The New Jersey State Parks are open (again) for business! My 8-year old and I wanted to take a hike this week, so I looked up various parks within an hour’s drive, and we settled on Hacklebarney State Park in Morris County, NJ. If you’re looking for a moderate hike with just enough amenities to remind you you’re close to civilization, take a day to hike Hacklebarney State Park.
We took the Riverside Trail to the Windy Ridge Trail to the remainder of the Main Trail back to the parking area for a total of about 2.5 miles. The trails vary in ease. Some are paved or mainly paved, while others basically include a path of roots and rocks. Most are good for sure-footed kids of elementary age or over. Anything off the paved paths is definitely unfriendly to strollers or anyone with mobility challenges. Only the parking lot and nearby rest rooms are wheelchair accessible. The paths, paved or not, have benches along the way for a rest, and the Riverside Trail has many areas for rock sitting and river contemplating.
The paths also have picnic tables and grills scattered throughout. This is one of the manmade rustic aspects of the park as many of the tables are in some form of disrepair or covered with moss. Even so, we saw evidence of cookouts and picnickers along the way. Be warned that Hacklebarney Park is BEAR COUNTRY, so make sure to take all your leftovers and trash (including dog poo bags!) with you. Carry In, Carry Out.
The restrooms by the parking lot are functioning, and while my 8-year old said they are “stinky”and gross, they served their purpose. (They were kind of stinky and gross, but we chalked it up to roughing it.) Some guides say there is potable water along the paths, but we didn’t see any working stations other than the rest room building.
Caveats: Dogs are supposed to be leashed, but on our mid-week hike we ran into three unleashed dogs and saw LOTS of dog poo bags along the path. Watch out for fishhooks! There are also anglers fishing from the shore and sometimes from inside the river. We saw one intrepid teen swimming next to where his friend was fishing. I’m not sure that’s the smartest move ever, but he seemed to be enjoying it. Don’t count on the playground (off the Main and Playground Trails). When we passed by, there was a large pile of random garbage in the middle of the play area, and the equipment looked half-heartedly kept up. The garbage could be a result of the recent shutdown, and we didn’t see any park staff in the more than two hours we spent hiking. Finally, keep the bear warnings in mind. The chances are pretty low, but knowledge is power after all. There are information cards detailing what to do in case of a bear sighting. We neglected to pick one up when we started, but found one along the path.
Our hike was satisfying, hilly, rocky, beautiful, and rejuvenating. We brought lunch and ate it before starting our hike, but there are also many farms and casual eateries if you plan on eating at a restaurant.
For more ideas for Garden State hiking, check out Best Hikes in NJ!