7 of the Best Hikes in Northern New Jersey for Enjoying Nature and the Outdoors

“Where are the best places to hike in North Jersey?” Here at Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, we hear this question a lot so we thought it was time we compiled our picks for the best trails and parks in the region for spending time in nature. With four locations throughout North Jersey, including offices in Oakland, Fair Lawn, Closter and Wayne, we’re big fans of all that the region has to offer. And it’s our practice’s mission to help our patients find solutions to pain and mobility issues so that they can enjoy the outdoors and their preferred type of recreation. So, without further ado, let’s put on a bit of sunscreen, pack a backpack and hit the trails!

Seven Great Places to Hike in North Jersey

  1. Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Mahwah, Bergen County

With over 3,000 acres and 13 trails to choose from, you’ll want to plan multiple visits to take in all this region has to offer, including a reservoir, mountain-top vistas, a waterfall, riverside trails, and meadows. The Vista Loop is a three-and-a-half mile dirt dog-friendly trail that provides easy access to the waterfall along with great cellphone reception, according to hikers.

  1. High Point State Park, Sussex County, NJ

Aptly named, this park provides access to the highest point in New Jersey and is bordered by  the famed Appalachian Trail. Although the stunning High Point Monument obelisk is a main attraction, the park also features a lake where swimming is permitted along with boating and fishing. In the winter months, enjoy the park’s ski center.

  1. Palisades Interstate Park, Alpine, Bergen County, NJ

Bordering the Hudson River, this park features over 30 miles of trails, perfect for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Although many of the trails can be daunting and better suited for experienced hikers, there’s also picnic and grill areas and several miles of paved roadway that’s perfect for biking. Ready for a breathtaking challenge? Then you’ll want to consider scaling The Giant Stairs in Closter, which happens to be the largest rock scramble in the state. Just be careful, this climb is not for newbies!

  1. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Columbia, Warren County, NJ

No roundup of popular North Jersey hiking destinations would be complete without a mention of this popular tourist destination. Whether you want to challenge yourself with the short, but strenuous Mt. Tammany trail or explore NJ’s tallest waterfall, Buttermilk Falls, with a steep hike, there’s plenty to challenge even the most avid hiker. But don’t discount these 70,000 acres, which includes part of the Appalachian Trail, as only for the experienced hiker. There are many easy to moderate trails including the boardwalk Dingmans Creek Trail that includes views of two waterfalls, Silverthread Falls and Dingmans Falls. Another relaxed hike can be found at the Pond Loop Trail, that offers a short, relaxed walk to a peaceful pond brimming with wildlife.

  1. Stairway to Heaven, Vernon Township, NJ

The Pochuck Valley to Pinwheel Vista trail is a serious hike coming in at just under eight miles. It covers a vast amount of ecosystems that includes hardwood forests, wildflower meadows, abandoned train tracks and even a boulder field. Climb the rock “steps” to get a breathtaking view of North Jersey. Not up for the slippery rocks and steep inclines of this trail? Skip the “steps” and enjoy the Pochuck Suspension Bridge trail, which offers a much more mild two-mile hike atop a wooden boardwalk; the only caveat is you’ll also leave out the sweeping vista views.

  1. Norvin Green State Forest, Bloomingdale, Passaic County, NJ

Explore the old logging roads that now make up a very extensive trail system. Some of the highlights of this park include the panoramic outlook at Wyanokie High Point and Chikahoki Falls.

  1. Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area, Montville, Morris County, NJ

Two words: Tripod Rock. This rock formation is a North Jersey legend and dates back thousands of years, giving hikers a great destination to navigate to marvel at this massive rock that balances effortlessly on three smaller stones. Don’t forget to make time to enjoy the overlooks that include some nice distant views of the New York City skyline.

Best Places to Hike in North Jersey with Waterfalls

South Mountain Reservation, West Orange, Essex County, NJ

The 1.7 mile Hemlock Falls Loop is the perfect way to get a glimpse at this park’s waterfall. However, longer trails, like the Lenape and Rahway offer challenging and longer hikes that still find their way to the falls.

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, Paterson, Passaic County, NJ

The Great Falls of the Passaic River are 77 feet high and a favorite of hikers for the easy trail that’s perfect for short hikes. Made famous (or infamous!) for its appearance in the first episode of The Sopranos, these falls are not to be missed by sightseeing tourists and locals alike.

Best Places to Hike in North Jersey with Family

Hacklebarney State Park, Morris County, NJ

With bridges, paved paths, and stairs instead of scrambles, this park has plenty of ways for even the smallest hikers to take in some nature. Picnic tables and a small playground will provide added possibilities while the abundance of water exploration in creeks and streams is sure to be a real crowd-pleaser, especially on extra-hot summer days.

Colonial Park, Franklin Township, Somerset County, NJ

What’s not to love about this park? There’s so much for kids and grown-ups alike to enjoy, that the hardest decision is where to walk. There’s the Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden, an arboretum, the Lois Howe Nature Trail along with a 1.5 mile fitness loop. Come for a walk and stay for paddle boating, mini-golf, and a generously-appointed inclusive playground.

New Jersey Hiking Safety Tips

Hiking in the outdoors is a great way to exercise while mentally decompressing. In order to have the best experience and prevent accidents, injuries and unpleasantness, make sure you’re fully prepared for the variables of the great outdoors. Keep these tips in mind when preparing for your hike:

  • Wear the right shoes, preferably sneakers or hiking boots with a solid sole, plenty of grip and support for your arches.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks.
  • Always hike with a buddy. Also let someone else know where you’re going beforehand.
  • Pick up a map at the visitor’s area of your hiking location. Never assume you’ll always have cell service.
  • Keep a working flashlight with you in case you’re outside for longer than expected.
  • Don’t forget to bring bug spray, sunscreen, a small first aid kit, a battery bank and an extra pair of socks.
  • Since ticks that carry Lyme Disease are abundant in New Jersey, always tuck the legs of your pants into your socks, wear light-colored coloring for easier checking, and always do a tick check as soon as possible after your hike.

Enjoy More Hiking and Outdoor Activities in New Jersey

North Jersey offers so many fun ways to enjoy nature, from hiking and bicycling to water activities and sports. If chronic pain or injury are keeping you from doing the things you love, there is hope. At Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, our experienced team of chiropractors, physical therapists and acupuncturists are focused on helping bring mobility and comfort back to your life. Don’t let another year go by sitting at home and watching from the sidelines when you could be back out enjoying life and making memories with loved ones. Reach out to schedule an appointment with Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy today. Happy Hiking!