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Tucked between towering skyscrapers and asphalt is a hiker’s oasis: 1 million acres of uninterrupted forest. The result of glacial and climatic activity, the Pine Barrens is an ecological kaleidoscope where plants at their northernmost and southernmost limits mingle. Each step of the 50-mile Batona Trail takes in pitch pine, cedar, oak, orchids, huckleberries, white-tailed deer, snakes, and more. Just watch your step—this is home to the legendary Jersey Devil!
Contact: Wharton State Forest, (609) 561-0024; www.state.nj.us/dep/forestry/parks.
Like hungry hounds to a juicy steak, nature-starved Jerseyites flock to High Point State Park. Most stick to the valley trails, though, leaving the high ground to backpackers. A weekend on the Appalachian Trail here offers views of three states and rolling hills interrupted only by the Delaware River, a lazy blue ribbon winding below.
Contact: High Point State Park, (973) 875-4800; www.state.nj.us/dep/forestry/parks.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
The obvious plan: Float the Wild and Scenic Delaware River. The adventurous plan: Earn a hawk’s-eye view atop the Kittatinny Ridge by backpacking 25 miles of Appalachian Trail. Look for bald eagles and other raptors on this migration corridor, but don’t keep your head in the clouds too long or you’ll miss the black bears.
Contact: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, (570) 588-2435; www.nps.gov/dewa.