If you’re looking for hike ideas or want to learn more about the history, geology, wildlife and plant life of the area you’ll be hiking in, I have found that these are the best books, maps, and other resources for hikes in New Jersey and in the New York metropolitan area. At the bottom, I’m also including books on bears, foot care, and photography. I purchased and use all of these resources.
50 Hikes in New Jersey
5th Edition by Daniel Chazin. Published 2020 by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
Any trail guide written by Daniel Chazin – and there are many – will be excellent, and this book is the best. Daniel’s 50 Hikes in New Jersey is the best New Jersey hiking book out there.
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Maps
“Made by the People Who Build the Trails” is written across the top of every map published by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and that’s all you need to know about the quality of the maps. There is no better resource for trail maps in New Jersey and New York.
The New Jersey map sets are:
- Northern New Jersey Highlands Trails | Avenza
- Delaware Water Gap & Kittatinny Trails | Avenza
- Hudson Palisades Trails | Avenza
- Morris County Highlands Trails (previously Jersey Highlands) | Avenza
Tip: The Northern New Jersey Highlands plus Delaware Water Gap & Kittattinny Trails map sets combined provide a comprehensive guide to the Appalachian Trail across New Jersey
The New York map sets are:
- Catskill Trails | Avenza
- Shawangunk Trails | Avenza
- East Hudson Trails | Avenza
- West Hudson Trails | Avenza
- Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails | Avenza
- Sterling Forest Trails | Avenza
- Westchester Trails | Avenza
- South Taconic Trails | Avenza
The print versions are on waterproof, tear-resistant Tyvek and are great for planning and to carry as backups. Digital versions are also available via the Avenza app, which works even without a cellular connection and uses your phone’s GPS to show your live location on the map.
The print and Avenza versions are available for purchase, but the Trail Conference also makes dozens of digital trail maps available for free that can be downloaded and printed, as well as several free maps for Avenza.
Appalachian Trail Guide – New York – New Jersey
18th Edition, Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The 72-mile stretch of Appalachian Trail through New Jersey and 88 miles in New York is a scenic, rugged path with incredible viewpoints. Big parts of it get overlooked, perhaps because it’s difficult to create loop hikes in many places. Especially if you plan to backpack the AT, the ATC’s guide and maps for the New Jersey and New York sections are a great resource for planning a trip, with trail descriptions and detailed mileage for tent sites, viewpoints, water sources, and more.
Best Day Hikes in New Jersey
By Priscilla Estes. Published 2019.
Most hiking books on New Jersey are heavily focused on the mountainous northern half of the state, but the AMC’s Best Day Hikes in New Jersey not only has a great mix of trails throughout, but also features some hikes you’re not as likely to find in other sources.
Hiking The Jersey Highlands
By George Petty. Published 2007 by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
One of the most scenic areas of New Jersey, the Highlands are a 1,250 square mile triangle between Vernon, Mahwah, and Phillipsburg. Written by a trail maintainer with deep roots in the Highlands, Hiking the Jersey Highlands: Wilderness in Your Back Yard has great detail on the trails as well as information on history, geology, plants and wildlife of the area. The book was published in 2007 so blaze colors and some directions may have changed, but it’s a great resource.
Hiking New Jersey
By Paul E. DeCoste and Ronald J. Dupont Jr. Published 2009.
Written by two Appalachian Trail volunteers, including Paul DeCoste for whom the famous “Pinwheel’s Vista” atop the Stairway to Heaven is named, Hiking New Jersey – A Guide to 50 of the Garden State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures features most of the best hikes in the state. Each hike includes interesting background and is accompanied by a map and mile-by-mile directions.
50 Hikes in the Lower Hudson Valley
4th Edition by Daniel Chazin. Published 2019.
If it’s by Daniel Chazin, you know you can trust it to be accurate, detailed, and interesting and 50 Hikes in the Lower Hudson Valley is no exception.
Circuit Hikes in Harriman
3rd Edition. By Don Weise / Edited by Daniel Chazin. Published 2020.
Written by Don Weise and edited by Daniel Chazin, Circuit Hikes in Harriman features 37 loop hikes in Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks. These parks are criss-crossed by a vast network of trails, and Don has done the work of creating interesting loops out of them. I met Don when I joined the West Milford 13ers hiking group which he leads. He is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about trails and their history, and his depth of knowledge comes through in this book.
For Trail Runners: The book features 9 chapters specifically dedicated to trail running, featuring wider, more forgiving trails that are generally less rocky and not extremely steep. The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference also organizes Trail Conference Trail Runs, which you can find on their events page.
Scenes and Walks in the Northern Shawangunks
3rd Edition. By Jack Fagen / Edited by Daniel Chazin. Published 2006.
When the fight to protect the Shawangunks was in full force, Scenes and Walks in the Northern Shawangunks by Jack Fagen – and edited by Daniel Chazin – was there to highlight the beauty of the area with hand-drawn sketches and descriptions of trails through this stunning area of white cliffs and dwarf pines.
50 Hikes in the Upper Hudson Valley
By Derek Dellinger. Published in 2018.
While somewhat overlapping with the Lower Hudson Valley version of the book, 50 Hikes in the Upper Hudson Valley focuses heavily on the Hudson Highlands and Shawangunk Ridge but also features hikes as far north as Albany.
Pocket Naturalist Guides
If you like to be able to identify what you’re seeing along your hike – whether it’s a particular plant or a footprint – these pocket naturalist guides published by Waterford Press are worth throwing into your pack. I like the New Jersey Wildlife, New Jersey Trees & Wildflowers, and Animal Tracks guides, but there are a wide variety of guides available.
Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance
3rd Edition. By Stephen Herrero. Published 2018.
You’ve probably heard about the dangers of getting between a mother and her cub. That applies to grizzly bears, and there are no wild grizzlies east of the Mississippi. If you worry about bear safety while hiking, then Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance is the book for you. This data-based book based on a study of actual bear attacks will help you understand how bears think (both black and grizzly), why they attack (rarely!), and how to keep yourself safe.
Fixing Your Feet
7th Edition. By John VonHof. Published 2021.
This is the Bible of foot care. Especially if you’re a backpacker, trail runner, or long-distance hiker, you’ve probably experienced blisters or other foot pain. Fixing Your Feet will help you understand why those problems happen and provides useful tips and products to prevent and recover from foot injuries.
4th Edition. By Bryan Peterson. Published 2016.
If you enjoy nature photography and want to improve your skills, I found this book to be extremely helpful. Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera is a valuable resource and learning tool for anyone wanting to learn how to take great photos.
Reflections: 100 Years Of The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference
As a user of trails and as a trail maintainer, I know that the trails that we enjoy today are the result of generations of work by people before us. Reflections: 100 Years Of The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference is a limited edition book and a must-have for anyone interested in learning the 100-year history (1920 – 2020) of the Trail Conference, how and why the trails were built, and the efforts by those who came before us to protect the natural spaces that we enjoy today.