Summer is here, so get outside! New Jersey boasts plenty of scenic trails, perfect for getting your kids away from their screens and back to nature. Here are a few to consider:
Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area: The total distance of this hike is about 3 miles, though there are plenty of alternate routes. Before heading out, stop at the Visitor Center for maps and advice—(they often know which trails are crowded with scout troops). A favorite trek is the not-too-challenging hike up to Tripod Rock: Stranded here after glaciers moved through, this massive boulder is perfectly balanced on three much smaller rocks (hence the name). Although it looks precarious, it’s totally safe, and climbing under it makes for fun photo ops. Aside from the awesome Tripod Rock and some pretty views, if you keep heading down the orange trail, you’ll walk along the beautiful shores of the Taylortown Reservoir. The kids can also go off-trail for some geocaching in the woods. Boonton Ave., Montville.
Rifle Camp Park: The outer loop of this park is 3.5 miles. From the first parking lot, take the yellow trail that leads you along the outskirts of the entire park close to the neighboring reservoir, or take the red trail, which is shorter and more direct. Both routes have access to the observatory at the top, where there’s great stargazing in the evenings. Neither trail is particularly difficult, so both are great options for beginners. Along the way, you’ll have a stunning view of the New York City skyline, as well as some cool rocky cliffs. Most days you’ll also see tons of wildlife along the trails, too. 387 Rifle Camp Rd., Woodland Park.
High Point State Park: There are a bunch of great hikes here—park in the monument lot and follow the kid-friendly red/green loop, which heads along the ridge and then goes past Lake Marcia. Make sure to pack bathing suits and a towel because once the kids spot the water, they’ll want to spend some time swimming. (There are lifeguards and concessions here, too). Before you head back, hit the highlight of the park: Climb up inside the 220-foot, circa 1930 monument erected in honor of all war veterans. The total distance of this hike is 3.6 miles. At the top of the monument you’ll see 360-degree views of the Catskill and Pocono Mountains. Total Distance: 3.6 miles. 1480 Route 23, Sussex.
Stairway to Heaven: If the word “stair” is in the name, you can bet there’s climbing involved, but here you can choose your pleasure (or pain). Pick the scenic route, with over two miles of relatively flat boardwalk that crosses through marshland, ambles over stiles (little ladder structures), through cow pastures and near old railroad tracks. If you’re brave enough, you can also tackle the seemingly straight uphill mile of rock slab “stairs” to the tippy top of Wawayanda Mountain. The kids will love peeking in the mailbox at the top, where hikers traversing the Appalachian Trail (from Georgia to Maine) all sign in as they pass. Make it to the top, and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the Catskills, Pochuck Mountain and Vernon Valley. If you opt for the gentle route, you may come face-to-face with a mama cow and her calf. Rt. 94, Vernon.
Castle Point Trail — Ramapo Mountain State Forest: This 3-mile loop is a challenge best left for ambitious big kids, but there’s a great reward at the end—a castle! Start on the yellow Hoeferlin Memorial trail, then take the white Castle Point trail up a very steep hill to see the ruins of the Van Slyke mansion built by stockbroker William Porter in the early 1900s. You’ll want to spend some time exploring here, then return to your car by following the white and red Skyline Connector trail markings or head back down the way you came. Skyline Dr., Ringwood.