county and state park calendars
• Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs, 973-268-3500.
A comprehensive parks catalog is available online for spring/summer and fall/winter.
• Hunterdon County Park Commission, 908-782-1158.
• Monmouth County Park System, 732-842-4000.
• Morris County Park Commission, Trail maps available by logging onto website
• New Jersey State Parks Calendar of Events, Visit website for monthly calendar and sign
up to receive events via email. Follow event info on the state park facebook page.
• Somerset County Park Commission, 908-722-1200 x7.
• Union County Parks & Recreation, 908-558-4079.
The website for the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, a federation of groups and individuals dedicated to maintaining marked hiking trails and protecting related open space, provides information about easy to strenuous hikes, the Appalachian Trail, membership and volunteer opportunities and offers regional trail maps and books for sale.
Explore the great outdoors while using a GPS as your guide and hunt for the many caches hidden in parks, open spaces and communities worldwide. Visit the official Geocaching website for information. For specific information about geocaching in New Jersey, visit the Northern New Jersey Cachers website. Several natural areas in New Jersey contain a significant number of caches. Here are a few to get started:
Follow the GeoTrail to find 11 caches on the property. For info, go to "Geocaching" online.
Griggstown Geocache Trail
1091 Canal Rd., Franklin Township. 28 caches are scattered throughout the 376-acre preserve.
Kittatinny Valley State Park
Over 200 caches are located throughout the park. Sign up for a geocaching workshop to learn more; offered monthly at the park, 973-786-6445.
Allaire State Park
Rt. 524 (exit 98 GSP), Wall Township, 732-938-2371. Parking fee Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Site of historic Allaire Village and the antique steam trains of the Pine Creek Railroad (see Historic Sites), Allaire State Park also features canoeing and fishing on the Manasquan River and trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross country skiing. Nature programs are offered throughout the year. Facilities include a Visitor Center/museum, food concession and campsites.
Black River Park
973-326-7600. Located in Chester Township, Black River Park is a unique linear park with beautiful hiking trails through Black River Gorge connecting the four cultural sites of Cooper Mill, Kay Environmental Center, Bamboo Brook, and Willowwood Arboretum. Trails can be accessed from any of these sites. From Cooper Mill, the Black River Trail (blue blaze) follows the Black River for 2.3 miles to Kay Environmental Center. The red Conifer Pass Trail travels another 1.8 miles from Kay to Bamboo Brook Trail. Maps available from Morris County Park Commission.
Bamboo Brook Selected Events
Pre-registration required at New Jersey Conservation Foundation online.
Jul 22, Aug 19
Butterflies in the Meadow, 9:30-11:30. Free.
Lifting & Dividing Perennials, 10-12. $15. Pre-register by calling, 973-326-7603.
Wayward Warblers, 8-10am. Free.
Cheesequake State Park
Exit 120 Garden State Parkway, Matawan, 732-566-2161. Interpretive Center: 732-566-3208. Park open daylight hours year-round. A unique variety of plant and animal life is found in this park's open fields, salt and freshwater marshes, white cedar swamp, pine barrens and hardwood forest. Three main trails (longest is 3.5 mile green) crisscross the park. Exhibits, nature programs and trail guides are available at Interpretive Center. Hooks Creek Lake features a bathing beach with lifeguards in summer (no flotation devices permitted). Bathhouse, concession stand, playground, short boardwalk to crabbing bridge nearby. Fishing in the lake and blue claw crabbing in Hooks Creek can be fun in late summer. 53 campsites are located across the parkway. Visit website for interpretive programs.
Eco Kayak Tours, 2-hour tours on the tidal Cheesequake Creek offered on select days summer to fall. Participants must be age 14 and older. $15. Call Nature Center for dates and to register, 732-566-3208.
Delaware Water Gap National
Stop at Visitors Centers for info and map. Kittatinny Point Visitor Center: Off Rt. 80W, Columbia, NJ; Dingmans Falls Visitor Center: Off Rt. 209 near milepost 14, Dingmans Ferry, PA, 570-828-6125. Park Headquarters, Off Rt. 209, Bushkill, PA, 570-426-2452. Park Headquarters open year round Mon.-Fri. Visitors Centers are open Memorial Day Sat.-Labor Day, closed Tues. & Wed. The road to Dingmans Falls and Visitor Center is closed when icy conditions set in.
Short guided walks leave from Visitor Centers. Jr. Naturalist & Jr. Ranger materials are available. Consult website for a schedule of ranger-guided activities and children's materials. Pick up a park map to access boat and canoe launch points and trailheads for the Appalachian Trail and Mt. Tammany.
In summer, enjoy a leisurely day tubing, canoeing, or rafting the Delaware River. Access the river from many points along Old Mine Rd. in NJ or from PA. River guide available at Visitor Centers. Fishing, hiking, bicycling; campsites available on the river at Worthington State Forest, 908-841-9575. Just north of Worthington Park headquarters is the Douglas Trail to Sunfish Pond, a natural glacier lake atop the Kittatinny Ridge.
In winter, two major areas are maintained, when conditions permit, for beginner and advanced cross country skiers. Slateford Farm Ski Trail in PA (off 80) offers 5 miles of gentle trails. Blue Mountain Lakes Trail in NJ offers 8 miles for varied abilities.
Guide to the Gap, Park newspaper includes calendar of events, hiking information, maps and trip planning information. Download online under "Calendar of Events" or pick one up in Visitors Centers.
Junior Park Ranger badge and patch can be earned after completing a 16-page Junior Ranger Explorer Notebook, available at Visitor Centers or by mail.
Friends of the Delaware Water Gap
Non-profit organization devoted to park conservancy sponsors lecture series and family events, 570-426-2435 x2510.
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Headquarters: 152 Pleasant Plains Rd., Harding Twp., 973-425-1222. Open Mon.-Fri. 8-4:30, Sun. hours spring-fall. Helen S. Fenske Visitor Center, 32 Pleasant Plains Rd., Harding Twp., 973-425-9510. North Gate bridge is open during visitor center hours. Daily 10-4, reduced hours off season. Trails open dawn to dusk.
More than 200 species of birds are found in the Great Swamp. Four trails in the Wilderness area total eight miles. There is a parking area at each trailhead. The Wildlife Observation Center off Long Hill Rd. has an information center and three boardwalks with blinds for wildlife viewing. Even if you don't find any unusual birds, this easy walk is always good for spotting turtles, frogs, snakes and more from the boardwalk. Stop in the Visitor Center for maps, information and to visit the interactive exhibits and Discovery Den for children, bookstore and gift shop. See listing under Outdoor Education for programs for children, adults, groups and families offered by Friends of the Great Swamp.
Great Swamp Watershed Association
568 Tempe Wick Rd., Morristown, 973-538-3500. Membership-based nonprofit organization protects drinking water and preserves land in the Great Swamp watershed region. Educational programs for individuals and families, in-school programs and educators workshops are offered.
274 Old Short Hills Rd., Short Hills, 973-258-4026. Closed winter. Spring-fall: Sat.-Tues. 10-4. Adults $10, srs. and students $5, under 12 free. Lovely ornamental gardens on the gilded age estate of Joseph P. Day and Peter P. Blanchard, Jr., are open to the public Sat.-Tues. Visit website for gardening and craft workshops, guided walks, talks and family nature programs.
Un-BEE-lieveable Bees, Butterflies & Birds, children of all ages. Make a bird feeder. 11-2. No registration required.
Garden Conservancy Open Days, family-friendly, refreshments on the East Terrace, plant sale. 10-4.
Hacklebarney State Park
119 Hacklebarney Rd., Long Valley (from Chester, 24W 3 mi. to park entrance), 908-638-8572, 908-879-5677. Parking fee Memorial Day to Labor Day. Hacklebarney surrounds a gorge of unusual beauty where two feeder streams, Trout Brook & Rheinhart Brook, flow into the Black River. Five miles of hiking trails, many picnic facilities throughout the gorge are equipped with charcoal grills. Waters, stocked with trout, provide good fishing. Topography is rugged, wear comfortable walking shoes. Kids love to climb on the huge, flat boulders that line the ravine to the river.
High Point State Park
1480 Rt. 23, Sussex County, 973-875-4800. Interpretive Center: 973-875-1471. Cross Country Ski Center, 973-702-1222. Hike to the highest point in New Jersey along the Kittatinny Mountain ridge and Appalachian Trail for panoramic views of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Camping, fishing, swimming (with bathhouse), boat launch, picnicking, food concession, playground, nature center.
In winter, a cross country ski center features 15 km of groomed trails, 6.5 km with snow making equipment. Lodge, lessons, equipment sales and rentals, ice skating on Lake Marcia.
Interpretive Programs are scheduled year round.
Huber Woods Park
25 Brown's Dock Rd. (off Navesink River Rd., GSP exit 109), Locust Section, Middletown, 732-872-2670. Hands-on environmental center, short nature loop and Discovery Path and guide for children. Discovery backpacks available to borrow. Eight miles of wooded trails for walking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Leonard J. Buck Garden
Layton Rd., Far Hills, 908-234-2677. Mon.-Fri. 10-4, Sat. 10-5, Sun.12-5. Closed weekends and holidays Dec.-March. Open 8-8 Wed. May to Sept. Begun in the late 1930's, this 33-acre naturalistic garden has matured into one of the premier rock gardens in the eastern U.S. Rare and exotic plants are tucked among the outcroppings with peak bloom in the spring. The Somerset County Environmental Education Center hosts horticulture and birding workshops and walks seasonally. Visit website link for schedule and registration or call the EEC for information, 908-766-2489.
Art in the Garden: Watercolors in the Garden, one-day watercolor class. Basic drawing skills recommended. 9:30-3. $40, pre-register.
Flower & Landscape Photography: Autumnal Brilliance, lecture and field session. All levels. 9-11:30. $35, pre-register.
Why Do Leaves Change Color?, Visitor's Center exhibit.
Oct 19-Nov 2
Arachnids Crawl into Buck Gardens during Halloween Season, exhibit on creepy crawly creatures in New Jersey.
Thankful Lights: Floating Luminaries, borrowed from a traditional Japanese ceremony. 5-6:30. $15, pre-register.
Mahlon Dickerson Reservation
955 Weldon Rd., Jefferson Twp., 973-697-3140. Visitors Center at Saffin Rock-Rill Area. Morris County Park system's largest park encompasses more than 3,000 acres with over 20 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Pavilion, softball fields, and picnic facilities. Camping is available Mar. 1-Nov. 30 with tent sites, Adirondack shelters and trailer area. Fishing, ice skating, and cross country skiing in winter.
South Mountain Reservation
973-268-3500. Access trails from Locust Grove (Glen Ave. & Lackawanna Place) in Millburn, Elmdale entrance off Brookdale Dr., Turtle Back Zoo, or Summit Field off Crest Drive. 2,048 acre park includes Wildflower Sculpture Park, dog park and twenty miles of carriage roads used for jogging, walking, horseback riding and cross country skiing. Five trails provide 19 miles of hiking paths. Turtle Back Trail (orange blazes) is an easy day hike of 2 1⁄2 miles roundtrip. Lenape Trail (follow yellow blazes) leads through deep woods, Maple Brook cascades and Hemlock Falls. Maps available from Essex County Parks or South Mountain Conservancy.
The South Mountain Conservancy, a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving and promoting wise use of the Reservation, offers free group guided hikes for individuals and families with children 10 and older who are strong walkers. Designated hikes are designed for younger children. Access events calendar online or go to Meetup for current schedule.
Babywearers & Toddler Nature Walk, 10-11:30. Meet at Locust Grove Parking Area.
Union County Watchung Reservation
Coles Ave. & New Providence Rd., Mountainside, 908-789-3670. 13+ miles of marked hiking trails include the 11-mile Sierra loop (maps available at Visitor Center). Interesting stops along the way include the 1845 town of Feltville/
Deserted Village, Surprise Lake, Seeley's Pond and Blue Brook which are stocked with trout annually, picnic facilities, ballfield, playground, Watchung Stables and Trailside Nature and Science Center.
Voorhees State Park
Rt. 513 (Rt. 78 exit 17 to Rt. 31N), Glen Gardner, 908-638-8572. Hiking through woods, to scenic overlooks and along Willoughby Brook, picnicking, playground, ballfield, 2 small fishing ponds for children (catch & release), 50 wooded campsites within walking distance to New Jersey Astronomical Association Observatory open to the public June-Oct. on Sat. night 8:30-10:30pm and Sun. 2-5pm, weather permitting. Call 908-638-8500 for observatory schedule.
Sat & Sun
Observatory open to the public, Sat. 8-10pm, Sun. 2-5pm June-Oct. Open the 4th Sat. of Feb., March and April.
Wagner Farm Arboretum
197 Mountain Ave., Warren, 908-350-7383. Former site of Wagner Dairy Farm is now a developing arboretum with diverse trees, shrubs, flowers and other plant life in a natural setting, walking trails, children's garden and community garden. Art classes are offered for adults and children grades 1-8; gardening workshops; seasonal special events.