The state of NJ has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor activities, whether hiking trails or nature walks. Having hiked over a dozen trails, first with our toddler on the carrier and now on her own two feet, here are the top 5 hiking trails we would recommend. But before that, few general hiking tips.
1. Prefer full length clothing to avoid bugs/tick bites which are unavoidable in the woods
2. Alway use bug repellents – preferably deet free for kids, spray them on your clothes
3. Always carry water and some snacks (granola bar/PBJ sandwich/banana etc.) with you
4. Apply sunscreen, shade or no shade!
5. Start early to avoid crowd
6. And of course masks(welcome to the post 2020 era)
5. Palisade Interstate parkway
Level – Easy to Moderate 1.5 miles
Overlooking the Hudson river and NYC skyline, this park has tons of trails to choose from, a two mile easy to ten mile difficult loop. Beware of the huge crowds that get here for NYC views which also means that parking could sometimes be challenging. Trails however are not very crowded and you still get the much needed solace inspite of being so close to the concrete jungle!
4. Mills Reservation County Park
Level – Easy 2.1 miles
Our toddler’s first attempt to hike on foot was on Lenape trail and as parents, this trail holds a special place in our hearts. Its a fairly easy trail with over 80% of the trail covered in natural shade of particularly tall trees in this area. At one point you get view of NYC skyline which is also a perfect spot to open up your snack bag and have a picnic.
3. Hacklebarney Loop Trail
Level – Easy to Moderate 2.1 miles
Beautiful trail which winds along a water stream for the most part – big attraction for kids. Sound of the gentle flowing river is soothing to the ears. Easy trail except for a small stretch of narrow rocky path, making it a moderate trail, although completely doable with kids.
2. South Reservation aka Fairy House Trail
Level – Easy 2.5 miles
Do your kids wonder if the fairy houses they keep reading in all those books really exist? Well, then take them to this trail! You will find cute little fairy houses scattered along the first half mile of this trail. River, dam, waterfall – this trail has it all. Gentle river stream leading up to a small dam.
1. Ramapo Reservation
Level – Moderate 2.8 miles
This is by far the best hiking trail in NJ in our opinion – both from natural beauty and adventure point of view. The trail starts at the “Waterfall” sign about half a mile from the parking lot along a gravel path, lake on one side. This is a popular spot for fishing – we saw a few families fishing.
The trail is completely foliage covered so you can go in the middle of a hot day and be just fine. The waterfall is beautiful and pretty accessible with water neither too cold nor too deep and highlight of the trail in our opinion. There are some stone steps along the trail giving it an extra punch.