Best Hiking Trails in NJ

If you live in New Jersey, you know there are many beautiful places to visit and hike. But, you may wonder what the best hiking trails in NJ are. 

The Stairway to Heaven trail is the best hiking trail in New Jersey, followed by many others. 

Are you looking for fantastic hiking trails in New Jersey? You have come to the right place. We will explore New Jersey’s best hiking trails in detail.

Best Hiking Trails in New Jersey

What are the Best Hiking Trails in New Jersey?

New Jersey has many exciting and beautiful places to hike. Whether you are looking for an easy hike or a trail for the experienced, there is a trail for everyone. Below we will list the top eight hiking trails in New Jersey.

Here are the top eight New Jersey hiking trails:

  1. Stairway to Heaven
  2. Columbia Trail
  3. Hacklebarney State Park
  4. Stony Lake Loop
  5. Mount Tammany 
  6. Rahway Fairy Trail
  7. White Shore Trail
  8. Appalachian Trail

This list consists of mountainous hiking trails to beach trails. Some hikes are rated as gentle and easy, while others are for extreme hikers. Let’s see what each hike has to offer.

Also read about www.NJMCDirect.Com, Best Colleges in New Jersey, Best Public Golf Courses in New Jersey.

1. New Jersey’s Stairway to Heaven Trail

NJ Stairway to Heaven Trail is a 2.6-mile hiking trail off of the Appalachian Trail. It is located in Wawayanda State Park. The Stairway To Heaven trail is named after the stone steps one must use on the trail. 

Constructed in 1990, the very popular Stairway to Heaven trail leads to Pinwheel Vista. This trail is considered moderate in hiking challenges. 

It takes approximately one hour and 40 minutes to complete the hike. There are areas of steep incline. It is a rocky trail through boulders and trees, ending with beautiful vistas of the valley below.

Stairway to Heaven New Jersey

What Can I Expect On Stairway To Heaven Trail?

You can expect 

  • People
  • Wildlife
  • Some strenuous climbing
  • Mixed topography

There are two parking areas. One is free, the other is fee-based.

You can choose to park for free in the small lot at the trailhead, or you can find parking in the large lot nearby. For the paid parking area you will need to download the Park Mobile App. 

If you want to use the free parking areas be sure to arrive early or during the off-season, as they fill up quickly. Holidays and weekends are busier than other times.

People report seeing a variety of wildlife from

  • Birds
  • Bears
  • Snakes
  • Chipmunks

And other wild animals along the trail.

It is a fairly steep and rocky climb. Be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes with a grip on them as the rocks can be slippery. If you bring your dog, ensure they are on a leash at all times and clean up after them.

2. Columbia Trail New Jersey

The Columbia Trail in New Jersey meanders along the South Branch of the Raritan River for a fifteen-mile stretch. It is a wide flat path that is accessible to

  • Bicyclists
  • Families and individuals
  • Handi-cap
  • Equestrian

As well as people with pets.

Columbia Trail New Jersey

Named for the gas pipeline below the path, the Columbia was once a railway. This is an easy and well-maintained trail that travels approximately 15 miles from Mt. Olive to High Bridge. It encompasses three counties and there are many places in which you can enter or leave the trail.

Where Can I Park at Columbia Trail New Jersey?

Parking can be found at High Bridge on the trailhead, and various places along the route. It is free to park. There are many other places along the Columbia Trail to find parking as it passes through the different towns along the way.

What to See on The Columbia Trail?

Be prepared to see many other people enjoying the path. Animals, both domestic and wild will be around as well. There are many trees and flowering plants, and you will encounter ruins of bygone eras.

 It is a multi-use NJ hiking trail and is accessible to a variety of people 

  • On foot
  • Horseback
  • Bicycles
  • Wheelchairs
  • Scooters
  • Strollers

And other forms of mobility.

The majority of the path is shaded, and it courses along the Raritan River, so it’s an excellent place to fish and picnic as well. 

How Long is the Columbia Trail Hike in New Jersey?

For most people, the hike takes about three and a half hours one way. So, expect seven hours of nonstop walking if you decide to return to your parked car.

Most people will break up the 15-mile hike into three sections, as it may take up to 5 hours to complete a one-way trip. 

If you want to hike the entire Columbia Trail but feel you would need to rest along the way, there are camping areas available along the route. 

Since the Columbia Trail serves many communities, you can easily walk into a town to get provisions for your hike.

3. Hacklebarney State Park Trails and Loop NJ

The Hacklebarney Loop Trail is one of many hiking trails in the Hacklebarney State Park, it is also one of the best in the park.

Hacklebarney state park boasts five miles of nine hiking trails. Of these, the Hacklebarney Loop trail is considered one of the best. It is a 2.1-mile trek along the Black River and across two streams, the Trout and Rhinehart brooks.

This loop is considered moderate as there are a variety of challenges in terrain including

  • A narrow rocky path at the River Ravine
  • Steep areas of incline
  • Level and graveled

You may also encounter parts of the path to be covered with tree roots. 

Hacklebarney State Park New Jersey

If you are going to be hiking with a baby, a stroller will probably not be able to go everywhere, but a baby backpack would solve this. Dogs are allowed on a leash so feel free to bring your pup.

Wear good hiking shoes, especially if you are planning on walking along the river path to see the waterfalls, rocks near flowing water can become slippery. 

There are many places to relax and picnic within the Hacklebarney Loop, so bring some food and prepare to enjoy the day.

4. NJ’s Easy Stony Lake Loop

The Stony Lake Loop is an excellent hiking trail for children and adults. It is located in the Stokes State Forest. There is much to see in the 1.1-mile hike.

This is a leisurely hike within the Stokes State Forest, where you will be able to walk along Stony Lake with its sandy beaches. Swimming is allowed after Memorial Day but only when a Lifeguard is present.

Stony Lake Loop New Jersey

Even though it is an easy path for most, it does not appear to be wheelchair friendly as there are roots and rocks along the way. 

You can bring your pets, but they must be on a leash. If you plan on camping your pet will be an additional five dollars

Since Stony Lake is within a State Park, State Park Fees will apply. If you plan on enjoying New Jersey State Parks often throughout the year, you can obtain a $50 state park pass.

5. NJ’s Challenging Mount Tammany Loop Trail 

The Mount Tammany Loop Trail is a difficult three and a half mile hike using the Red Dot and Blue Dot trails. It is a very popular hike due to the views.

Mount Tammany New Jersey

The climb of Mount Tammany is very steep. There will be times you need to climb up boulders and rocks using your hands and feet. This is called rock scrambling and it cannot be done by everyone. Therefore, the Mount Tammany hike is considered challenging.

Even with the added challenges, this hike will most likely have a lot of people as it is very popular. The breathtaking views of the Delaware Water Gap draw avid hikers in. 

Where To Start Hiking Mount Tammany Loop Trail?

You will want to start the Mount Tammany hike on the Red Dot trail, as this is the trail that is steeper and has the most rock scrambles. Then you will traverse the Blue Dot trail as you descend. 

Along the path, you will encounter

  • Forest
  • Flowers
  • Wildlife

and much more. 

Animals you may encounter include black bears and wolves. Dogs are allowed on the hike but must be kept on a leash at all times. This could be difficult when needing to rock scramble.

The entire hike up the red dot trail is strenuous. The blue dot is a gentler slope down and there is a place to swim in the river on the way.

Mount Tammany Loop is part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. It is a fee-free area, so you can enjoy it year-round without having to pay dues.

6. Rahway Fairy Trail in New Jersey

This hiking trail is on South Mountain and is part of the Rahway Trail. It is an easy one-mile hike and it is encouraged to bring the children, as there are fairy houses along the way.

Follow the trail, marked with white, throughout the fairy village. It will take you through the trees and to the river. Along the way, tiny fairy homes can be found nestled in the trees. 

Rahway Fairy Trail New Jersey

Many of the fairy homes have doors that will open and you are able to peer inside. 

It is asked that you do not 

  • Take anything from the site 
  • Alter the fairy homes that are there
  • Build new fairy homes

You should return often as the fairies build different homes and the entire village changes. If you are an adult or 15 to 17 years old with parents to help, you can join by emailing

Who is Credited with the Creation of Fairy Trail?

Therese Ojibaway is the founder of New Jersey’s Fairy Trail. It is said that fairy houses were there before she began making them.

Therese Ojibway began the fairy trail when walking through the area with her special needs son. They contacted the South Mountain Conservancy with the idea of the Fairy Trail, and today it is one of the most visited hiking spots in NJ.

In 2022 Julie Gould and Beth Kelly took over Rahway Fairy Trail when Therese Ojibaway left.

The South Mountain Conservancy wants to further improve the Fairy Trail and is seeking donations for their Master Plan as well as a park bench. If you would like to help conserve and build the Fairy Trail you can donate here.

Dogs on leash are allowed on the Rahway Trail.

7. White Shore Trail New Jersey

White Shore is also known as the Giant Stairs. It is located in the lower Hudson River Valley. It is considered a challenging hike and is not recommended for children or pets.

On the White Shore Trail, it is restricted to daylight hiking, as the grounds close at sunset. The hike is just over 4 miles long, but it can be very rugged. 

The Giant Stairs leg of the hike can be treacherous if not careful as there is approximately one mile of boulders that need to be crossed. The trail is quite steep as it descends to the river valley and climbs back up the Palisades.

White Shore Trail New Jersey

To hike this trail you will need to go to the State Line Lookout on The Palisades Highway. Once parked, walk toward the trailhead near the lookout. The trail is marked with Aqua. 

Follow the aqua trail until you reach the White Trail, which is the Hudson Shoreline Trail, and to the Giant Stairs. 

After you have made it past the Giant Stairs look for the rock marked with White and Aqua. Follow this zig-zagging trail back to the parking area.

8. The Famous NJ’s Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is a historic footpath that covers over 2,000 miles and runs through 14 states. 72.2 miles of this trail are located in New Jersey. Many of New Jersey’s popular hikes are branches off of the Appalachian.

There is immense beauty all along the Appalachian Trail. It is the perfect getaway for many living in the large cities in NJ. 

Appalachian Trail New Jersey

You can hike the entire trail from the New York State Line to Pennsylvania and beyond. Long-distance hikers will need a $40 Permit for traveling through states. The Appalachian Trail is free to use in the National Parks.

However, you need to keep in mind that camping is only permitted in designated areas and there are no fires allowed.

The Appalachian trail climbs from 350 feet to 1803 feet and is described as easy to challenging. Find an area you will enjoy most and go for a hike.

NJ Hiking Summary

New Jersey is full of wonderful and amazing places to hike. So, whether you are looking for an easy stroll or a strenuous workout, you will be pleasantly surprised by the abundance of rural and urban hiking opportunities.

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