Best Easy Day Hikes Northeast New Jersey  by Paul E. DeCpste and Ronald J. Dupont Jr.

Best Easy Day Hikes: Northeast New Jersey Guide Book

by Paul E. DeCpste and Ronald J. Dupont Jr. (Falcon Guides)
Best Easy Day Hikes Northeast New Jersey  by Paul E. DeCpste and Ronald J. Dupont Jr.
Best Easy Day Hikes Northeast New Jersey includes concise descriptions and detailed maps for eighteen easy-to-follow hikes in the scenic northeast corner of the Garden State, from the Highlands to the Hudson River and New York Bay. Here you’ll find numerous forests, peaks, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, ponds, old mines, and historic ruins—all within an hour of Times Square.

© 2010 Paul E DeCpste and Ronald J Dupont Jr/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Easy Day Hikes: Northeast New Jersey" Guide Book
Displaying trails 18 of 18.

Displaying trails 1 to 18 of 18.

This spectacular out-and back hike edges the Hudson River, one of the world’s major waterways. At the same time, the route travels below the massive Palisades Cliffs. A good portion of the hike traces old historic roads, while a short section runs atop a stone bulkhead (slippery when wet). As you travel these old roads, imagine the sites as layers of historic activities. Is your car parked where automobiles lined up to embark onto the John Walsh for passage to Yonkers? Or are you stepping aside for a farmer’s wagon loaded with fresh vegetables, heading for the docks so his produce can be loaded onto a Hudson River sloop bound for New York City (NYC), a sloop built by shipwrights on this site? Smell the oak and cedar!
Cresskill, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
Starting at the New Jersey Audubon Society’s Weis Ecology Center, this Highlands ramble gives you a sample of the Wanaque Mountains’ scenery and history. The center’s exhibits will whet your appetite for the trail ahead, which includes fine views from Ball Mountain and a visit to two of New Jersey’s most interesting old iron mines, the historic Roomy and Blue Mines. The New Jersey Audubon’s Weis Ecology Center, our starting point, is worth a visit and has an interesting history. It started in 1921 as Camp Midvale, operated by the Nature Friends (originally Naturfreunde, of German origin). This politically liberal, social democratic organization provided working-class members with access to the outdoors. It attracted a variety of leftist artists, actors, and other notables over the years.
Wanaque, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
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Though close to the Garden State Parkway and the metropolis, the terrain here in Cheesequake State Park is pleasantly diverse and rather remote. Journey past historic clay pits along with an array of ecosystems: saltwater marshes, freshwater swamps, white cedar swamps, hardwood forests, and pine barrens. A bit hilly, the loop hike is made up of trails, stairs, boardwalks, and park roads. Be aware that the park has a limited capacity and closes when full. This hike through Cheesequake State Park highlights how different centuries see value in different things. For us, the area is a beautiful, amazing transition zone: from the hilly, forested Piedmont to the sandy pine barrens of the Coastal Plain—also from the saltwater bay and marshes to the freshwater swamps and creeks. But Colonial craftsmen saw something else—rich yellow clay in the riverbanks that’s abundant and superior for stoneware pottery.
Cliffwood, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.5
DeKorte Park is a place of environmental renewal. This land has been diked, farmed, and lumbered; crisscrossed by turnpikes, train tracks, power lines, and pipelines. But in the last three decades, it’s also become a spot dedicated to restoring native vegetation and reclaiming wildlife habitation. This extraordinary hike travels through the middle of impoundments and salt marshes along the Atlantic Flyway.
Secaucus, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.7
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This lollipop outing epitomizes the “best easy hikes” concept: a gentle ascent through hardwood forest up to a peak of eastern red cedars, moss, and glacial erratics strewn about like children’s oversize blocks. From the ledges you find a beautiful western view of the mountains (Board, Bear, and Windbeam) and the Wanaque Reservoir. There’s one short steep descent; otherwise the footing is relatively easy. For most of American history, a very different view greeted you here. Wanaque Reservoir is a product of the 1920s; before that you saw spread before you the Wanaque Valley, a fertile farm valley with the little hamlets of Boardville and Monksville and the New York & Greenwood Lake Railroad chugging its way up the valley. It was, in the words of one nineteenth-century historian, “one of the most picturesque and beautiful valleys in the state.” No more. The name Boardville reflects the influence of pioneer Cornelius Board, a Welsh émigré who came to America to operate mines and ironworks.
Ringwood, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
This out-and-back hike travels through hardwood forest: beeches, oaks, and maples. Pass through canyons of rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and hemlocks. Climb to the top of ridges edged by granite cliffs. Skirt a bog and swamp. All with the potential to observe wildlife: bear, deer, porcupine, and an array of birds. Arrive at secluded Lake Lookout, an ideal lunch spot. After thousands of years the lakes gradually fill with earthen debris and eventually plant growth. Each year the water level fluctuates, rising during the winter snows and spring rains and evaporating during the summer. The succession appears like a painting: The foreground germinates skunk cabbage, ferns, and sedges; the middle ground grows spicebush, blueberry, and witch hazel; and in the background stand red maples, yellow birch, and eastern hemlocks.
West Milford, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.2
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On this walk the skyline isn’t broken by towering oaks, sycamore, or white pines, but by Lady Liberty, Columbus Monument, the Liberation Monument, and Manhattan skyscrapers. The route takes advantage of walkways, the nature path, the Interpretive Center, the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, and especially the Liberty Walk. This hike takes us past the historic Morris Canal Basin, the world’s best view of Manhattan, a spectacular historic train shed and railroad terminal, views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and the site of an infamous island munitions depot. The famous Morris Canal connected with the bay in the canal basin on the north side of the park here.
Jersey City, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.1
A noble little loop hike that takes you to the peak of Monks Mountain, sharing several views from the top, where you will look down on Monksville Reservoir. Explore (carefully) the prickly pear cactus found bordering one of the vistas. The route also takes you by the nineteenth-century Monks, or Winston, Mine, with its gaping maw. Locating magnetite ore with a magnet might be a fun break from the hike. Prickly pear cactus (PPC), with its yellow-orange flowers and red-purple fruit, adorns the top vistas from June to August. It can grow upright or like a carpet, as it does here. Also called “no pal,” or “devil’s tongue,” this is the only native cactus found in the Garden State. It appreciates dry, sandy, or rocky soil where it is hot and sunny. Besides Monks Mountain, PPC grows on Mount Tammany’s peak (Delaware Water Gap), along the Jersey Shore, and throughout the Pine Barrens.
Hewitt, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.7
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This rather challenging hike packs a lot into a loop. Tramp past the photogenic ruins of Van Slyke Castle and the stone water tower. Edge Ramapo Lake and climb Castle Point. View the New York City skyline as well as the Watchung Mountains and the Wyanokie Plateau. There are two steady rises on this hike, but it’s well worth the effort. Our hike in the Ramapos begins on Skyline Drive and rambles down a rocky, old woods road, the Hoeferlin Memorial Trail. Bill Hoeferlin was a pioneering North Jersey trail builder and mapmaker; thus the honor of having the trail named after him is deserved. Reaching Ramapo Lake near its spillway, we follow an old road along the shore.
Wanaque, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.9
Starting at a historic Life-Saving Station, now a museum, we explore the thickets, the dunes, and the shore of the Sandy Hook section of Gateway National Recreation Area. Stroll along the Atlantic Ocean and pass a freshwater pond (great for birding) and an old Nike missile base. A little bit of everything!
Sandy Hook, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
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This trail shadows the Rahway River, climbing up through the bottomlands, reaching the 25-foot-high Hemlock Falls before looping back on a bridle path. The nearly level hike has one steep rise and a river crossing that is a rock hop. Observe a park designed by the Olmsted Brothers and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The recently established South Mountain Conservancy is working hard to bring the reservation back to the elegance and charm of its glory days. Turtlebacks are a notable part of the local nomenclature—to the extent that the local zoo took the name. “Turtleback” refers to a geological phenomenon in which basalt fractured, leaving cracks to fill with minerals. When erosion took place, the softer basalt wore away while the harder minerals did not. This left the minerals deposited within the cracks extending above the basalt surface, creating hexagonal patterns resembling a turtle’s back.
Springfield, NJ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 5.8
This is a scenic out-and-back hike that runs along the top of the Palisades Cliffs above the Hudson River. There’s a moderate descent and ascent on the Long Path, which uses old abandoned highways, former bridle paths, trails, and even steps to reach the State Line Boundary Monument and Station Rock. The hike provides one of the most magnificent views on the East Coast. This walk begins at State Line Lookout, the lofty Palisades aerie that gives you a spectacular close-up of Palisades geology and great views of the ever-busy Hudson River and of Hastings-on-Hudson across the river. If you can momentarily take your eyes off the scenery, you can ponder the political boundary that gives this spot its name. The actual state line is 0.5 mile north of here.
Palisades, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.6
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This loop is a good level hike for a spring warm-up or a Sunday afternoon stroll. While sauntering under a canopy of trees, enjoy the rushing river on one side and the placid canal on the other. The hike affords numerous interpretive kiosks and side trips to the historical sites. Easy to add more miles! This hike begins at the Crossroads of New Jersey. During the Late Woodland Period, the Lenape’s Assunpink Trail took advantage of the Millstone Valley floodplain running between the Delaware and Raritan Rivers. In the mid-1600s the Dutch used it to travel between New Amsterdam and the Dutch settlements along the Delaware Bay. Later, the Old Dutch Trail became the British Kings Highway, connecting New York City with Philadelphia. In 1913 the Kings Highway was designated as the Lincoln Highway, patching together other roads to create the first transcontinental route, thus promoting the use of the automobile.
Kingston, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
Explore the birthplace of one of our nation’s first planned industrial cities. This is an urban hike with sidewalks, street crossings, and paths. The route is a figure eight with spectacular views of the second-largest waterfall, by volume, east of the Mississippi River. Although they’re often called Paterson Falls, this seems decidedly unfair: The falls were known for a hundred years before the city of Paterson existed. Settlers in the 1600s noted their beauty, and 1700s picnic parties from as far away as New York came to see the massive waterfalls in the Jersey hinterlands.
Paterson, NJ - Hiking,Walking - Trail Length: 2.2
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Visit the former 18,000-year-old glacial Lake Passaic, now called the Great Swamp. It doesn’t take long hiking this level loop to learn why it’s designated a National Natural Landmark. Within the 450-acre park’s natural lands, the route meanders through marshes, meadows, swamps, and woodlands, while hugging the Passaic River and series of ponds. This hike takes us through rich bottomland meadows, once part of a glacial lake. It was prime farmland—and responsible for the park’s name, indirectly. William Alexander, who lived here, was a Lord who died creating a democracy. He was born in 1725 to a wealthy family with a profitable provisioning business. He married Sarah Livingston in 1748; his brother-in-law William Livingston was a future governor. He had land interests in the East Jersey Board of Proprietors, and became one of the founders of King’s College in New York, now Columbia University.
Millington, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.9
This moderately easy hike takes you through a cleft in the Ramapo Mountains filled with interesting geological formations. From there it goes out to Osio Rock and the Torne, promontories with great views of the Wanaque Reservoir, the eastern Highlands, and the New York City skyline. The return trip includes a stop at the unique stone “Living Room,” complete with a fireplace and easy chairs for your comfort.
Ringwood, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.3
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This extraordinary jaunt takes you through Pyramid Mountain Natural Historical Area’s natural sculpture garden. We pass amazing erratics: Bear Rock, possibly New Jersey’s largest, and Tripod Rock, a balanced pedestal rock claimed by some to have links to the solstice and prehistoric sun worship. Along with views of the Newark Basin and the New York City skyline, there are side trips to the Morgan Place foundations, Cole Farm Mine, and Lucy’s Overlook. The outstanding features of this hike are Bear Rock and Tripod Rock, must-sees on any visit here. Both are amazing but in different ways. Any way you look at it, a hike here is like a hike through a geological sculpture garden. Bear Rock is alleged to be the largest boulder in New Jersey. Known early on as “Bare” rock, some say it looks like a bear, or perhaps it was bare. Whatever the case, Native Americans found a use for this colossal rock next to a stream and a swamp. Ancient rock shelters existed on both sides of it, used as transient camps by hunting and foraging parties.
Taylortown, NJ - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
This walk takes you on a journey through geological history, across sandstone and shale. We ramble through a deserted village and visit the Nature and Science Center, the first such exhibition in New Jersey. A special treat is passing through a grove of giant tulip trees, like New Jersey’s own redwoods. This hike takes us through the tranquil bottomland of the Watchungs, an oasis in an urban sea. These ridges sweep south and then west through the New Jersey Piedmont. Cradled deep within their embrace is the Great Swamp. Here the Watchungs rise like a green, rocky wave above the surrounding sea of dense urban development.
New Providence, NJ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 4.7
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