Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hike All of New Jersey's 21 Counties

Lake Aeroflex in Kittatinny Valley State Park is considered the deepest natural lake in NJ

Some early spring days and temperatures may have gotten you thinking about more outdoor activities. Walks and hikes are my own favorite way to get outdoors these days. Back in the days when my knees were in better shape, I really wanted to through hike the Appalachian Trail, but I knew that was a reach. I joined a hiking club that did the Appalachian Trail in sections which seemed more doable. Though I never did the entire east coast AT, I did cover all of its sections in NJ, NY, PA and sections in other states.

NJ.com ran an artilce recently with suggestions of where you might hike in each of NJ's 21 counties.  Setting a goal of doing a hike this year in each county would be a good way to get into hiking and see more of the state.

Starting up north, you could try a Sussex County hike in Kittatinny Valley State Park. In its 5,600-acres, there are trails of varying difficulty. Actually, for almost all of the 21 suggested locations, you can take a hike and also a gentle walk. These are not backpacking expeditions requiring training and special equipment (though there are a few tougher hikes in our state).

Kittatinny features some glacial lakes and limestone outcroppings that will be seen from two rails-to-trails paths and those Stokes State Forest, a popular destination featuring a portion of the Appalachian Trail, cliffs, Tillman Ravine and miles of good hiking trails.





And down south, you can try Cape May Point State Park. With 244-acres along the Jersey Shore, this spot offers some flatland walks and hikes through wetland marsh, coastal dunes and beaches. The area is known for its wildlife and birding - along with a World War II-era bunker offshore. There are no mountaintops to scale, but you can climb the Cape May Lighthouse. 

Alternately, you can explore Belleplain State Forest, which is in Cape May County but extends north into Cumberland County. The Forest offers several trails including a flat but longer (7.2 miles) East Creek Trail.

In between and in my own backyard of urban Essex County, there is one of childhood stomping grounds: South Mountain Reservation. At 2,112-acres, this urban nature reserve is located between the first and second ridges of the Watchung Mountains.

It is a great escape with woodlands, streams, creeks, ponds, a reservoir and Hemlock Falls. There are trails from less than a mile (a short walk!) up to 6 miles. As with any of these locations, you can bundle several trails together to create a longer hike.

An alternative spot is the smaller 400-acre Eagle Rock Reservation which is also an easily-accessed spot for a short day hike or ramble.

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