Riding a bike is more than a childhood milestone. It develops a sense of balance, strengthens muscles, fosters an appreciation of the outdoors, and makes for wonderful family bonding time. Luckily for NJ families, there are tons of family-friendly bike trails throughout the state, from the Kittatinny Mountains to the Jersey Shore.
Read on for 15 of our favorite spots for a family-friendly ride. If you prefer to travel on foot, check out a dozen easy hikes in NJ for families with small children.
Stop for a break just off the bike path at Saddle River Park. Photo by Jose S. Jimenez via Instagram.
Saddle River County Park – Bergen County
Crossing through six Bergen County towns, this bike path is approximately six miles in length. Also known as the Wild Duck Pond (Ridgewood), its easy course is extremely family-friendly.
Patriot's Path. Photo by Irene Candelaria via Instagram.
Patriots' Path – Morristown
One-part history, one-part exercise, Patriots' Path is a 30-mile route that runs from East Hanover to Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Check the map for beginner trails, including a paved section near Speedwell Lake.
Loantaka Brook Reservation Trail – Morristown
This popular park features five miles of paved trails. You can connect to the Patriots' Path (above) if you want to extend your ride, or stop at the playground located at the South Street end of the trails.
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Mountain bike on the Paulinski Valley Trail. Photo courtesy of Sussex County
Paulinskill Valley Trail – Sussex County
With more than eight miles of rugged mountain bike trails available, Kittatinny Valley State Park is a favorite of mountain bikers. The 26-mile Paulinskill Valley Trail, which starts in Sparta, runs through Sussex County’s beautiful countryside.
West Essex Trail – Verona
At around three miles, this trail is perfect for young riders. The trail follows the former railway of the Caldwell Branch on the old Erie-Lackawanna Railroad and meanders over a trestle that crosses Peckman River.
Take a leisurely ride on the Middlesex Greenway. Photo courtesy of Middlesex County Office of Parks and Recreation
Middlesex Greenway – Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge
This awesome 3.5-mile trail has 12 access points stretching from Metuchen to the Fords section of Woodbridge. The 10-foot wide path meanders near parks, shopping areas, and farmers' market spots. Note that some access points only have stairs to enter, so check the map if that's a concern.
Columbia Trail – Washington Township
Columbia Trail’s off-road biking route travels through the woods along the Raritan River for 15 miles. The trail is mostly in shade, which makes it a comfortable trip on a warm day.
Duke farms has paved and gravel roads for biking or strolling. Photo by the author
Duke Farms – Hillsborough
Twelve miles of paved and gravel lanes wind through the gorgeous grounds of Duke Farms, a historic estate featuring gardens and undeveloped natural habitats. It's an easy, relaxing ride with plenty of opportunities to stop and smell the roses. Closed Wednesdays.
Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park – Princeton
The historic towpath along the main canal from Trenton’s Bakers Basin Road to New Brunswick has a natural surface for biking, making for a great family adventure.
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The paved paths at Colonial Park are perfect for riding with little ones. Photo by the author
Colonial Park – Somerset
Two miles of paved paths are perfect for NJ families. Stop to enjoy the park's great playgrounds, mini-golf, gardens, and paddle boats.
Washington Crossing Park – Titusville
This beautiful park has 15 miles of trails in the heart of some famous Revolutionary War historical sites. Ride on the two-mile bike loop, or try walking the green trail, which connects to a pedestrian bridge that travels over the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
Take an oceanside ride on the Ocean City Boardwalk. Photo by LabyrinthX via Flickr.
Ocean City Boardwalk – Cape May County
Bicycling on the boardwalk is limited during the summer months, but in most other seasons cyclists are free to ride at any time of day. This 2.5-mile stretch of boardwalk offers stunning ocean views, plus easy access to shops and restaurants when you're ready to take a break. Click here for more details.
Sandy Hook – Sandy Hook
The Sandy Hook bike path runs the length of the peninsula and features a picturesque lighthouse, military installations, and views of the bay and the beach. Its flat surface makes for a fun, easy ride.
Cooper River Park – Camden
Cooper River Park is huge, stretching through Pennsauken, Cherry Hill, Collingswood, and Haddon Township. There are two riverside bike paths: a 3.8-mile loop (Cuthbert to Rt. 130) and a 1.35-mile trail (Cuthbert to Grove Street). While you're at the park, enjoy mini-golf, the sculpture garden, fishing in the river, and more.
The Pine Barrens – Hammonton
The Pinelands is home to several popular riding courses. From flat, paved rides to bumpy off-roading trails, this area has many offerings for the cycling enthusiast. For a family-friendly ride, try the Pine Barrens River Ramble, an easy 42.6-mile loop with no hills that can be shortened to a more manageable length.
Looking for more? The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) publishes several bicycle tour guides, including the Old Mine Road Ride in Sussex County and Essex County’s Washington Rock and Roll Tour. These detailed guides are valuable resources if you want to explore the world through a cyclist’s eyes.
Top image: Patriot's Path. Photo by Molly Leeds via Instagram.
Originally published 2012; updated for 2018.