If you are thinking about leaving the city and moving to the suburbs, walkable parks, downtowns, and neighborhoods are probably at the top of your wish list. Northern New Jersey, with its scenic walking trails, picturesque lakes, and open spaces, is ideal for walking and family-friendly outdoor recreation. 

Whether you are looking to get some exercise or just take in the beautiful views while spending time outside, here are 5 family-friendly places to walk in northern New Jersey. 

1. South Mountain Reservation

South Mountain Reservation is a nature reserve with 2,110 acres of woodlands, creeks, ponds, and walking paths. The reservation is easily accessible from many northern New Jersey townships including Millburn, West Orange, Maplewood, and South Orange. The lovely 1.7 mile Orange Reservoir Loop is just one example of the walking trails available in the reservation. The Hemlock Falls Trail leads to a small waterfall, and the Overlook Trails Loop is a 4-mile loop with a lake—excellent for walking or hiking at any skill level. Many of the walking trails are also dog-friendly. A family favorite, the South Mountain Fairy Trail, is a one-mile loop with tiny fairy houses made from shells, twigs, and sea glass along the way.  

2. Loantaka Brook Reservation

Loantaka Brook Reservation is a beautiful 883-acre park with almost 10 miles of trails. Many of the trails are paved, wide, and shaded—perfect for walking or biking. There are also unpaved trails. Much of the terrain is flat, so it’s ideal for long walks, and the park is divided into four distinct sections: Seaton Hackney Stables, South Street, Kitchell Pond, and Loantaka Way. The park is also home to the Helen Hartley Jenkins Woods, serene and largely untouched. Some of the trails have exercise stations, and while walking, you can catch a glimpse of the resident ducks along with a plethora of wildflowers and birds. If you want to stretch your legs a bit longer, the reservation is adjacent to Waterman Meadow, a 19-acre meadow known for its vernal pools teeming with wildlife in the spring. 

3. Eagle Rock Reservation

The Eagle Rock Reservation is located along the Watchung Mountains ridgeline and offers breathtaking views of the New York City skyline, especially at Lookout Point. The 9/11 memorial and viewing plaza also have a beautiful view of New York City. Approximately 408-acres, the expansive park is situated between Verona, West Orange, and Montclair. There are hiking trails and footpaths throughout, and the Lenape Trail is 40-miles and runs along the eastern perimeter of the reservation. The popular Eagle Rock Red Trail Loop near West Orange is only 3.4 miles and winds through a lovely forest.

4. Watchung Reservation

Watchung Reservation is a 2000-acre park located in the heart of Union County. It has scenic trails, a dose of history, and is dog-friendly. I’ve previously written about 5 Fun Things to Do in the Watchung Reservation, and summer is a perfect time to explore these activities and all that the reservation has to offer. For example, the Watchung Reservation History Trail is a well-known walking path. It is approximately 6-miles long and marks different areas of historical interest in Union County. While enjoying the reservation, you can look for the Deserted Village of Feltville and read the different markers which identify the native flora and fauna.

5. Branch Brook Park

Designed by Frederick Olmstead, picturesque Branch Brook Park is very popular and draws visitors from all over New Jersey, especially during cherry blossom season. This beautiful 360-acre park offers art and music events throughout the year. With its lakes, fountains, and the largest collection and variety of cherry trees in the US, it’s no wonder it is a favorite walking destination for NJ residents.

The Branch Brook Loop offers 2.1 miles of smooth, pleasant walking trails with opportunities to add on more distance. The paved trails are ideal for walking at any skill level while taking in the picturesque natural setting—grassy green fields, trees, a church, lake, and streams. The park also has a fitness course for enthusiasts and a children’s garden, playground, and roller rink.

Whether you walk to exercise or as a way to enjoy family time outdoors, northern New Jersey is an ideal place to live with many parks and trails. The popular mobile app, AllTrails, outlines more than 100,000 trails, but if you are interested in learning more and would like a one-on-one town tour, I would be delighted to show you around a community of your choice. Contact Victoria Carter at (973) 220-3050, or email victoria@victoriacarter.com.

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