There’s no better place to enjoy the beautiful warm weather than on a trail. Whether you enjoy tackling a challenging trail deep in the forest or prefer a more leisurely walk along a sandy beach, you’ll find plenty of places to go for a hike in New Jersey this season, including these four spots.
Dismal Swamp Conservation Area
Unlike many other conservation areas in the country, Dismal Swamp is located in the middle of a bustling metropolitan area. Fortunately, its busy location hasn’t stopped more than 175 bird species and over 20 species of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals from calling the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area home. Nicknamed “The Everglades of Central New Jersey”, the Conservation Area is one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s priority wetlands.
Trails meander through swampy forests where you just might spot songbirds, American black ducks, bald eagles, red foxes, yellow-billed cuckoos, spotted sandpipers, white-tailed deer or Eastern box turtles. If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll want to add the Dismal Swamp to your list of must-see spots. The trails that run through the swamp are fairly easy and ideal for people of all fitness levels.
High Point State Park
If your idea of the perfect hike includes impressive views, High Point State Park may be the ideal place to spend a beautiful spring day. Located 1,803 feet above sea level, the park offers views of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania at its highest point.
Fifty miles of trails crisscross forests, swamps, mountaintops and forests. Depending on your schedule, you can spend an hour hiking or devote the entire day to a hike. If you’re ready for a challenge, the park also offers access to the Appalachian Trail. Hike a small section of the 18-mile portion that passes through the park or spend a few days enjoying the famous trail. Three designated shelters on the Appalachian Trail in High Point State Park allow overnight camping. (You’ll need a permit, which can be obtained from the High Point park office, to hike the Appalachian trail.)
Island Beach State Park
Are you eager to get back to the beach? Although it may not be swimming or surfing weather yet, an afternoon spent walking beachside trails just may satisfy your desire for a little ocean time. Island Beach State Park is located in Seaside Park, right next to Seaside Heights, the town made famous by the “Jersey Shore” TV show. Although you’ll only be a few miles from Snooki’s favorite haunts, you’ll feel like you’re miles from civilization once you pass through the park gates.
The 7.6 mile Ocean View trail delivers on its promise, offering views of the ocean and Barnegat Bay. During your hike, you’ll pass by marshes, dunes, forests, thicket and wetland and may spot a few of the native species. Waterfowl, migrating shorebirds, wading birds and peregrine falcons are among the wildlife species that live in the park.
If you’d prefer a shorter hike, the .8-mile Spizzle Creek Trail is a good option. The trail starts 7.5 miles from the park’s entrance and offers flat terrain. It’s located between parking areas 19 and 20.
Rutgers University Ecological Preserve
Encompassing 316 acres on Rutgers University’s Livingston Campus, The Rutgers University Ecological Preserve is one of the largest upland forests in the area. Seven trails wind through the preserve, none of them more than two miles in length. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy hiking the White Trail, which passes by remnants of the ammo bunkers that once were part of Camp Kilmer. The Camp served as a staging area for U.S. Army troops shipping out to the European Theater during World War II.
The Blue Trail, one of the more challenging hikes in the preserve, follows the Buell Brook Ravine and includes steep areas and up-and-down walking. If you’re not up for a strenuous hike, the Orange Trail traces the path of an old farm road.
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