Off the Beaten Path in New Jersey: For Nature Lovers

Jersey has something for everyone - from history buffs and culture cravers to foodies and beachgoers. And with a diverse landscape spanning mountain peaks, rolling farmland and white-sandy shores, it’s the state nature lovers can’t wait to explore. Here are some exceptional spots you may not know about that we don’t want you to miss.

North Jersey

Rahway Fairy Trail | South Mountain Reservation, Millburn

This half-mile trail adjacent to the South Mountain Recreation Complex is as whimsical as it is wonderful. As you walk along the path, look carefully and you’ll see a variety of tiny fairy homes (thanks to thoughtful local neighbors) crafted and furnished with branches, rocks, bark and other natural materials from the forest. Find these enchanting homes resting in the hollows of trees and roots but be careful not to disturb these delicate little pieces of magic. 

Did you know? New Jersey has over 1,498 hiking, biking and walking trails.

The Fluorescent Rainbow Tunnel | Sterling Hill Mining Museum, Ogdensburg

Take a 1,300-foot underground walking tour of one of the oldest mines in the US to see the mesmerizing Rainbow Tunnel. This fascinating work of nature glows bright red and green due to fluorescent zinc ore lit by ultraviolet light. It’s really a must-see. Check out the Museum of Fluorescence and the Mine Run Dump, where you can collect minerals, including fluorescence!

Did you know? Franklinite is New Jersey’s official State Mineral.

Sterling Hill Museum

Tripod Rock | Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area, Morris County

High on Pyramid Mountain near the Kinnelon/Montville border, you’ll find Tripod Rock, a massive boulder which is positioned in such a way it baffles all those who visit. Balanced upon three smaller stones in a formation that seems to defy gravity and the laws of nature, this massive boulder is a must-see located in the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area.

Did you know? You can see other geological wows including Whale Head Rock and Bear Rock, at this location too.

Highlands Natural Pool | Ringwood

Adjacent to Norvin Green State Forest, this Olympic-sized, stream-fed freshwater swimming pool was named one of the 21 Places in New Jersey You Need to Visit in 2021 and named the best swimming hole in New Jersey. No chemicals are used in this amazing natural pool. The pool opens at the end of May. Day passes can be purchased at the entrance.

Did you know? While in Ringwood, you can also visit Ringwood State Park.

Lakota Wolf Preserve | Columbia

A nature photographer’s dream, this amazing destination is home to wolves as well as bobcats, foxes and lynx. Enjoy wolf watches (reservations required), learn about the social structure of wolf packs and speak with the people who raise and care for these majestic creatures. Watch the wolves play, interact with their pack and maybe even hear them howl.

Did you know? This preserve is the largest natural-habitat animal preserve with wolves, bobcats, lynx and foxes in the Northeastern US.

Central Jersey

The Swinging Bridge | Princeton Battlefield State Park

This one-of-a-kind spot for nature lovers can be found by walking past the Clarke House, turning at the stone marker and heading towards the Stonybrook Meeting House. A dirt trail leads you through beautiful tall trees out to Stony Brook, a small waterway over which this suspension bridge crosses. Serene and stunning at the same time, it’s a wonderful place to reflect and connect with nature.

Did you know? You can connect to the multi-use D&R Canal towpath here, once used for mules to tow barges along the canal but now a hiking and biking hotspot.

Swinging Bridge

Hidden Spring Lavender & Alpaca Farm | Skillman

Sometimes, the best things in nature come in pairs. That’s exactly the case at this feel-good central Jersey farm. Here you can meet some very sweet alpacas and enjoy the sweet smell of lavender in the fields and in the amazing collection of freshly scented treasures at the Gift Shoppe. Warm up with items crafted from alpaca wool too. For nature lovers, it’s a win-win.

Did you know? You can halter train (walk) an alpaca here – reservations required.

Colonial Park Gardens | Somerset

Marvel at a 144-acre nationally accredited Arboretum filled with labeled specimens of flowering trees, shrubs, evergreens and shade trees. You’ll also love the 5-acre Perennial Garden with stunning displays of annuals, perennials, and ornamental grasses. And you won’t want to miss the Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden, a formal garden displaying over 3,000 roses of 325 varieties.

Did you know? There’s a special Fragrance Sensory Garden here designed to be of special interest to visitors who are visually impaired.

Duke Farms | Hillsborough

Central Jerseyans know this locale well, but those in other states or other parts of the state may not.  So, we’re gonna brag a little about this more than 1,000-acre sanctuary dedicated to preserving the region’s natural beauty. Explore the grounds and be immersed in the native landscape or bring a blanket and pick an out-of-the-way spot to reflect and relax. To date, 523 plant species and 247 bird species have been discovered at this natural oasis. Oh, and be sure to visit the Tropical Orchid Display and Hay Barn Living Sculpture Gallery

Did you know? There are 20 miles of trails at Duke Farms ready for you to explore.

Duke Farms

Grounds For Sculpture | Hamilton

For those who like their nature mixed with art, we present this 42-acre park with over 300 large-scale contemporary sculptures set amongst stunningly landscaped grounds. There are indoor galleries too, so weather can not deter you from a day filled with art and culture. But if you really want to breathe in the great outdoors, head over on a beautiful afternoon, stroll along the paved terraces, pergolas and courtyards as you admire natural woodlands, ponds, bamboo groves and sculptures.

Did you know? Beautiful peacocks roam the grounds here.

South Jersey

Whitesbog Cranberry Bogs | Whitesbog Historic Village | Browns Mills

Cranberries are everywhere these days – cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, you name it. And it’s likely the cranberries used came from these very bogs. These bogs are the largest cranberry bogs in the state of New Jersey. Stop by around September to see the swamps covered in red. Enjoy year-round hiking, biking, horseback riding, tours and of course treats from the General Store.

Did you know? Whitesbog Village is also the birthplace of the Highbush blueberry.

The Pine BarrensAtlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester & Ocean Counties

Sometimes a destination is so enormous it’s hidden in plain sight. Such is true of the mysterious New Jersey Pine Barrens, an all-encompassing 7-county tract of open space that covers 1.1 million acres, or 22 percent of New Jersey’s land area. But still, much of it remains a mystery. If you enjoy the beauty of quiet, pine-filled forests where you can camp, kayak, fish and hike peacefully, this is the place for you.

Did you know? The NHL hockey team, The Jersey Devils, is named after the Pine Barren’s folklore-based “Jersey Devil.”

Pine Barrens

Cape May Diamonds | Sunset Beach, Cape May

Famous for being a place to see particularly spectacular sunsets, this little-known piece of beach heaven is also a haven for Cape May “diamonds.” Actually, pure quartz crystals, these natural treasures shine when they’re wet, so they’re easy to spot along the water’s edge as the waves roll in. When polished and faceted, these gems have the appearance of a real diamond.

Did you know? Standing on Sunset Beach, you can see the remains of a World War I-era concrete ship, the USS Atlantus peeking out of the ocean.

Great Bay Boulevard | Little Egg Harbor

This boulevard and wildlife management area has been called the best birdwatching road in Ocean County. In actuality, this narrow two-lane road was the beginning of a never-built causeway to the shore to connect to Atlantic City. The road provides access to a great sweep of salt marsh and plenty of fishing, birdwatching and relaxing in nature.

Did you know? Another fabulous place to flock to in NJ is Cape May, listed as a World’s Best destination for birding by National Geographic.

Sedge Islands | Island Beach State Park

You may not have heard of this marine conservation zone, but if you love birding, fishing, paddling and not a lot of crowds, this is your spot. This pristine wetland area is thriving with wildlife including the largest Osprey colony in New Jersey as well as many other species of birds. Sandwiched between Barnegat in LBI and Island Beach State Park, it is regarded as one of New Jersey’s best-kept secrets.

Did you know? New Jersey’s famous Jersey Shore encompasses over 130 miles of beautiful beaches.

In New Jersey, fun happens naturally here, there and everywhere, even off the beaten path. If you’re looking for more exciting outdoor destinations and recreation to add to your calendar, click here. Sign up for our e-newsletter and access your free NJ travel guide too.