8 Family-Friendly Hikes in South Jersey
There is nothing like a walk in the woods to clear your mind, and the sights will undoubtedly excite your children. When you're ready for an outdoor adventure, consider one of these South Jersey hikes, where you can spot everything from beavers and fish in a creek to songbirds flittering about and the occasional quail or deer. In addition to wildlife, you can find manmade structures to hide in, wooden bridges to traverse, and a rope swing to glide on if you’re daring enough.
Find more great green spaces and hiking spots to explore in our Guide to Parks and Playgrounds, and we'll look forward to seeing you on the trails!
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1. Croft Farm Nature Trail – Cherry Hill
Evans Pond lies between Cherry Hill and Haddonfield, and on the Cherry Hill side, you'll find 1.6 miles of easy trails in the woods along the one length of Evans Pond. You can fish in the pond (as well as catch little fish with nets). Many geese and ducks occupy the pond. There are several ways to access these trails, but the most convenient is by driving down Bortons Mill Road, past the fields, and Jake’s Place playground. You can park across from the Croft Farm House. After you've explored its exterior, find the trailheads directly behind the house. One of the highlights of this route is the wooden dock jutting out over the pond.
2. Pennypacker Park – Haddonfield
If your children are dinosaur fanatics, Pennypacker Park is a great destination. In 1858, William Foulke discovered the skeletal remains of what was, at the time, the world’s most complete dinosaur skeleton in the park's ravine. It was named Hadrosaurus foulkii. Now designated a national historic landmark, there is a plaque where the giant swamp dweller was found. If you walk along the road, there is a paved path for strollers and bikes. If you're on foot, head down by the creek to explore the wooded area via a dirt path. The creek is part of Cooper River and flows into Hopkins Pond. Several wooden bridges crisscross along the creek, and you'll find a playground if you cross Park Boulevard.
Find stick structures to explore along the trails in Crows Woods.
3. Crows Woods – Haddonfield
Crows Woods Nature Preserve has a lot to offer. If your children love trains, you can walk into the woods along the PATCO Speedline for a distant—safely fenced off—view of the occasional train rolling by. Cut into the woods, and there is a surprisingly extensive set of trails. A couple of bridges crossing streams and a very steep embankment that children see as a challenge to conquer, perhaps several times! There are at least three awesome tent-like stick structures in the woods to explore, and one even has a little swing built in it. There is also a rope swing tied to a tree in the woods, and although I have seen teenagers swinging on it, I've never deemed it safe enough for my little ones!
Look for frogs in Hopkins Pond.
4. Hopkins Pond – Haddonfield
Hopkins Pond provides an easy and scenic hike around a quaint pond. The full loop is almost completely shaded in the woods and is less than a mile. However, be aware there is one portion where you'll walk alongside Hopkins Lane. Often, we see turtles sunning themselves on logs in the pond, and an occasional rabbit runs across your path. You can make the trek longer by crossing over Hopkins Lane, where the trail connects you to Pennypacker Park. Several wooden bridges traverse creeks and marshland, and you can step off the trail to play on the playground at Tatem Elementary School. There is a parking lot on Hopkins Lane, and people fish in the pond.
Toss rocks in the creek at Ceres Park.
5. Ceres Park Nature Preserve – Sewell
An expansive 52-acre park, Ceres Park has an extensive trail system consisting of main paths crisscrossed by smaller paths. Emerald Lake and Cedar Lake are the two big attractions, as well as the swampy wetlands surrounding them. These are the remains of marl pits, formed during mining operations in the 19th and 20th centuries and led to the naming of Marlton and Marlboro. While on your hike, watch out for frogs, turtles, deer, and herons. You'll also encounter mountain bikers.
Explore the old railroad track along United States Avenue.
6. Quarry by Blueberry Hill Trail – Gibbsboro
For an especially cool vista of a quarry and the Philadelphia skyline, the Blueberry Hill Trail is an excellent choice. I would suggest parking at the Gibbsboro Recreation Center. Next to the building is a community garden with a small sandbox, free library, picnic tables, and a small but cute little sculpture garden walk. At the back of the garden, find bee brood boxes buzzing with honeybees. Keep walking along the paved road until it cuts into the forest for three miles of wooded trails. There is a paved path intersected by dirt trails. Stay on the main paved loop (and watch out for the occasional deer or quail) to reach the overlook into the quarry, which still has some mining machinery in it. You can walk down in the quarry, and if your children like motorbikes, you might see bikers riding in groups in the quarry as well a mountain bikers. There is one picnic bench at the top looking over the quarry. If you continue along the paved path down the hill, you will come to United States Avenue, cross it, and extend your walk—in the woods but along the road—next to an abandoned railroad track.
Enjoy the open fields at Washington Lake Park.
7. Washington Lake Park – Washington Township
The largest municipal park in New Jersey, Washington Lake Park covers more than 300 acres, and there are several different wooded hikes you can tackle ranging from easy to moderate; none are more than half a mile. Our favorite is the Sassafras Trail around Cedar Pond (where fishing is allowed) and continuing to the Lakeside Trail, which takes you around Washington Lake. You end at a small butterfly garden trail. Look for beavers, turtles, snakes, foxes, and wild turkeys. In addition to the trails, there are three playgrounds, an amphitheater, pavilions, a koi pond filled with giant, hungry koi, and many sports fields, plus beach volleyball pits.
8. Delaware and Raritan Canal Park – Princeton
For a 70-mile long path along a historic canal lined with towering trees, visit the Delaware and Raritan Canal Park, crossing through several counties. Built in the early 1800s, this canal was mostly dug out by hand by Irish immigrants to make a more efficient route between Philadelphia and New York City. Along your trek, you encounter bridges, locks, and canal houses. Although beautiful in any season, this walk is especially stunning in the fall when the leaves are changing colors. If you want to make a day of it, head to Princeton for lunch and visit the famous Princeton University campus.
Know Before You Go
- Parks are usually open from dawn to dusk, but check the websites in advance for any restrictions.
- On longer hikes, be sure to bring water and snacks.
- These treks look completely different depending on what season you go, so make sure to re-visit them.
- If you and your children are especially interested in nature, consider purchasing a field guide to bring along, such as a bird or tree identification book.
- My kids and I enjoy taking some notes on our hike, and when we get home, we try to draw a map of our hike and include what we saw along the way.
- Most of these walks are in the forest and shaded, but we still suggest applying sunscreen.
- Bugs can be a problem in New Jersey, but ticks, especially, can carry disease. We suggest wearing long pants, tall socks, closed-toed shoes, pulling long hair back, and wearing a hat. Before you get in the car, do a quick tick check, and once you're home, check the family more thoroughly.
Photos by the author
Places featured in this article:
Ceres Park Nature Preserve
Quarry by Blueberry Hill Trail
Croft Farm Nature Trail
Penny Packer Park
Washington Lake Park