Before I had children, I spent the weekends exploring the wildlife of Paramus malls (the Manolos, the Choos, the Louis Vuittons). Now that time is spent with my own wildlife, my kids, and at least one weekend a month we go to a state park. Why? One, because sticks and rocks can occupy my children longer than any toy we have in our house. And two, because there are so many beautiful state parks to explore in our little state. Most outsiders do not equate “New Jersey” with “beautiful state parks”, but exploring at least one of our 36 state parks and 13 state forests should be on your summer fun to-do list with your kids. They’re the perfect venue for a fun-filled day trip in New Jersey!
You can find a directory of all of our state parks and forests here.
Does free yoga on the mountain sound good to anyone? Check out the monthly events calendar here.
Don’t forget to download the Offical NJ Guide to Parks and Forests Pocket Ranger App for your phone or iPad.
Since I reside in the Skylands region of the state, I decided to highlight four state parks and forests in my region. Bonus, the Appalachian trail passes through all four of them!
Stokes State Forest, Sussex County, NJ
The crest of Sunrise Mountain is one of the most popular landmarks to visit at Stokes State Forest. Part of the Appalachian Trail, Sunrise Mountains boasts views of scenic NJ farmland as well as an evergreen forest. Stokes State Forest is 15,482 acres of fun and exploration. See if you can find Rainbow Bridge over Lake Ocquittunk with your kids! Every time we have gone, we have seen a bear, nothing can be more exciting than that! (973) 948-3820
High Point State Park, Sussex County, NJ
That’s right, the highest point in New Jersey at 1,803 feet above sea level. Best known for its monument and 20 acre swimming hole, Lake Marcia, High Point gives visitors a chance to see 3 states from the top of its 220 foot tall monument. Glimpses of the Catskills, the Pocono Mountains and the Wallkill River Valley can all be seen from the top of the monument. There are over 50 miles of trails to be hiked and lakes and streams stocked with trout and small-mouth bass. Stop for lunch or an early dinner at the Chatterbox and your kids will not be disappointed. (973) 875-4800
Jenny Jump State Forest, Warren County, NJ
Jenny Jump is the perfect name for this state forest, as my kids love to jump off the flat boulders that line the 11 miles of trail. When glaciers receded from Jenny Jump mountain 21,000 years ago, they gouged through New Jersey and caused much damage and sediment in this area. There are some unusual rock formations carved out by the glacier that give Jenny Jump some personality and some unique photo ops. For your stargazers, The United Astronomy Clubs of NJ (UACNJ) provides public programs on Saturday evenings from April through October, from 8:00 to 10:00 pm, at which an astronomy presentation is followed by an observing session, weather permitting. Stop at Hot Dog Johnny’s in Buttzville, (yes, Buttzville- your kids will laugh when you drive through this tiny little town) and try some of the state’s best hot dogs and fresh buttermilk. (908) 459-4366
Worthington State Forest, Warren County
Worthington State Forest is home to one of our favorite hiking and fishing spots, Sunfish Pond. There is an easy circular trail around the pond that is perfect for little hikers, providing shade and plenty of resting places. Worth noting for science buffs: Sunfish Pond was carved out by a glacier. There are 26 miles of trail and it is always fun to drive down one of the earliest (and bumpiest) roads in New Jersey, Old Mine Road. Off of Old Mine Road, you can access Turtle Beach, named after the bog turtles that reside there. Turtle Beach is a little known swimming area located right on the Delaware River. (908) 841-9575
This article was first published in 2011.
Photo of Stokes State Forest by amy gizienski via Flickr.