There are beautiful colors and many great spots for leaf peeping in New Jersey during the fall season. The timing of the fall colors depends on rainfall and temperature. In general, though, peak foliage can be seen in the last few weeks of October.
The first areas to experience beautiful fall colors in New Jersey are in the northwestern corner and north-central regions of the state. Next, trees in the central areas of the state begin to change color, followed later by the coastal and southern regions. In other words, even if peak foliage in North Jersey has already passed, there is still time to see the beautiful colors shifting in South Jersey! Here are some of the best spots for leaf peeping in New Jersey.
Wharton State Forest
This is the largest forest in New Jersey. It offers 122,880 acres of glorious fall foliage in the southern part of the state. The park office is in Hammonton, while the park itself stretches across New Jersey’s Atlantic, Camden, and Burlington counties. There are also campgrounds and cabins if you want to spend a few days enjoying the forest trails and waterways. Easier walking trails include the Tom’s Pond, Harrisville Pond, Batsto Lake, and Mullica River Wilderness Camp Trails.
For an exciting bird’s-eye view of all the beautiful fall colors, you can climb the Apple Pie Hill fire tower. The 60-foot-tall tower sits atop the 205-foot-high Apple Pie Hill. This is the highest point in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. The fire tower is fenced off, but during fire season there is usually a fire watcher there until sundown who can grant access. To get there, hike along part of the Batona Trail starting from the Carranza memorial. This section of the trail is about 8.5 miles.
If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can hike the entire Batona Trail. This trail is a full 53.5 miles through the Pine Barrens! The Batona Trail is the longest trail in New Jersey and has many beautiful spots for leaf peeping along the way. Of course, if you want a more relaxing leaf-peeping experience, you can lounge beside the many rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes within the forest as well. Another fun option is boating on the Mullica River, where you can see the vivid fall colors reflecting off the water. Wharton State Forest typically showcases its best colors in mid-to-late October.
Parvin State Park
Along the edge of the Pine Barrens in southwestern New Jersey, you can find Parvin Lake and Parvin State Park. The park is a bit of a hidden gem, just 40 miles south of Philadelphia and five miles out of Vineland. With pine forests and a swamp hardwood forest, the park offers a unique fall foliage experience. The evergreen pines, along with black willows, oaks, red maples, tupelos, birches, and cottonwood trees, make this a very beautiful spot for leaf peeping in New Jersey. Late October is usually when you can see the best colors in this area.
You can relax along the lake’s shoreline, spend time on the water, reserve a campsite, or rent a cabin. There are also several miles of trails around Lake Parvin and Lake Thundergust to explore. Parvin Lake Trail takes you around the lake’s perimeter and is an easy, three-mile-long hike where you can see many of the beautiful fall colors.
High Point State Park
Northwestern New Jersey offers many excellent leaf-peeping spots, like High Point State Park in Sussex County. The park is over 16,000 acres with many miles of hiking trails to explore. High Point, atop the park’s Kittatinny Ridge, is the highest elevation in New Jersey (1,803 feet above sea level) and offers spectacular panoramic views of colorful forests in three different states. If you want to go even higher, you can also climb the 200 stairs up to the top of the High Point Monument. The park’s colors typically shine brightest from early to mid-October.
Over 50 miles of maintained and well-marked trails cover the park, including many multi-purpose trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The park’s trails traverse mountain ridge tops, fields, wetlands, dense forests, and an Atlantic white cedar swamp. With trails from just a half mile up to 18 miles, there is something for everyone, whether you are a casual hiker or an outdoors enthusiast.
There are also campsites and cabins, as well as vacation accommodations nearby if you want to spend a few days in the park. In addition to the fabulous hikes that High Point State Park offers, Lake Marcia has 20 acres of spring-fed waters for swimming, with a bathhouse, food concession, and lifeguards along the beach. You can also use boats in certain areas of Steenykill Lake and Sawmill Lake.
Stokes State Forest
Also in New Jersey’s northwestern county of Sussex, Stokes State Forest is renowned for its astounding natural beauty. Sunrise Mountain offers breathtaking panoramic views of dense forests and rural farmland. The hike up the mountain may not be for the faint of heart, as it is rather steep and rocky. However, there is also a road that takes you to a pavilion at the top so you can still enjoy the view. Hawks migrate through this area in the fall, so keep your eyes open for passing birds when you’re on the mountain! Colorful leaves are generally best from early to mid-October.
With over 63 miles of trails within the forest, there is something for everyone and plenty of beautiful fall foliage to explore. For some easier hiking trails, try the Stony Brook Trail or Silver Mine Loop. There is also a beautiful eastern hemlock evergreen forest in Tillman Ravine, along with stunning waterfalls, rocky slopes, and many endangered species. There are picnic areas and grills in the Kittle Field and Stony Lake areas, and some of the best trout fishing in the state can be found in the Big Flat Brook. Cabins and camping areas are available as well if you want to extend your stay.
Cape May Point State Park
An excellent spot for leaf peeping in southern New Jersey is the Cape May Point State Park, found on the tip of the state’s peninsula. Since the park is in the southernmost region of New Jersey, peak foliage generally isn’t until late October. The most famous area here is the Cape May Lighthouse, a historic structure that is still used today. You can climb to the top and look out over the Cape May peninsula with all its spectacular fall foliage. For a quick trip into nature, try the Cape May Point Trail. The trail is only 1.8 miles long and is even stroller and wheelchair friendly.
Cape May Point State Park is a very popular spot for birdwatching as well, as it is a natural route for many species of migrating birds. In addition, in late September you might catch a glimpse of the many monarch butterflies that stop at the park for a rest during their annual migration as well.
Most of the park is designated as an official natural area with all kinds of habitats and a wide variety of wildlife. There are also picnic areas and hiking trails, allowing you to get an up-close view of the colorful leaves. Red Trail is only half of a mile long and wheelchair accessible, but gives you access to two different ponds (Lighthouse Pond West and Lighthouse Pond East). There is a viewing platform or blind along each of the ponds’ edges where you can watch osprey, swans, ducks, and wading birds in their natural habitat.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
This stunning area in North New Jersey contains 70,000 acres of protected highlands and forests along the northwestern edge of the state. The scenic overlooks here are generally most colorful from early to mid-October. For amazing panoramic views, you can head to Mount Minsi and Mount Tammany.
Mount Tammany rises 1,526 feet high on the east side of the Delaware Water Gap, providing exquisite views of the fall foliage in the valley below. One of the most difficult trails in the area, the Mount Tammany Trail (Red Dot), leads up to the beautiful overlooks of the mountain, but it is very steep and rocky. Experts suggest taking the Blue Trail to get back down since it is slightly less rocky, but still quite difficult.
However, with over 150 miles of trails in the area, including some that are wheelchair accessible, there is something for all hiking levels. There are also several cascades and waterfalls scattered throughout the area. Buttermilk Falls is absolutely breathtaking. Garvey Spring is a gorgeous trail that leads up to Sunfish Pond with another large, cascading waterfall. For some peace and quiet in nature, head to Stony Brook Falls, which is part of the Silver Mine Loop.
Ramapo Mountain State Forest
One of the most unique spots for leaf peeping in New Jersey is Ramapo Mountain State Forest. Located in New Jersey’s northeastern Passaic and Bergen counties, Ramapo Mountain State Forest contains 4,200 acres of forests, marshes, streams, ponds, rocky ledges, and the 120-acre Ramapo Lake. The lake provides the most stunning backdrop for fall-themed pictures, with colorful leaves and rocky shorelines. This clearwater mountain lake is also a fantastic place for birdwatching as well.
The most unique feature of the Ramapo Mountain State Forest, however, is the ruins of Van Slyke Castle up on Ramapo Mountain. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get to, with a mostly paved trail that is just over two miles long. Built by William Porter in the early 1900s, the castle was abandoned in the 1950s. Today the ruins of the stone castle sit amid the greenery and colorful forest leaves like a magical doorway to a different time, making it an excellent place for an adventure!
Hacklebarney State Park
The Black River sits at the center of this gorgeous park and rushes through rocky terrain and hemlock forests. Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley has nine different hiking trails that all lead to different views of the river. There are also small waterfalls throughout the park. It is a great place for birdwatching because of all the different habitats. It is recommended that you wear comfortable shoes because the terrain is rugged.
While the park is smaller than most of the others on this list, you can easily spend many hours here stopping to enjoy all the beautiful scenery. It’s perfect for photography lovers who want to take lots of pictures. The grey rocks and lush vegetation surrounding the river make it one of the most stunning spots for leaf peeping in New Jersey.
The only downside is that the park is extremely popular, so you may want to get there early in the day. When you’re done, stop by the Hacklebarney Farms Cider Mill in Chester (less than a mile from the park) for cider, apples, donuts, pies, ice cream, and hot dogs. They also have pumpkins and a corn maze in the fall for more family fun.
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- National Park Service, Available here: https://www.nps.gov/state/nj/index.htm
- The State of New Jersey, Available here: https://nj.gov/