NEW JERSEY – Residents are invited to put their best foot forward in the new year by starting off 2023 with a First Day Hike in New Jersey’s state parks, forests and historic sites on Jan. 1, according to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette.
In total, the State Park Service is offering a record number of at least 40 hikes throughout the state, ranging in difficulty levels from beginner to advanced.
“New Jersey’s state parks and forests are open all year and offer something to everyone, from breathtaking beauty to a broad spectrum of tree, plant and wildlife species,” LaTourette said. “Getting outdoors gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy the company of family and friends, discover their local environment and appreciate a different season of nature.”
“First Day Hikes are the perfect opportunity to get outside, recharge and connect with nature in one of New Jersey’s state parks, forests or historic sites,” said John Cecil, Assistant Commissioner for State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites. “Not only will you get fresh air and exercise, but you will make memories exploring New Jersey’s incredible natural and historic resources.”
After a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19 concerns, New Jersey offered 28 hikes in 2022 where more than 248 hikers traveled 952 miles on First Day Hikes throughout New Jersey’s vast network of trails.
This year there are a variety of hikes available at all difficulty levels. Among them:
- Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park (Mercer County): Hikers will explore the history of the canal and consider the significance of this trail through modern-day Trenton. The two-mile loop hike will begin at 10 a.m. at the Trenton Battle Monument, 350 N. Warren St. Children ages 12 and up with an adult are welcome. Registration is required and may be made by emailing your name, number of hikers attending and contact information in case of a weather cancellation to Mackenzie.Piggott@dep.nj.gov.
- Monmouth Battlefield State Park (Monmouth County): A guided 2.5-mile hike is planned through the farm fields where Gen. George Washington commanded the Continental Army and Molly Pitcher fought during the Battle of Monmouth. Hikers will be able to view the park’s natural beauty while learning about the people and events of the Revolutionary War battle that took place here in June 1778. Hikers will meet at 11 a.m. at the Monmouth Battlefield State Park Visitor Center, 20 Business Route 33, in Manalapan. Children ages 10 and older with an adult are welcome. Registration is not required.
- Belleplain State Forest (Cape May County): Humans and their dogs may join Megan and her Furry Friends for Belleplain State Forest’s annual six-mile first day dog hike. After the hike, tea, hot cocoa and homemade treats for humans and their pets will be offered around a campfire at the forest office. Children at least 10 years of age and supervised by an adult are welcome. Hikers will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Belleplain State Forest office parking lot, 1 Henkinsifkin Road in Woodbine. Registration is required. Call (609) 861-2404 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Wharton State Forest (Burlington County): The history of fires and fire prevention will be explored during a guided hike at Batsto Village that will span from the Batsto Mansion to the Batsto Fire Tower. Historical interpretation will focus on both the industrial use and destructive power of fire in the Pinelands. The hike will be offered at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Hikers will meet behind the Batsto Visitor Center, 31 Batsto Road in Hammonton. Children of all ages and friendly leashed dogs are welcome with an adult. Registration is required and may be made by calling (609) 561-0024.
- High Point State Park (Sussex County): The sixth annual High Point “First Day Challenge” Hike along a rugged section of the Appalachian Trail features numerous scenic views along the Appalachian Trail ridge and returns on the easier Iris Trail. Hikers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Appalachian Trail parking lot along Route 23 in Montague, just south of the High Point State Park Office. Children ages 12 and up with an adult are welcome. Registration is required. Call hike leader John Rovetto at (973) 903-3496 or email email@example.com.
- Warren Highlands Trail (Warren County): A rugged 15-mile hike along the Warren Highlands Trail features pastoral views along Harmony Ridge, historic logging roads and a visit to the former iron mines of Marble Hill. A recent trail improvement completed by the State Park Service in conjunction with the Phillipsburg Youth Corps this past summer will be highlighted. Experienced hikers, as well as children ages 12 and older accompanied by a responsible adult are welcome. Hikers will meet at 8 a.m. at the Marble Hill Natural Resource Area River Road parking lot, in Lopatcong. GPS coordinates for the lot are 40.709468, -75.191616. Registration is required and may be made by emailing name, phone number, email address, and number of hikers in your group to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a complete list of hikes and related details, visit www.njparksandforests.org/firstdayhikes. Other posted details include event start times, how to dress, difficulty ratings and lengths of hikes, age requirements, accessibility issues, whether dogs are permitted and who to contact in case of inclement weather.
All events are free. Some require preregistration and some are weather-dependent.
Those who prefer to hike on their own instead of with an organized group are encouraged to use the State Park Service’s Trail Tracker web application to explore the full selection of hiking trails throughout the Garden State, available at www.spstrailtracker.nj.gov.
The State Park Service began participating in First Day Hikes after the program became a nationwide event in 2012. First Day Hikes began more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. The program was launched to promote healthy lifestyles and year-round recreation at state parks.
The DEP’s State Park Service manages more than 453,000 acres of land, including 40 state parks and forests. For more about New Jersey’s Parks, Forests & Historic Sites, visit www.njparksandforests.org.