While most of us were eager to tell 2020 to ‘take a hike’, the New Year presents an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air with a hike for yourself.  There are many places to hike in New Jersey, whether you are a beginner or are passionate about hiking.  

Palisades Interstate Park:  Located in northeastern New Jersey, Palisades Interstate Park is a National Natural Landmark. It includes over 30 miles of hiking, overlooks, picnic areas near the river, and a nature sanctuary.  The Shore Trail is an easy hike for beginners along the river.  The Giant Stairs are for expert hikers who want to rock scramble.

Ramapo Mountain State Forest:  On the western end of Northern N.J. is the Ramapo Mountain State Forest which covers 4,200 acres. The park offers hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and hunting. It includes the Ramapo Valley County Reservation and Hawk Rock, with views of the New York City Skyline. Take a stroll around the lower lake or the path up to the upper lake.  From there, the Blue Trail will take you about two hours up the mountain and back down to the parking lot.

Stairway to Heaven:  This steep climb in the Wawayanda State Park area in Vernon is a series of rock slab steps.  The trail is just shy of three miles. Once at the top, there are great views of Vernon Valley.  Although this trail is categorized as moderate, hikers should be wary of the slippery conditions of this trail in the winter or rainy weather. While in the area, check out the Pochuck Boardwalk, an easy hike over the Pochuck Suspension Bridge.  

Cheesequake State Park: This state park is unusual because is divided by the busy Garden State Parkway.  Trails vary in length from 1.5 miles to 3.5 miles through marshes and forest for beginners and intermediate hikers. Some trails even include boardwalks over the marshes for an easier walk. Cheesequake also features biking, camping, and boating.  

Cattus Island County Park:  Located in Toms River, this hiking area has smooth trails and boardwalks through marshes and forests. The Yellowbrook Trail is 1.5 miles and the Island Loop which is 2.2 miles, is also bike friendly with several osprey nests along the way. There is a butterfly garden and the Cooper Environmental Center, making it a great choice for families.

Hacklebarney State Park: There are only six miles of trails in Hacklebarney State Park in Chester.  The Red Trail runs along the Black River with places to fish and picnic along the way.  There is an even shorter trail of just under a mile that is worth tacking on.  The Main Trail to the Waterfall Trail to the Red Trail will give you a great view of Hacklebarney Falls.  

Mt. Tammany: Mount Tammany, named for Lenni Lenape chief Tamanend, lies along the Appalachian Trail. It offers a more challenging hike.  This pick is not for a beginner because it is 3.5 miles of rocky and steep terrain, but well worth the overlook of the Delaware Water Gap and Mt. Minsi once you get there. An easier variation is the Blue Trail instead of the steep Red Trail.

Buttermilk Falls:  Located in Layton, Buttermilk Falls is a 1.4 mile hike one way that is of moderate difficulty.  New Jersey’s highest waterfall is at the beginning of the trail and then hike uphill to the Appalachian Trail to Crater Lake. For those less experienced, a short hike at Tillman Ravine on the way to the falls might be a better option.

New Jersey has many beautiful areas for hiking, no matter what your level of hiking expertise.  These parks will make for a great day out and get you starting the New Year in the right frame of mind.