What are the best hikes 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.
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#1 – Sunfish Pond & Raccoon Ridge
Why? This Appalachian Trail out-and-back hike may be as good as hikes get. Ridgeline views along the way, outstanding panoramic views and hawk watching from Raccoon Ridge, and the beautiful glacial lake Sunfish Pond makes for a great break spot. The view from nearby Mount Tammany is arguably more dramatic, but this hike is so much more under the radar so there are fewer crowds, plus parking is a breeze.
#2 – 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 Mount 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.
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.
#3 – Burnt Meadow Trail
Why? Solitude and a spectacular view is a rare combo. The secret’s not out yet, so this trail gets very little foot traffic even though it offers one of the best views in New Jersey. It’s also a relatively beginner-friendly hike.
Cons: Other than the one big view, the rest of the trail is nothing out of the ordinary, though it’s a fine trail.
#4 – Pochuck Boardwalk
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.
#5 – Terrace Pond North
Why? This is a great hike to popular glacial lake Terrace Pond with multiple ridgeline views, a swamp, floating walkway, and small cascades.
The recently-constructed trail improvements including the floating walkway at the outlet of the lake make this a much more accessible hike than it was before.
#6 – Wyanokie High Point, Chikahoki Falls, and Otter Hole
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.
#7 – Torne Mountain, Stone Living Room & Osio Rock
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.
#8 – Hemlock Falls Loop
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.
#9 – Manaticut Point Trail
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 – Splitrock Reservoir Loop
Why? This is one of the toughest hikes in New Jersey with unending ups and downs, but this nearly 11 mile loop around Splitrock Reservoir rewards you with fantastic views and plenty of wildlife.
Cons: It’s not an easy hike, so it’s not recommended for beginners.
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: