best national parks in New Jersey

7 Best National Parks in New Jersey

New Jersey is nicknamed the ‘Garden State’ for good reason. It’s home to hundreds of thousands of acres of national parks, forests and gardens, expertly managed by the National Park Service. From Thomas Edison’s estate to the first-ever national park in America, here are seven of the best national parks in New Jersey.

The best national parks in New Jersey

1. Morristown National Historical Park

Morristown National Historical Park deserves top billing not least because it was America’s first-ever national historical park. Stretching across 1,676 acres, it’s also home to General George Washington’s Headquarters, Fort Nonsense and Jockey Hollow. It’s home to a major Revolutionary War site too, where George Washington’s Continental Army spent the winter of 1779-80.

History aside, there are some 27 miles of trails crisscrossing the park, including the Blue Trail leading to Mount Kemble. For a longer hike, hop onto the Grand Loop Trail, which circles the historical Jockey Hollow woods and the reconstructed soldiers’ barracks.

best national parks in New Jersey
Editorial credit: EleanorAbramson /

2. Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area

The Gateway National Recreation Area offers up an impressive 27,000 acres of parkland and sprawls across two states. Some two-million visitors flock here every year for its ocean beaches and outdoor activities. There’s a five-mile multi-use pathway (mostly for hikes and bikes), as well as surf fishing and a handful of hiking trails from the Sandy Hook Visitor Centre in New Jersey.

Bird-lovers love the spot too; the park is home to over 325 species of birds, most of them stopping off on the migration route along the Atlantic Flyway. They find food, shelter and protection within the borders of this national park. History buffs should stop off for a stroll around Fort Hancock and take a look at the museum too. There’s also the very sweet Sandy Hook Lighthouse to explore too.

best national parks in new jersey
Editorial credit: EQRoy /

3. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

New Jersey isn’t short on waterfalls, but one of the tallest – and the best – is Buttermilk Falls in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. To get up close to the sight, it’s an easy stroll from the car park or a longer three-mile hike to the edge of the Appalachian Trail. Once you’ve seen the plummeting cascades, there are more than 150 miles of trails, 40 miles of river and three swim beaches to explore. For fast thrills, you can try white-water rafting too. 

best national parks in New Jersey

4. The Great Falls of the Passaic River 

The newest national park in New Jersey, the Great Falls of the Passaic River was established in 1976. The 119-acre park is home to the second-largest waterful by volume east of the Mississippi River too. The falls are spectacular, but there’s much more to this park too. Dotted around the falls are centuries-old mills. Patterson was the first planned industrial town in America and is widely considered to be ‘The Cradle of American Industry’. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, believed that a burgeoning industry would bring wealth, security and independence. He was right. He selected Patterson and the Great Falls to propel his big dreams and built a water-powered cotton spinning mill, followed by steam locomotives, continuous rolls of paper and, later, aeroplane engines.

best national parks in New Jersey

5. The Pinelands National Reserve

Established in 1978, this impressive biosphere reserve was the country’s first national reserve. It encompassed over one-million acres of farmlands, forests and wetlands, 56 communities and over 700,000 permanent residents. It’s also home to the Great Egg Harbour National Wild and Scenic River system, a whopping 129-mile river system that’s a haven for wildlife watchers.

6. Thomas Edison National Historical Park

This national park is perfect for outdoorsy types who are also interested in science. Home to Thomas Edison’s original home and laboratory,  it’s where the famed inventor cracked on with some of the world’s most innovative inventions. He purchased the estate for his new bride Mina Miller Edison in 1886, and it’s where the family raised their children and entertained friends. Over at the museum, you can discover the originals of sound recording, silent and sound movies, and the nickel-iron alkaline electric storage battery. There’s over 20,000 sq. ft of exhibition space to explore, as well as the two-storey main laboratory building.

7. Cape May Point State Park

This 244-acre park encompasses freshwater meadows, ponds, forests dunes and beaches. There’s even a lighthouse and a World War II gun battery thrown in for good measure too. It’s a popular spot with birdwatchers and there’s a handful of nature programs to get involved with too. Hikers can pick from three trails. There’s a half-mile loop over the boardwalks through the wetlands and forests, as well as a 1.5-mile trail and a two-mile loop.

best national parks in New Jersey

Allie D'Almo

Allie is a passionate traveller with a hearty interest in great food and stories. She likes to travel slowly, particularly to underrated and underloved places. She’s lived in Italy and is now based in London, where she spends most of her time either plotting her next trip or writing about her last one.

View stories