Sleep Under the Stars in Worthington State Forest

Enjoy riverfront camping with a sunset view.

Worthington State Forest

Shea Swenson & boyfriend Keith Schubert settle in at their campsite on the Delaware River after a tough hike to Sunfish Pond. Photo by James J. Connolly

Worthington State Forest’s rugged terrain and beautiful views, partnered with miles of trails and ample camping, make this wilderness area an ideal getaway for camping and hiking enthusiasts. The park, founded in 1945 and located in Warren County, encompasses 6,400 acres and more than 70 campsites scattered along the Delaware River; some, like the one we enjoyed, butt right up against the riverbank.

The quiet rush of the water served as the soundtrack to our stay. We cooked our dinner over a fire fueled by wood picked up at the campsite office. (The office closes at 4:30 pm; if arriving late, call ahead to purchase firewood.)

The campsites are divided into two sections: tent only and tent or trailer. With the tent-only sites closed during our stay due to Covid-19, we reserved our spot at one of the tent-or-trailer sites. Arriving at our spot along the unpaved access road—site number 036—we were delighted to find a lightly forested location with direct river access and gorgeous sunset views.

Farther down the road, the forest gives way to a grassy, meadowlike clearing. Here, the sites are larger and more open, but not all have river views or access. For the discerning camper, the park service website offers photos of each spot for a sneak peek before you book your reservation. Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table, and the grounds offer bathrooms with running water and a potable-water pump.

But we didn’t just come to camp. The area offers more than 26 miles of hiking trails. Trail maps are available at the campground office.

Just a few minutes’ drive down Old Mine Road from the campground office—or a short walk from the tent-and-trailer campsites—are several trailheads and a small parking lot. From here, an intermediate, steep hike leads to more trails, each marked with its own colored blazes.

We started on the orange-blazed Garvey Springs Trail. After huffing and puffing for more than a mile up an inclined stretch of the trail, through a beautiful, dense patch of forest, we seriously considered turning back. Instead, after a few well-earned breaks and a surge of determination, we persevered.

The trail finally leveled out and intersected with a small section of the Appalachian Trail. Heading west, the white-blazed AT took us to Sunfish Pond. Carved out by glaciers, the ancient, 44-acre pond is one of 14 rock-basis bodies of water between the Delaware Water Gap and the end of the Kittatinny Ridge. The trail—rocky most of the way, but especially so around the pond—wraps tightly around the water’s edge, providing stunning views and plenty of places to plop down for lunch or a long break. As tempting as it may be after the climb, swimming is not allowed.

After enjoying the tranquility of the pond, we started back to camp, staying on the AT until it intersected with the blue-blazed Douglas Trail. This brought us back where we had started, completing a nearly 8-mile loop.

Back at the campsite by late afternoon, we toasted to our adventure while gazing over the golden-hour glow on the river, settling in just in time to see an eagle swoop down to pick up a fresh fish dinner.

Worthington State Forest campsites are $20 per night for New Jersey residents, and $25 for non-residents. Visit njportal.com/DEP/NJOutdoors to book your stay. Reservations for the 2021 season may be limited or restricted due to Covid-19. Check the site for updates.

MORE FROM THIS PACKAGE:
Take a Ride Along the Delaware River

Grab a Kayak and Paddle the Pinelands
Test Your Agility on a Treetop Course
Hike the Wonders of Wawayanda State Park
Explore Two Attractions on Jersey’s Appalachian Trail
Get a Kick Out of Foot Golf

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