9 New Jersey National Parks

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One of the smallest US states packs a big punch when it comes to national parks. There are 11 wonderful New Jersey national parks managed sites to explore. From hiking the New Jersey section of the Appalachian Trail to admiring the scenery of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to discovering the power of the largest free-flowing river in the east, there’s plenty to explore.

The state’s national parks are varied, and all have their own unique traits. There are scenic trails and rivers, historic parks, and national monuments. So if you’re searching for the best national parks in New Jersey, discover the beauty of New Jersey through these spectacular natural areas.

National Parks In New Jersey

national parks in new jersey
Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in New Jersey is home to a stunning waterfall.

National Scenic Trail

1- Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian Trail is famous because it’s the world’s longest hiking route and if you have aspirations of completing the whole trail, check the mileage first.

This trail stretches from Spring Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, a whopping 2,200 miles (3540 km) long.

The trail snakes its way through 14 east coast states, including New Jersey.

As New Jersey is relatively small, only 72 miles (115 km) of the trail are within the state.

Conquering the entire New Jersey section is no mean feat but feels a little more achievable than the whole trail.

The Appalachian trail is close to nearby cities, offering city dwellers and tourists an excellent escape from urban life.

This part of the Appalachian trail winds its way through the Wallkill National Wildlife Reserve, where there is ample opportunity to see the eastern goldfinch (the state’s bird).

New Jersey’s section of the trail is diverse; there are some flat sections but also undulating paths and steep, rocky outcrops.

If camping is your thing, then New Jersey is an excellent place to start as there are opportunities to free camp along the trail if you practice the ‘Leave No Trace’ rule.

National Recreation Area

2- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

national parks in new jersey deleware water gap
A breathtaking view from Mount Tammany in the Deleware Water Gap.

This National Recreation Area is the perfect place to relax in New Jersey, and there are a ton of outdoor adventures here.

Whether you enjoy fishing, hiking, or biking, all can be done within this stunning natural area.

There are also several indoor activities to enjoy in the recreation area too.

There are restaurants, shops and even a jazz club (one of the oldest in America).

In the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, there are more than 150 miles (241 km) of hiking trails to enjoy.

With different levels of trails offering a variety of views and scenery, there is something for everyone here.

Perhaps you want to explore the area from the water. You can hire a canoe or kayak and explore the Delaware River.

Check out Raymondskill Falls, where in winter, you can practice ice climbing on the falls.

3- Gateway National Recreation Area

national parks in new jersey sandy hook
A lighthouse at Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

The Gateway National Recreation Area is spread across 27,000 acres (10926 ha) from Sandy Hook in New Jersey right across to Breezy Point in New York City.

It gets its name because it is the gateway from the ocean to New York Harbor.

This recreation area offers millions of yearly visitor’s chance to explore green space, beaches and historic sites.

Most people visiting New Jersey will head to Sandy Hook during their stay as this breathtaking barrier spit in Middletown Township, Monmouth County is a fantastic place to explore.

While exploring the area, check out the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, which has lighthouse quarters and a visitor’s centre.

You can spend the entire day at Sandy Hook, strolling along the beach, visiting the lighthouse, catching a sunset, and eating ice cream.

Statue of Liberty National Monument

4- Ellis Island

national parks in new jersey ellis island
The Ellis Island is managed by the national park service and staddles New Jersey and New York.

New Jersey is right next to New York, so Ellis Island and the surrounding area fall in both states.

Ellis Island represents the first step in the journey toward a better life for the 12 million immigrants who landed on Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954.

On your visit to Ellis Island, which is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, you can understand why so many viewed America as the ‘dream’.

Around 40% of American citizens can trace their ancestry to Ellis Island, making it one of the most significant cultural places in America.

The Family History Center is a good place to go to learn about your own history.

National Wild And Scenic River

5- Lower Delaware National Wild and Scenic River

new jersey national parks
The Deleware River.

The largest free-flowing river in the east of America, the Delaware River, runs through a myriad of landscapes, from farmland to villages and forests to densely populated cities.

Exploring sections of this scenic river is a must on your New Jersey itinerary.

Whether you explore by canoe or walk alongside the river, you will enjoy this slice of nature.

National Historic Park

6- Morristown National Historic Park

national parks in new jersey morristown
Morristown National Historic Park is a fascinating step back into history.

This National Historic Park commemorates the place where General Washington and the Continental army set up camp between December 1779 and June 1780 during the American Revolutionary War.

In Morristown, General Washington and his men went on to survive the coldest winter on record.

While the park’s natural wonders are the main attraction, there are also other things to see, like the museum and library, to learn more about the American Revolutionary War and the role played by General Washington.

Visit the Washington Headquarters Museum for all things history.

Inside, you can discover the American Style Gallery, the Lloyd W. Smith Gallery and Ford Mansion.

The park closes from Monday to Wednesday and only opens between 10 am and 4 pm the rest of the week.

History buffs will love the Morristown National Historic Park.

7- Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park

national parks in new jersey the great falls in paterson
The Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey.

You will find this next national park amazing if you love the outdoors.

Paterson Great Falls is not just a beautiful natural landmark, but it also played a significant role in the area’s history.

Paterson was established in 1792 as America’s first pre-planned industrial city.

The whole city was centred around the Great Falls of the Passaic River, and the falls were important in America’s industrial revolution.

The waterfall itself is the second largest waterfall that sits east of the Mississippi River.

Its industrial uses centre on the cotton industry.

It was in Paterson where American pioneer Alexander Hamilton brought his ideas of an industry that generated much wealth to fruition.

The falls were used to power the cotton spinning mill in 1793, and by 1812, the waterfall was also powering the production of paper roll making.

By 1837, the factory began generating revolvers and Rogers Locomotives. The Holland Submarine was manufactured in 1878.

It’s fantastic to see a national historic park that allows you to fathom the connection between nature and industry.

Look at the Great Falls, and you’ll think it’s simply a beautiful geographical landscape.

However, there is so much more to understand at this historic park.

You can guide yourself around the area and marvel at the National Natural Landmark, which is the Great Falls.

8- Thomas Edison National Historic Park

Chances are you’ve heard of Thomas Edison, a well-known American inventor and businessman whose name was given to this national historic park in New Jersey.

The Thomas Edison National Historic Park allows you to step back in time and discover Edison’s home and laboratory.

We are talking back in the day when belts and pulleys made machines work!

Some of Edison’s most notable inventions include the incandescent light bulb, the motion picture camera, and the phonograph.

Thanks to Edison, we can enjoy many of the things we love today around the world.

Make a beeline for the visitor’s centre to find out a ton of information about the park and watch the short film introducing you to the area.

Next, head to Building 5, which has lots to see, including the main laboratory and houses Edison’s library, music room and machine shop.

Then check out the Glenmont Greenhouse, where you can look at the exotic plants that Edison used to care for so meticulously.

Finally, you must see the Glenmont Garage, which houses Thomas Edison’s collection of vehicles.

National Reserve

9- New Jersey Pinelands

Visit the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, and you will see why New Jersey is nicknamed ‘The Garden State’.

In 1978 New Jersey Pinelands became the first ever National Reserve.

The reserve covers more than 1 million acres (405,000ha) of farms, wetlands, and forests.

This place is not just a nature reserve, but as it’s so large, around 700,000 people live within the Pinelands National Reserve.

These people live in a few villages, rural dwellings and some built-up areas.

Think of an outdoor activity to do, and you can probably do it at the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve.

Bird watchers, in particular, love this open space because of the diverse species and rare sightings.

Enjoy horse riding, kayaking, swimming, and spotting local wildlife. In winter, how about some cross-country skiing?

Hiking in the Pine Barrens is a super popular thing to do among nature lovers.

There are many trails to take that will have you walking along peaceful paths through stunning forests and wetlands.

The longest trail you can complete here is the Batona Trail, which covers an impressive 52 miles (83 km).

There are far more manageable trails on offer at Pinelands too.

The 19-mile Penn Swamp Trail is exceptional for mountain biking and there are a number of one-to-seven-mile trails for a pleasant walk.

If you want to escape New Jersey city life, why not head out on a camping trip?

The Pinelands National Reserve offers some of the best camping experiences on the east coast.

Head to Wharton State Forest and you can camp for just $8 a night.

National Historic Trail

10- Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route

If you want to combine walking and history, this is the perfect historic trail.

To know more about this trail, you should first understand the history of the American Revolutionary War.

In 1781, General Rochambeau’s French Army joined forces with General Washington’s Continental Army to fight against the British in Yorktown, Virginia.

The camaraderie and cooperation between these two forces eventually led them to victory and secured American independence.

This National Historic Trail follows in the footsteps of those fighting in the American Revolutionary War.

The trail covers more than 680 miles (1094 km) of land and includes historical sites on the route.

Whether you prefer to run, hike, bike or paddle the trail, it’s up to you.

The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route extends from Newport, Rhode Island all the way to Yorktown, Virginia.

As you set eyes on the Delaware River, imagine a whole fleet having to cross this impressive river.

One of the most well-known sections of this trail is Washington’s Crossing in New Jersey.

There is also another popular and historically noteworthy crossing point in Pennsylvania.

The dangerous crossing of the Delaware River was necessitated by the fact that the army’s supplies were depleting rapidly, and many troops’ enlistments were coming to an end.

Washington decided to lead 2,000 troops across the river on Christmas Day in 1776.

Those interested in the American Revolutionary War will find the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trial deeply interesting.

Exploring the trail is the perfect combination of nature, history, and exercise (no matter what form it might take).

11- Great Egg Harbor River

Great Egg Harbor River is listed as a National Park Service sight, but it’s a river, not technically a site.

Most of the 129-mile Great Egg Harbor River is within the Pinelands National Reserve.

By visiting this area, you can enjoy some of the best nature spots in New Jersey.

Whether you are interested in biking, bird watching, camping, boating, fishing, kayaking, or walking, there is something for you at the Great Egg Harbor River.

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!