Camping in New Jersey

By Justin Powell

Many visitors to New Jersey are familiar with the populated, commercialized areas near New York City. Yet, the nation's most densely populated state also has much to offer camping enthusiasts. In fact, the state provides a unique diversity of terrain in a relatively small geographic area that makes it ideal for campers of all skill levels. With the flat pinelands of South Jersey, the beautiful coastline that stretches the eastern border of the state, and the striking mountains of Northwestern New Jersey, there is enough variety and challenge to satisfy both beginning and experienced campers.

New Jersey is an easy destination for many people in the Northeast due to its proximity to major cities like Philadelphia and New York. The state offers over 750,000 acres of State Forests, Parks and other protected areas.

In the Southeast region of the state, the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest in New Lisbon provides many outdoor activities on the edge of the state’s Pinelands. There is much to do in the forest, including camping, hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding and plenty of nature watching. There are also numerous places to stay, with 79 tent and trailer sites, three group campsites and three furnished cabins.

Those campers looking to explore deeper into the enormous Pinelands area should also visit the Wharton State Forest. This state forest contains 110,000 acres stretching across three counties and includes many rivers, streams, and ponds. There are many hiking trails as well as 500 miles of unpaved roads that can be used for biking or horseback riding. The area teems with plants and wildlife, including many unique species such as the insectivorous Pitcher Plants, the poisonous Black Widow Spider, and the endangered Timber Rattlesnake. Although some dangerous species do exist in the area, they are seldom seen and usually not aggressive. There are plenty of places to stay, including campsites at Atsion Lake, Godfrey Bridge and in the wilderness. There are also six furnished cabins at Atsion Lake, which offer slightly less rugged accommodations suitable for families.

Located just south of the Pinelands Region is Belleplain State Forest, which is comprised of over 15,000 acres of beautiful woodlands. There is a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, boating, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing and swimming in Lake Nummy. For overnight stays, there are 169 tent and trailer sites, two group campsites, and the large East Creek Cabin, which can accommodate up to 30 campers.

Parvin State Park is rich with nature, including over 200 kinds of flowering plants and unique bird life, such as the state-threatened Barred Owl. Among this wealth of nature also lives a deep history dating to the beginning of the Twentieth Century. These lands once served as home for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a summer camp for children of displaced Japanese Americans during World War II, and a POW camp for German prisoners in 1944. Today, there are a variety of recreational activities surrounding Parvin Lake, Thundergust Lake, and Muddy Run. A total of 56 campsites and 16 cabins provide a base of operations for boating, canoeing, and fishing,

In the northern end of the New Jersey, High Point State Park encompasses panoramic mountain ranges, including the highest point in state. There are plenty of trails for hiking, self-guided nature walks, and mountain biking. In addition, Lake Marcia provides ample space for canoeing, boating, fishing and swimming. High Point State Park provides 50 campsites, two furnished cabins and a group cabin that accommodates up to 28 people.

Finally, those campers who would like to experience a portion of the Appalachian Trail should visit Worthington State Forest in Warren County. The tops of the mountains provide spectacular views of the surrounding area and make for a great picnic destination. Nestled in the mountain is Sunfish Pond, a pristine mountain pond that is a favorite destination of hikers. There are plenty of places to stay along this stretch of the Appalachian Trail, including almost 70 tent and trailer sites and three group campsites.

In addition to the great State Forests, New Jersey is home to nearly 130 private campgrounds with a total of 25,000 individual campsites. Many of these campgrounds are ideal for family getaways and first-time camp outings. Many are also pet friendly, but you should be sure to check with the camp management for guidelines prior to your stay.

Overall, New Jersey is an excellent place for camping that is convenient to several major metropolitan areas. Even residents may be surprised to learn the range of activities available within their own state. The diversity of terrain, plants, animals and birds make this New Jersey a treasure for campers in the Northeast.

Find places to camp in New Jersey.

Resources:

New Jersey Commerce & Economic Growth Commission
1-800 VISIT NJ
http://www.visitnj.org

New Jersey Campground Owners Association
(800) 2CAMPNJ
http://www.NewJerseyCampgrounds.com