on this trail. It’s very popular – so much so that unfortunately the trail is littered with garbage.
Why? It’s simply one of the best hikes in New Jersey. This 7.5 mile loop packs a punch and continuously delivers. From the popular Wyanokie High Point featuring spectacular views of the Wanaque Reservoir, to two – that’s right – two! waterfalls at Chikahoki Falls and Otter Hole, to multiple other scenic viewpoints along the way, if you’re up for a challenging hike, this one is not to be missed.
Cons: Wyanokie High Point and Otter Hole are very popular spots so unless you go during off-hours or in the winter, expect to see lots of other people. This is also a tough hike if you’re not in reasonable shape.
Why? New Jersey’s best boardwalk is nowhere near the ocean. This isn’t so much a hike as it is an easy stroll, but this unique section of the Appalachian Trail in Vernon is one of New Jersey’s hidden gems. Pochuck Boardwalk is a mile-long stretch of the Appalachian Trail through sensitive wetlands full of wildflowers and wildlife, including plenty of turtles. The boardwalk and a 110 ft suspension bridge were built by volunteers. This short hike can be extended an extra 1.5 miles to a farm with ice cream, or even further by climbing the more challenging Stairway to Heaven. It’s super kid-friendly.
Cons: Crowds and parking. This trail is so easy and accessible that it’s jammed. Parking on the side of the road can be difficult, and if you park illegally, you can come back to find a ticket on your car.
#4. Appalachian Trail (Delaware Water Gap)
Why? This 9-mile hike in the Delaware Water Gap is one of the most scenic sections of Appalachian Trail in New Jersey and a great first place to experience backpacking. Highlights include Racoon Ridge and Sunfish Pond, voted one of the 7 wonders of New Jersey. Within this section is also a beginner-friendly backpackers camp with composting toilets and bear boxes, but no water source (so fill up before you get there).
Cons: Not many, unless you’re looking for solitude. You’ll see a lot of weekend warriors here. The Delaware Water Gap is a popular area.
Why? For those of us who like difficult hikes and wonder where we can find them in the rolling hills of New Jersey, “Stonetown Circular” is the answer. Perhaps the most strenuous hike in New Jersey, this 10 mile loop in Ringwood climbs five “mountains” and offers a great workout and plenty of views of the Wanaque and Monksville Reservoirs.
Cons: This is a grueling hike with relentless ups and downs, some very steep and badly eroded trail, and a mile of roadwalk. If you don’t like difficult hikes, this is not for you.
Why? A low-effort hike with great views? Yes please. This is a moderately easy figure-eight loop in the southern end of Norvin Green State Park that climbs two mountains (Torne Mountain aka “Wyanokie Torne” and Osio Rock) and offers excellent views including from the Stone Living Room on Torne Mountain.
Cons: Not many. It’s an easily accessible, somewhat popular trail. You’ll see people, but probably not too many.
Why? Not as grueling as Stonetown Circular, but the 11-mile Splitrock Reservoir loop is one of the toughest hikes in New Jersey with unending ups and downs. This hike around the Splitrock Reservoir rewards you with fantastic views, a pond, and a great variety of scenery and wildlife – not to mention a huge payoff with panoramic views of the entire reservoir from atop Indian Cliffs.
Cons: When the leaves are in, many of the views are obscured. Still, it’s a great hike regardless. Don’t do this hike if you’re not in good shape – you can’t easily bail out if you change your mind half way through.
Why? There’s nothing spectacular about this hike, but for those who live in the Newark/Jersey City metro area, South Mountain Reservation is one of the nearest opportunities for a meaningful hike in the woods and could be one of their first introductions to the outdoors. That’s why this easy 2 mile hike to the lovely 25-foot Hemlock Falls in the South Mountain Reservation in Essex County makes the list.
Cons: Crowds and the sound of car traffic, but if you can get over that, it’s a nice hike just outside the metro area’s urban core.
Why? Norvin Green State Forest is a popular destination, but the northern part of the park sees much less foot traffic. If you want to get away from the crowds, the 4.5 mile Manaticut Point Trail passes the picturesque Lake Sonoma and offers panoramic views from Overlook Rock and Manaticut Point. Good views, relative solitude and a solid reward/effort ratio make this one of New Jersey’s top hikes.
Cons: Sadly, some of the otherwise beautiful views, including from Manaticut Point, are scarred by homes and even a quarry.
#10. Giant Stairs
Why? Location, location, location. On the border between New Jersey and New York, the Giant Stairs is a challenging 4.3 mile loop hike that takes you down the Palisades to the shore of the Hudson River for a scramble across a boulder field, sweeping views of the Hudson River, an interesting variety of habitats, and steep ascent back up. This hike is easily accessible to a large population, but don’t let its easy access fool you – it’s a tough hike.
Cons: What goes down must come up and it’s a relatively difficult hike. The Palisades are steep, so you’ll be hiking up and down some steep trails. The boulder scramble is interesting, but not super rewarding. This is a popular trail, so expect crowds.
There’s so many great hikes in the Garden State that they can’t all fit on a Top 10 list. These are some more of my other favorites: