17 Best Parks in New Jersey in 2023 (By a Local)
Parks in New Jersey are some of the best in the country – I mean, there’s a reason they call us The Garden State!
The parks in New Jersey are beautiful and offer a variety of unique features and activities. From historical sites to cliffside views and miles of hiking trails, there are park adventures to suit every speed.
As a proud long-time New Jerseyan, I’m here to introduce you to some of the best parks New Jersey has to offer, from state parks to urban retreats in New Jersey’s cities. Let’s dive into it!
Table of Contents
- 17 Best Parks in New Jersey
- Island Beach State Park
- Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
- Hacklebarney State Park
- Kittatinny Valley State Park
- Wharton State Forest
- Ringwood State Park
- Fort Mott State Park
- Liberty State Park
- High Point State Park
- Pinelands National Reserve
- Washington Rock State Park
- Double Trouble State Park
- Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
- Gateway National Recreation Area
- Cape May Point State Park
- Watchung Reservation
- Palisades Interstate Park
- FAQs About New Jersey Parks
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. See our Advertising Policy for further explanation. Thank you!
17 Best Parks in New Jersey
Island Beach State Park
A luscious beach and park all in one.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Island Beach State Park Website
Island Beach State Park is a very common summer getaway in New Jersey come summertime. It’s more known as a popular NJ beach than for the park, but there are some park-like areas for you to enjoy as well.
Island Beach State Park is home to a variety of natural wonders such as a large osprey population. There are even falcons and other shorebirds that call this area home. Natural sights such as maritime forests are also popular areas to visit here.
But what most people come for is the beach! At Island Beach, you can enjoy such activities as swimming, surfing, and even fishing. Most of the beaches along their shore allow dogs, so feel free to bring your four-legged family members along. There are other areas, such as where food is served, where dogs are not permitted.
Unlike most other State Parks that only charge admission off-season, the daily entrance fee here is year-round. Check the Island Beach State Park Website for more information.
👉 Pro Tip: Summers get very busy here. If you want to make sure you can get in, arrive before 10 am.
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Statuesque lighthouse views.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Barnegat Lighthouse State Park Website
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park is a great stop for nature lovers and history buffs alike. The Lighthouse itself is closed for renovations, but you can still enjoy the beautiful park. The park is home to lovely scenery, including Barnegat Bay. Plus, posted on the Lighthouse itself are signs explaining its rich history.
Restrooms are available at the park, which is definitely important if you plan on spending the day. The maritime forests are part of the park’s appeal and add to its relaxing place.
However, being by the water, you’ll want to take a jacket or coat on cooler days. Temps by the water tend to be on average about 10 degrees colder than areas more inland, so bundle up on those chilly days.
Hacklebarney State Park
Park with lots of waterside trails.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Hacklebarney State Park Website
Hacklebarney State Park is for you if you love hiking by the water. The trails are marked, but some are difficult to traverse, especially if you didn’t come prepared for more rugged terrain.
One of the best times to visit Hacklebarney State Park is during the Fall when the leaves have turned – the wide array of colors is simply stunning.
Parking is plentiful, but some of the roads leading to parking areas can be rather interesting for your car to traverse, especially if you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle. With that in mind, plan ahead carefully.
👉 Pro Tip: One common complaint is that there are very few, if any, trash cans available along the hiking trails at Hacklebarney. Bring a small garbage bag with you that you can store in your bag to dispose of trash like water bottles and snack wrappers.
Kittatinny Valley State Park
Stunning views and a variety of trails.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Kittatinny Valley State Park Website
Kittatinny Valley State Park is perfect for enjoying hiking trails and nature. This New Jersey park is also a great place to catch animals in their natural habitat, especially birds. There are trails available for all hiking levels and, as you travel along the many trails, you may even see some horseback riders.
While there are some portable toilets, regular toilets are available at the Visitor Center. While you’re there, grab a trail map so you can see what trails you’d like to explore. You can have picnics and some areas even have grills so you can barbecue.
Wharton State Forest
New Jersey’s largest state forest.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Wharton State Forest Website
The Wharton State Forest holds the title of the largest State Forest in New Jersey. This natural wonder spans a little over 122,000 acres. There are picnic areas throughout, camping areas to enjoy, and hiking is a popular activity here as well. You can even go kayaking in rivers like the Mullica and Batsto Rivers.
Speaking of Batsto, pay a visit to Batsto Village while you’re here, a very popular attraction in the Wharton State Forest. You might even see live demonstrations at the Blacksmith Shop.
And good news for those who are looking to book cabins – as of February 2023, they have begun to open availability for reservations again for some of the Atsion cabins.
Ringwood State Park
Multi-faceted gem of a state park in Passaic County.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Ringwood State Park Website
New Jersey state parks are always a treat, and Ringwood State Park is no exception. Ringwood State Park is a great place to visit for the whole family as it has a wide range of activities for everyone’s interests. Come here for mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and even horseback riding. The scenery is varied, giving you open fields, a small castle, and even a waterfall.
Of course, the big attraction at Ringwood State Park is the NJ Botanical Garden. This well-kept garden brings in visitors from all over to marvel at its exquisite beauty. There are plenty of parking and bathroom facilities available, especially by the Botanical Garden.
Because of the variety of activities, you can enjoy a trip here year-round.
Fort Mott State Park
New Jersey state park with civil war memorabilia.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Fort Mott State Park Website
American Civil War history buffs love to visit Fort Mott State Park in New Jersey. Filled with rich history, this site was once used as a primary defense station for the Delaware River. Explore the different parts of the fort and read plaques describing the role of the different parts of the fort.
The trails aren’t particularly long, so if you want more challenging trails, you may want to try a different park. Still, it’s a nice place to take a walk with the kids on a sunny spring day and take in some history and park views. There are decently-kept bathrooms in the park as well.
Liberty State Park
Walkable park featuring stunning views of the Hudson River and NYC Skyline.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Liberty State Park Website
Liberty State Park features various walkways where you can take in views of the Hudson River and the glistening New York City skyline. Located in Jersey City, you’ll see lots of beautiful waterfront views. It’s also a national historic landmark, featuring epic views of Ellis Island.
It’s best to visit in warmer weather, as the wind makes temperatures by the water drop significantly. Even in 60-degree weather, it can get chilly.
There are public restrooms and portable toilets available in plenty of spots around Liberty State Park. I personally find the bathrooms on the Flag Park side to be the best kept. Plus, there’s no entrance fee to Liberty State Park, so feel free to enjoy it anytime. I may be a bit biased, but this is by far my favorite park to visit!
High Point State Park
Picturesque park featuring panoramic views.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 High Point State Park Website
High Point State Park is bursting with so much beauty, it’s no wonder many people come for photo ops. In fact, some of the best views in all of New Jersey are from the High Point Monument. You can even catch glimpses of New York and Pennsylvania atop certain areas.
With plenty of trails, hiking is a fan favorite activity here – part of the Appalachian trail even runs through High Point State Park. There are several beautiful areas to have a picnic or just simply enjoy nature.
There is an entrance fee from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day. Weekdays are $5 for NJ Residents and $10 for others. Weekends and holidays are $10 for NJ residents and $20 otherwise. There are plenty of bathroom facilities available as well.
Pinelands National Reserve
View nature in its purest state.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Pinelands National Reserve Website
Pinelands is a National Reserve that’s also part of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The Pinelands National Reserve is a simple park that doesn’t have a whole lot to it, but people come here for the tranquility, not the activities.
The scenery is serene, with ponds and some old cranberry bogs. In a crazy world that never seems to stop moving, taking a stroll through the Pinelands National Reserve can be just the break that you need.
Washington Rock State Park
Enjoy mountaintop views of the NYC Skyline from this gorgeous NJ park.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Washington Rock State Park Website
Washington Rock State Park is one of the best places in New Jersey to catch amazing views of sunrises and sunsets. It’s not a very big park, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing.
Here you can take a stroll and view some historical monuments. Many visitors come for the views, which are even better at night! If you need a restroom, they have decently maintained portable toilets available.
👉 Pro Tip: While they have telescopes, it’s a good idea to bring some binoculars to take in the picturesque views even better. Compact binoculars are a great choice for a venture to the park.
Double Trouble State Park
A great New Jersey state park to test out your canoeing skills.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Double Trouble State Park Website
Double Trouble State Park is home to some lovely waterfront views and is part of the Pine Barrens ecosystem.
The appeal of Double Trouble State Park is the lakes and the popular Cedar Creek that winds throughout the park. On the Creek, you’ll find avid canoeists and kayakers doing their thing, and joining them isn’t out of the question. Just make sure you bring your own gear because there are no rentals available at the park.
For other activities, the National Park Service site also highlights several trails you can enjoy. These trails are multi-purpose – you can hike, bike, and even enjoy cross-country skiing in the winter.
🌳 Local Trivia: Want to know why it’s called Double Trouble? In the 1700s, some very mischievous beavers caused some trouble by gnawing through a dam – twice in one week! If you love trivia like this, then be sure to read my fun New Jersey facts article.
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
Home to one of New Jersey’s most iconic waterfalls.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Paterson Great Falls Website
Many people know of the falls in Paterson, but what’s not as readily publicized is the park they’re located in. Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park features nice, albeit short walking trails and provides various views of the 77-foot-tall Great Falls of the Passaic River.
There are some epic New Jersey waterfalls, but Paterson’s Great Falls is one of the best-known. Unfortunately, the bridge over the falls has been closed for some time, although you can still enjoy a nice walk around the park. There are decently-kept portable toilets available as well.
It’s not a large park, but Paterson Great Falls is one of the best things to do in New Jersey. it’s definitely a nice place to relax and enjoy one of nature’s most beautiful wonders.
👉 Pro Tip: On a nice day, parking at Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park can get dicey. Be prepared to either park far or search for a while for parking.
Gateway National Recreation Area
New Jersey park featuring exquisite shore views.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Gateway National Recreation Area Website
Gateway National Recreation Area makes nature accessible to even the most suburban New Jersey areas. It expands 27,000 acres from Sandy Hook all the way to New York. This picturesque recreation area has been a favorite of mine to visit since I discovered it a few years ago. Besides clean, relaxing beaches, you’ll find areas with plenty of activities.
There are places for fishing and boating so you can take advantage of beautiful summer days by the shore. If you don’t mind wearing a jacket, it’s a wonderful place to visit even in the fall, when you’re less likely to run into crowds.
I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying this area in October when it’s a nice area to just watch the waves and take in the beachy scenery without a lot of people around.
Cape May Point State Park
A slow-paced park with immense natural beauty.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Cape May Point State Park Website
Cape May is already a top destination for people traveling from within and outside of New Jersey. However, the beautiful Cape May Point State Park makes visits even better. As most of the nicest areas of Cape May do, the park has a long stretch of beautiful New Jersey beaches.
Dogs are welcome at Cape May Point State Park, but they are restricted to certain areas. You must pick up after them as well – which everyone should do regardless of where they are. The park is free, and a great place to take in natural beauty at its finest.
You can enjoy a walk on the beach, a hike, go bird watching, or even have a picnic after a long day of exploring the best things to do in Cape May.
A reserve full of waterfalls, biking paths, and serene trails.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Watchung Reservation Website
Watchung Reservation is 2,000+ acres of well-maintained park grounds, accented by a 6-mile trail that identifies sites of natural and historical interest in the area. This park features clearly marked hiking trails, biking paths, and even waterfalls.
I recommend visiting Watchung Reservation on a nice fall day when the leaves are turning. The scenery is amazingly beautiful and serene. There’s even a small, but well-kept historical village you can visit as you walk through.
Palisades Interstate Park
Take in the beauty of the Palisades at this scenic park.
📍 Google Maps | 🌳 Palisades Interstate Park Website
Palisades Interstate Park is 12 miles and 2,500 acres of Hudson River shoreline; accented by stunning cliffs and over 30 miles of hiking trails.
Plus, Palisades is easily accessible from Manhattan. To get to the park, I recommend walking across the George Washington Bridge and then onto a hiking trail into the park. It’s absolutely the most scenic way to enter, but you don’t have to walk across the GWB to get there, you can drive as well.
This park has bathrooms available, and not just those annoying port-o-potties either. There are also plenty of picnic tables so you can sit outside and enjoy the weather and views while you enjoy a meal.
Explore the park to find the hiking trails that range from beginner, to more experienced. There’s just so much beautiful scenery, especially by the water, that you’ll want to make sure you have a camera on you.
FAQs About New Jersey Parks
What is the most popular park in New Jersey?
There are many popular parks in New Jersey, but Liberty State Park is often regarded as the most popular. In fact, it welcomes over 5 million visitors each year.
What is the biggest park in New Jersey?
The biggest park in New Jersey is the Wharton State Forest. At 110,000 acres, it stretches over the Atlantic, Burlington, and Camden counties.
What parks are free in New Jersey?
Most parks in New Jersey have free entrance. You may, however, have to pay for parking or for extra activities like fishing, biking, or camping.
Thanks for reading my guide to the best parks in New Jersey! Worked up an appetite after exploring the parks? Why not try one of New Jersey’s best foods to satisfy your hunger!
Help us help you travel better!
Your feedback really helps ...
What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?