Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails to Check Out in NJ

The Garden State's gorgeous trails, parks and beaches are the perfect backdrop for a day of fun.

Dog in the woods
A hike with your pooch is a good way to have fun and get health benefits. Photo by Shutterstock

Craving some time in New Jersey’s great outdoors? Bring your dog along for your next hike or trail walk.

Not only will it provide a beautiful way to see some of our state’s most spectacular sights, but both you and your pooch will benefit physically and mentally from the fresh air and exercise.

Before leaving for your excursion, make sure to pack plenty of water, a water bowl, and snacks and meals for both you and your pooch. “Do not rely on natural bodies of water—creeks, rivers, ocean, etc.—for your dog to stay hydrated. These can actually be very harmful,” advises Dr. Christina Montalbano, a veterinarian who is part of NorthStar VETS’ rehabilitation and sports medicine team.

Also consider the terrain where you’ll be spending the day, and make sure to bring appropriate gear and pieces of clothing for your pet.

Watchung Reservation History Trail

Union County

Planned by the famed Olmsted brothers—sons of Fredrick Law Olmsted, the famed designer of New York City’s Central Park and themselves the designers of New Jersey’s South Mountain Reservation, plus Verona, High Point and Branch Brook parks—the Watchung Reservation sits on more than 2,000 acres of preserved land in northern New Jersey. The 6.3-mile, pink-blazed History Trail traverses Union County’s parks system along a series of historic and geological sites—including the remnants of the former 1800s mill town Feltville—which are marked by signs with fun factoids. Lined by trees with lots of shade and doggy bags for easy cleanup, this trail makes for the perfect forest jaunt for an active pup. Dogs must be kept on leashes at all times. Be sure to take in the serene beauty of Lake Surprise along the way—a great spot for a rest, lunch and game of fetch.

Holmdel Park

Monmouth County

This 664-acre park in the heart of central New Jersey is home to more than 10 miles of trails, with levels ranging from easy to challenging. Hit the paved half-mile loop connecting the Pond View and Forest Edge sectors for a relaxed walk with Fido. Another must-see spot in the park is the lovely David C. Shaw Arboretum, which is made up of 22 acres of ornamental trees and shrubs. Afterward, settle into one of the park’s picnic areas with lunch for both you and Fido. Leashes are required.

Henry Hudson Trail

Monmouth County

A former railroad right-of-way, this paved, flat trail spans 24 miles. The southern portion takes people and pooches from Marlboro to Freehold through woods and fields, while the northern part spreads from Aberdeen to the Atlantic Highlands, boasting 14 miles of shoreline views. With wetlands, streams, forest and beach viewable from the 10-foot-wide path, this trail has something for everyone. Pooches must be leashed.

Blueberry Hill Loop

Camden County

This 1.8-mile trail offers a mountainous view through South Jersey’s Pine Barrens. Paved in its entirety and rated as a moderate walk, it is also lined with benches for moments when you or your pooch need to break for water or rest. Stairs over the inclines make for a great way to see the Philadelphia skyline. Wildlife like deer and rabbits are often seen by hikers, so be sure to keep your dog leashed at all times. Parking is available at Pole Hill Park in Gibbsboro.

Cattus Island County Park

Ocean County

See the beauty of Barnegat Bay on one of six walking trails in this 530-acre park. To get a good look at the wildflowers covering the grounds of Toms River, take to the Butterfly Bogs Trail, a breezy, 2.4-mile trail overlooking the bay. For a shorter walk, the Island Trail Loop is a flat, just-over-2-mile path lined with blue markers and, often, ospreys.

Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve

Mercer County

Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve features a 2.3-mile loop that is a flat walk with a lot of shade. The path is marked by an expansive lake to be seen from the brick bridge, leading through the forest-lined rock path with creeks. This 400-acre park is just north of the center of Princeton, making it easy to head into town afterward for an outdoor meal at a dog-friendly restaurant or a leisurely stroll around the gorgeous campus of Princeton University.

Thompson Park

Monmouth County

Take to Thompson Park to see the vast, picturesque fields of Lincroft. With 14 miles of multiuse paths, the park has seven trails ranging from easy to moderate. One paved path for easier foot travels is the Thompson Loop, a 4.2-mile loop trail through the center and northern portions of the park. For a shorter walk with Fido, try the inner loop, a 1.2-mile route that takes walkers from the playground to Marlu Lake and back (with a 0.8-mile shortcut). For high-energy dogs up for a challenge, try the Reservoir Loop, a 4.8-mile path around the Swimming River Reservoir and Marlu Lake through the Lincroft forest.

Cheesequake State Park

Middlesex County

A prime location where a northern hardwood forest meets a southern Pine Barrens ecosystem, Cheesequake consists of open fields, saltwater and freshwater marshes, and a hardwood forest with five trails to see all of the sights. Pick from the red, yellow, green or blue trails for hiking and walking use. Choose the best trail option for your and your pup’s strength, with lengths ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 miles and easy to moderate inclines. Keep in mind that there are bikers on the white trail.

This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer edition of NorthStar VETS’ Pet Perspective magazine. Read the full issue digitally here

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