Best Winter Hikes In New Jersey

Winter in New Jersey offers a unique and beautiful landscape for outdoor enthusiasts, despite sometimes freezing temperatures. This article will detail the best winter hiking locations in the state, including popular trails, frozen lakes, and other winter wonderlands. Whether you are an experienced hiker or simply looking to enjoy the outdoors during the colder months, read on to discover the best trails for snow in New Jersey.

Is hiking in the winter worth it?

Hiking in the winter can be a great experience, even though it may require extra effort. The cold temperatures make for a more challenging hike but can also provide an exhilarating and peaceful atmosphere. The snow-covered mountains, frozen rivers, lakes, and icy trails create beautiful scenery that will take your breath away. In addition to the stunning landscape, hiking in the winter offers additional benefits like physical exercise and mental health.

As you trek through the snow, you enjoy fresh air and sunshine while giving your body a great workout. Trudging through the snow and cold can be difficult, but getting the right Yaktrax or microspikes to hike with can help. Not only that but being outdoors is proven to help improve moods and reduce stress levels if you’re up for an adventure and ready to bundle up for a winter hike!

Must-Haves for Winter Hiking

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Ken Lockwood Gorge

“Situated in western New Jersey, the Ken Lockwood Gorge is a pristine natural haven. Its name pays tribute to the dedicated environmental advocate, Ken Lockwood, whose pivotal role ensured the conservation and safeguarding of this remarkable site. Nestled alongside the South Branch of the Raritan River, this gorge has gained widespread acclaim for its breathtaking natural splendor.”

Certainly, here’s a rewritten version of the information:

“The Ken Lockwood Gorge draws in hikers and nature enthusiasts alike, serving as a beloved destination. Its extensive network of trails winds through lush forested hills and alongside the meandering river, providing a diverse outdoor experience. Throughout the year, the gorge serves as a habitat for numerous plant and animal species, including rarities like the barred owl and the timber rattlesnake.

During the winter season, the Ken Lockwood Gorge remains a sought-after spot for hikers, offering a selection of trails perfectly suited for cold-weather exploration. Its reputation for scenic beauty is well-deserved, and the pristine, snow-covered landscape, coupled with the crisp, invigorating air, enhances the allure of venturing through this picturesque gorge.”

  • Trail Length: 3.8 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 154 ft
  • Difficulty: 2/5
  • Good for Families? Yes

Stairway to Heaven

The Wawayanda State Park, a 4,350 acre-park in Sussex County, encompasses the Stairway to Heaven, including being part of the Appalachian Trail.

How hard is Stairway to Heaven hike in NJ?

The Stairway to Heaven hike in NJ is no walk in the park, that’s for sure! It’s considered a challenging trail, so it’s best suited for experienced hikers. Be prepared to invest several hours into this adventure. It’s a real test of your fitness and agility, especially during the winter when things can get slippery.

You’ll be following those trusty blue blazes through the forest, but don’t expect a leisurely stroll. This trail will take you up some steep and rocky ledges, and you’ll even get your feet wet crossing a few streams.

Now, here’s the exciting part: all that effort pays off big time! When you conquer the Stairway to Heaven, you’re rewarded with jaw-dropping views from the top. It’s a panoramic spectacle that makes all the sweat and hard work totally worth it. So, if you’re up for a challenge and some seriously amazing vistas, this hike might just be your ticket!

  • Trail Length: 2.6 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 889 ft
  • Difficulty: 3/5
  • Good for Families? No

Where is the Stairway to Heaven trail in New Jersey?

The Stairway to Heaven Trail in New Jersey is located in the Kittatinny Mountains of northwestern New Jersey. This trail is considered one of the most challenging hikes in the state, with a climb up over 1,000 steps and an ascent of more than 1,000 feet. The full hike begins at High Point State Park and takes you along the ridge of these mountains, offering views of the surrounding area from several overlooks. But you can start at a smaller parking lot (see more) to reduce distance.

Along the way, hikers will also pass through lush forests and meadows full of wildflowers. At the top of this arduous climb, hikers will be rewarded with stunning views of nearby valleys and landscapes. This strenuous but rewarding hike is sure to give you an unforgettable experience!

Taking Photos Along The Way?

Be sure to brush up on our Winter Photography Tips to pack your camera and lenses without damage and capture the best view! Don’t forget to tag #NJspots in your picture.

Apshawa Preserve

Apshawa Preserve is one of New Jersey’s most beautiful nature preserves. It’s an exciting winter hiking destination featuring several trails that wind through the preserve’s forests, wetlands, and meadows. The preserve is open year-round and offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of nearby cities. Hikers should be prepared for unstable terrain, including steep hills and rocky trails covered in snow and ice.

Green Loop at Apshawa Preserve

Visitors can complete this easy loop trail within the Apshawa Preserve in about an hour and a half. The trail is open all year round and offers beautiful views of mountains, waterfalls, and a frozen lake. Any dogs on the trail must be kept on a leash.

Hikers should be aware that the parking area for this trail is small and often fills up quickly on weekends, so it’s best to arrive early, and no parking is allowed in the adjacent neighborhood. Overall, the Green Loop is a beautiful trail that is one of the prettiest winter hikes in New Jersey.

  • Trail Length: 3.5 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 587 ft
  • Difficulty: 2/5
  • Good for Families? Yes
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Delaware Water Gap

The Delaware Water Gap is another scenic natural area in New Jersey. The trails within make for an excellent winter hike, with some that wind through the nearby mountains and forests. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area surrounds the water gap, offering a range of hiking trails for all skill levels, from easy, flat trails to more challenging, uphill paths. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape and may even spot some wildlife during their visit.

Mount Tammany Summit Overlooking the Gap

This trail is challenging (read more here), and if you are going to consider conquering it in the winter months, we suggest a few things to keep in mind. The trail is very rocky and has a lot of water springs. Therefore you may encounter some frozen surfaces, so be careful and consider investing in some YakTrax to keep your footing or some hiking poles to stay secure. Also, because the elevation gain is quick, the weather may be completely different at the top of the mountain, so be sure to pack the proper clothing and even hand warmers.

On average, this trail will take 3-4 hours to complete, so be sure to be prepared. When you do reach the summit on a snowy day, you can be greeted with a fantastic view below of the Gap and the river. Depending on the recent temperatures, you may even see some ice floating down the Delaware River!

  • Trail Length: 6.5 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,528 ft
  • Difficulty: 5/5
  • Good for Families? No

Buttermilk Falls Trail in New Jersey

best winter hikes in new jersey, Best Winter Hikes In New Jersey
@toekneecaptures on Instagram at Buttermilk Falls.

The Buttermilk Falls trail is named for the cascading waterfall at its end, which flows over a series of rocky ledges and into a clear pool below. The falls are located within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

See More Waterfall Hiking Trails

This hiking trail is approximately 2.5 miles long and is considered moderately difficult. The trail begins at the Buttermilk Falls parking area and follows a winding path through the forest, crossing several frozen streams and passing by many smaller waterfalls along the way.

The Buttermilk Falls hiking trail is managed by the National Park Service and is open to the public year-round. The trail is well-marked and maintained, offering various educational and recreational programs for visitors of all ages.

  • Trail Length: 6.8 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,453 ft
  • Difficulty: 5/5
  • Good for Families? No

Find More Waterfalls in New Jersey

Bass River State Forest

Bass River State Forest is located in southeastern New Jersey. Several exciting trails wind through its forests, wetlands, and meadows. These trails range in difficulty from easy flat paths, to more challenging uphill routes, which become even more interesting in the winter.

Yellow “Poppy Allen” Trail at Bass River State Forest

The Yellow Trail is one of the most popular trails in Bass River State Forest. This trail is a 3.4-mile loop that presents a low level of difficulty. The trail passes through various habitats, including forests, wetlands, meadows, and offers stunning views of the frozen landscape.

  • Trail Length: 3.4 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 42 ft
  • Difficulty: 2/5
  • Good for Families? Yes

Orange Trail at Bass River State Forest

Another popular trail in the forest is the Orange Trail, which is a 4.6-mile loop that is suitable for all skill levels. It passes through a mixed forest of oak, pine, and cedar trees and offers the opportunity to see various wildlife, including birds, and small mammals. The trail also includes a small pond that freezes over in the winter.

  • Trail Length: 4.6 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 62 ft
  • Difficulty: 2/5
  • Good for Families? Yes

Franklin Parker Preserve

best winter hikes in new jersey, Best Winter Hikes In New Jersey

Exploring the Parker Preserve in New Jersey offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Garden State. This preserve, also known as the Franklin Parker Preserve, spans over 11,000 acres in the heart of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. It’s a haven for nature enthusiasts, hikers, bird watchers, and anyone seeking a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Key Trails at the Parker Preserve:

  1. Chatsworth Red Trail: This is one of the most popular trails in the preserve. It’s an easy-to-moderate hike that spans approximately 8.3 miles. The trail offers scenic views of the preserve’s diverse landscapes, including wetlands, forests, and open fields.
  2. Blue Trail: Ideal for bird watching, the Blue Trail is shorter, covering around 4.5 miles. It takes you through some of the more remote areas of the preserve, offering chances to spot wildlife and enjoy the tranquility of the Pine Barrens.
  3. Green Trail: This trail is perfect for a shorter hike. It’s about 3.7 miles long and provides a good mix of terrain, from sandy paths to forested areas. It’s great for those who want to experience the preserve but have limited time.
  4. White Trail: Spanning roughly 6.5 miles, the White Trail is a loop that offers a diverse hiking experience. It’s slightly more challenging than the other trails and takes you deeper into the heart of the preserve.

Before you plan your next hike…

Knowing the risk, you’re taking when hiking in the cold and winter months is essential. The daylight hours are shorter, the temperatures can drop quickly, and it’s hard to predict the trail conditions. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you go:

  • Don’t hike alone – Groups of 3 are good; in an emergency, two people can stay back while the other gets help.
  • Tell someone where you’re going – Be sure to tell a spouse, friend, or family member where you are going and when they should expect you back.
  • Stay on Marked Trails – To protect the delicate ecosystem, it’s important to stick to the marked trails.
  • Bring extra layers – Don’t be shy about dressing warm during winter.
  • Pack Essentials – Water, snacks, and a map or GPS are recommended, especially for the longer trails.

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