Whether you’re new to hiking with toddlers and young children or you’re looking for a different trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, members of the New Jersey branches share three beautiful hikes in their state to explore with young children.
When you think of New Jersey, the first thing that comes to mind might be “Snooki,” “The Situation” or the Real Housewives of New Jersey. It’s not likely your first thought is hiking, trails or nature. Well, it didn’t get the nickname “The Garden State” for nothing. Believe it or not, New Jersey has some beautiful terrain, trails and parks just waiting for you to explore.
Hiking with young children (too big for a carrier but under 5 years old) will always be an adventure, taking into account their propensity to wander, explore and gallivant. No matter how “adventurous” hiking with young children may seem, it is definitely worth it! While there is an abundance of trails to explore in New Jersey, our local Hike it Baby branches recommend these three hikes in particular. They are all beautiful as well as easily manageable for young children.
Cheesequake State Park (Old Bridge, NJ)
Total Mileage: 8.5 (Five trails ranging from .3 miles to 3.1 miles)
This trail boasts great views of coastal saltmarsh as well as upland forest. There are plenty of places where you can switch trails to make your hike shorter or longer (depending on the little people’s moods). The trails are challenging but not to the extent that a new or non-hiker wouldn’t have fun. This park has great trails for all abilities, including toddlers!
Bonus: Large parking lot, camping, canoeing, swimming, Nature Center located just by the trail head, comprehensive trail guide available
Website: Cheesequake State Park
Photo Credit: Maricar Korff
Kinkora Trail (Columbus, NJ)
Total Mileage: 4 (One trail out and back)
This is a fabulous trail for all ages. The entire path is wide and paved (it’s also perfect for strollers and bikes). It is an out and back so you can do whatever distance is comfortable for you and your family. What makes this trail truly special is that you walk through beautiful woods, fields and farmland while enveloped in the sounds and silence of nature.
Bonus: Bathrooms, playground
Website: Kinkora Trail
Photo credit: Heather Yale
Cape May Point State Park (Cape May Point, NJ)
Total Mileage: 4 (Three trails: Red – .5, Yellow – 1.5, Blue – 2)
This park features walking, hiking and nature trails. The terrain includes ponds, birding platforms, wetland marsh, dunes, forested trails and beaches. Each of the three trails is short enough to be done with small children. There are virtually no elevation changes, making the hike extremely easy for all. Throughout the hike, there are beautiful views of the beach and lighthouse (it is fun to have the kids spot the lighthouse at various points on the trails). The red trail is boardwalk-style and wheelchair-accessible. The beach at the state park is free and does not require beach tags.
Bonus: The Cape May Point Lighthouse, large parking lot, picnic pavilion, clean bathrooms, free beaches, handicap-accessible (red trail), nature center with children’s exhibit and occasional children’s programs
Website: Cape May Point State Park
Photo Credit: Christa Shaughnessy
More Resources for Families with Young Children
New Jersey boasts many trails for families with young children. For more family hike ideas, see:
- List of NJ State Parks, Forests, and Recreation Areas
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with the NJ branches)
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
- 10 Tips to keep kids moving on the trail
- Hiking with 3 under 3
- 3 Beautiful hikes in Washington State for young children
Do you have a favorite New Jersey trail to hike with toddlers and young children? Let us know in the comments!