34 Places To Take A First Day Hike In NJ

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Want a fresh and peaceful start to 2021? Get outdoors on New Year’s Day with a First Day Hike. While COVID has put a hold on formal First Day Hikes in NJ (guided hikes in state parks, forests, and historic sites as part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes program), you don’t have to cancel yours—pick a trail (or two) and head out on your own New Year’s Day hike. To that end, we’ve gathered our favorites below, so all you have to do is find one that works for your fam. Then bundle up, grab your water bottles and masks, and get going—with the fresh air and good vibes, it’s the best way to start 2021. And for more hikes around NJ, be sure to check out our guide for the best hiking trails and toddler-friendly hiking trails for littles.

Featured photo via @mondi_sky

Psst! We love seeing your social-distancing New Jersey adventures. Be sure to tag your photos with #NJMOM and @njmom for a chance to be featured in our round-up next week.

Start the year off right with at one of these trails in NJ:

Northern NJ Hikes

Take a winter walk via @steph.meets.nature

Celery Farm
Dawn to dusk
Small and quaint, Celery Farm is a 107-acre freshwater wetland, where you can find streams and meadows with all kinds of birds, animals, and insects—perfect for a game of I-Spy.
498 Franklin Turnpike
Allendale, NJ

Passaic County Parks & Recreation First Day Hike
12:30PM-2PM
This hike is the only guided one on this list, but you’ll need to reserve your spots early, as each walk is limited to 15 people. And this isn’t one for your littles—hikers must be at least 10 years old to join. Masks and social distancing will be required. 
Garret Mountain Reservation Boathouse
8 Mountain Avenue 
Woodland Park, NJ 

Palisades Interstate Park (NJ Section)
Daylight hours
The Palisades Interstate Park has more than 100,000 acres of parks and historic sites. Situated along the Hudson River, the NJ part has 30 miles of hiking (and other trails)—and beautiful views of Manhattan and the Hudson River.
State Line Lookout
Alpine, NJ

Slow, fairy crossing via @liz_uss

South Mountain Reservation
8AM-5:30PM
The South Mountain Reservation has 19 miles of NJ hiking trails, with some leading deep into the woods and landing at a 25-foot waterfall—Hemlock Falls. And don’t forget to check out the South Mountain Fairy Trail—the tiny fairy houses will enchant your littles.
South Orange Avenue and Cherry Lane
West Orange, NJ

Liberty State Park
6AM-10PM
Liberty State Park has quite the view—you can see the New York City skyline, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island from there. Feel free to explore the park (it sits on over 1,000 acres) or walk with your kiddos on Liberty Walk—it’s a two-mile-long promenade along the water.   
200 Morris Pesin Drive
Jersey City, NJ

Teetertown Preserve
Sunrise to sunset
This preserve is home to several miles of blazed trails, each ranging from .6 to one mile. One of the most notable aspects of the Preserve is the narrow dirt road that leads to a ravine, giving families a feeling of solitude and alone time.
30 Pleasant Grove Road
Port Murray, NJ

Black River County Park
7AM-7PM
This park is 858 acres and has four marked trails—including one with waterfalls. It also has cultural sites, making it a little different from most trails. If you hike from the Cooper Gristmill and through the Black River Gorge, make sure to stop by the ruins of Kay’s Cottage.
North Road
Chester, NJ

Columbia Trail
Sunrise to sunset
For the most part, there are no inclines on this 16.5-mile trail—it’s flat with a natural and gravel tread. And it’s split up into two sections: Morris County (8.2 miles) and Hunterdon County (eight miles).
Columbia Trail
Long Valley, NJ

Test your strength via @k.maulding

Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area
Sunrise to sunset
Check out the trails, fields, and forests, then go to the park’s highest point to get a shot of your kiddos with the New York City skyline as the backdrop. And don’t miss the glacially-placed Tripod Rock—it’s a 180-ton boulder that’s balancing on three smaller ones.
472 Boonton Avenue
Montville Township, NJ

Hacklebarney State Park
Sunrise to sunset
The park has nine trails—each less than one mile (except the Riverside Trail at just under two miles). However, they’ve modified the courses due to COVID—you enter on the red one, choose a path in the middle (make sure to observe the arrow signs), and exit through the white trail. 
119 Hacklebarney Road
Long Valley, NJ

Mahlon Dickerson Reservation
Sunrise to sunset
The reservation spans almost 3,500 acres and is home to nine blazed trails and the main trail, including the picturesque Pine Swamp Loop Trail. Head over to Headley Overlook for a beautiful view—it is one of the county’s highest points.
955 Weldon Road
Jefferson Township, NJ

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
All-day
At 2,180 miles, the Appalachian Trail is one of the longest worldwide, passing through 14 states and stretching from Maine to Georgia. In NJ, it covers 72 miles and travels through a handful of Northern NJ parks. Look out for the rocky bits, although most of it is flat and level. 
Appalachian Trail
Hewitt, NJ

Rifle Camp Park
7AM-7:30PM
There are two trails here: The shorter hike (red) is 1.5 miles and explores the interior of the park, but if you’re up to hiking a little over three miles, the yellow trail rewards you with the Great Notch Reservoir on one side and views of the New York City skyline on the other.
385 Rifle Camp Road
Woodland Park, NJ

Now that’s a view via @ashley_g1212

High Point State Park
8AM-4:30PM
This hike has the highest point in NJ, and many mountain ridge tops offer 360-degree views. Check out any of the 13 trails—they range from half a mile to nine miles long, with both easy and rocky hikes. Note: You’ll need a trail pass on specific trails.
1480 NJ-23
Sussex, NJ

Ringwood State Park
8AM-6PM
With 17 trails that add up to almost 40 miles, there’s plenty for you and your kiddos to explore. Many hikes start near Ringwood Manor, Skyland Manor, or Shepherd Lake, but there’s also the State Botanical Garden and Bear Swamp Lake (and several smaller ponds).
1304 Sloatsburg Road
Ringwood, NJ

Wawayanda State Park
7AM-6PM
Explore the well-known Stairway To Heaven Trail, a 2.9-mile trail that boasts stunning scenery and wildlife. But make sure your kiddos are up to the challenge—it’s rated moderate to difficult. If not, there are more than 20 other trails that run from .5 to three miles long. 
885 Warwick Turnpike
Hewitt, NJ

Central NJ Hikes

Snow paths are the best paths via @newjerseystateparks.

Voorhees State Park
Sunrise to sunset
Located in Hunterdon County’s hills, this park has seven hiking trails that total about 10 miles. There are also overlook areas where families can stop and take in the scenic views—it’s a great spot to snap some photos for the gram.
251 County Road Route 513
Glen Gardner, NJ

Cheesequake State Park
8AM-4:30PM
Bring your four-legged friends to one of the five trails, which range from 1.5 to 3.5 miles. The most difficult one is a moderate-level hike with some inclines, although the Yellow Trail may be the best option for families; it points out interesting sites and features along the way.
300 Gordon Road
Matawan, NJ

Allaire State Park
8AM-4:30PM
Allaire is a historic place with 20 marked trails and a restored village. If you’re looking for a flatter, more level trail, stick near the village and campgrounds; but if you’re up for a challenge, head to the trails on the southern side of the park.
4265 Atlantic Avenue
Wall Township, NJ

Deep Cut Gardens
8AM to dusk
You can explore 54 acres of beautifully-manicured gardens and greenhouses, filled with seasonal blooms and plants native to New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Make sure to swing by the koi pond so your littles can watch the fish swim around.
152 Red Hill Road
Middletown, NJ

Manasquan Reservoir County Park
7AM to dusk
With a one-mile nature trail, a five-mile perimeter trail, and the reservoir in the center, your family can spend an entire day here. If you’re going to walk the five miles, follow the arrows and walk in one direction (to maintain social distancing); if not, you can walk both ways.
311 Windeler Road
Howell, NJ

Hiking is good for the soul via @lil.ana.santos

Cattus Island County Park
Dawn to dusk
The park spans 530 acres and has seven miles of trails. This is not your typical hiking environment, though—instead of bears or bald eagles, you’ll see ospreys and reptiles. Take the main route to the beach, or meander down one of the others for Barnegat Bay views.
1170 Cattus Island Boulevard
Toms River, NJ

Island Beach State Park
8AM to sunset
As one of NJ’s last remnants of a barrier island ecosystem, many bird species and plant varieties are here. And eight trails, each less than a mile, offer stunning views of Barnegat Bay. For a scenic hike, try the seven-mile Ocean View Trail. 
Island Beach State Park
Seaside Park, NJ

Lord Stirling Park 
9AM-5PM
With three miles of boardwalk trails, two observation towers, two observation blinds, and over eight miles of trails, your family can get up close and personal with nature. There’s a diversity of plants and animals that call the fields, rivers, marshes, meadows, ponds, and forests home.
190 Lord Stirling Road
Basking Ridge, NJ

Sourland Mountain Preserve
Sunrise to sunset
This 4,000-acre park is located on a mountain and has four trails: Ridge Trail (five miles), Maple Flats Trail (1.4 miles), Pondside Trail (half a mile), and Roaring Brook Trail (2.1 miles). Be sure to wear your hiking boots—these trails can get pretty rocky.
421 East Mountain Road
Hillsborough, NJ

Hawk Rise Sanctuary
Sunrise to sunset
Surrounded by an industrial area, this peaceful ecological preserve is a welcome breath of nature. It spans 95 acres with 1.5 miles of flat and easy trails—perfect for even your littles. And make sure you go up to the observation deck for beautiful views of Rahway River.  
1811 Lower Road
Linden, NJ

Southern NJ Hikes

Hiking buddies for life via @rachel.daniel0929

Estell Manor Park
7:30AM to 30 minutes after sunset
This hike is a favorite in Atlantic County. It’s home to 20 miles of trails—and most of them are flat and sand-packed, making it safe for your kiddos. A 1.8-mile boardwalk begins at the Nature Center and is fully accessible to park visitors.
109 Boulevard Route 50
Mays Landing, NJ

Wharton State Forest
Sunrise to sunset
This park has trails ranging from less than a mile long to over 10 miles long. Most start from the Historic Batsto Village, which used to be an industrial center. After the hike, take a free guided tour of the village (you can do it with your phone to scan the QR codes).
31 Batsto Road
Hammonton, NJ

Brendan T. Byrne State Forest
Sunrise to sunset
Located in Burlington County, this forest is home to the Batona Trail, Cranberry Trail, and Mt. Misery Trail. And with 3,000 miles of bogs, forests, and wetlands for you to explore with the family, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest is over 37,000 acres of pure and serene hiking areas.
Mile Marker 1
Highway Route 72 East
Woodland Township, NJ

Bring a friend or two on your hike via @miloandriver_vizsla

Maurice River Bluffs Trail
Dawn to dusk
Dogs are allowed on this 4.4-mile trail, so take your furry friend on a walk with you. And the nature preserve that houses this trail is one of the most-visited, with five courses and a 35-foot long bridge. 
1200 Silver Run Road
Millville, NJ

Belleplain State Forest
Sunrise to sunset
Hike any of the 24 trails—half (24 miles) are reserved for hiking and biking, while the other half (23 miles) are multi-use and allow street-legal cars. The trails vary from under half a mile to nine miles, but most courses are easy or moderate since they’re mostly flat.
1 Henkinsifkin Road
Woodbine, NJ

Cape May Point State Park
Dawn to dusk (7AM-5PM for this specific park)
This park is a well-known hiking spot—and for a good reason. Three trails take you through various habitats, including a changing shoreline, dunes, marshes, and ponds. And make sure to visit the observation decks, where your kids will have fun seeing all the wildlife.
Light House Avenue
Cape May Point, NJ

Parvin State Park
Sunrise to sunset
Take in the beauty of nature as you hike one of the nine trails (adding up to more than 15 miles) and look at the pine barren forest and hardwood forest swamp terrains. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the different plants—Parvin has more than 200 species.  
701 Almond Road
Pittsgrove, NJ

Rancocas State Park
8AM to dusk
This park’s 14 trails are split into two sections. Head to the forest and meadow near the Nature Center for the hiking-only routes. If Fido is coming with you, make sure to take one of the trails in the forested uplands near Rancocas Creek.
Powhatan Indian Reservation Drive
Hainesport, NJ

 


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About Author

Caroline is a writer from central Jersey who loves checking out new boardwalks and beach towns (current faves include Long Branch and Ocean Grove), admiring the foliage and walking around downtown Princeton, and singing along to music—often with her younger sister. One of her favorite jobs was being a camp counselor and helping out at local, family-friendly events. She can regularly be found ordering a pie to go from Romeo's in Plainsboro, her favorite pizzeria.

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