Winter sports give gliding through the season a whole new meaning. As the Garden State’s weather turns brisk and chilly, heat up under the dazzling lights of an ice skating rink or by the fire at a local ski lodge. Either way, the sights and sounds of winter in New Jersey come alive through outdoor sports activities. Want to try some out yourself?
If you’re hoping to dust off your snowboard or blow up some snow tubes, NJ has the best venues to keep things cool. With indoor and outdoor areas to practice your winter sports skills, the state offers a variety of places to explore. From the steep slopes of Mountain Creek to the ice fishing of Lake Hopatcong, there are activities for all ages. This 2021 guide captures all of the thrills and chills of the best New Jersey winter sports.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Mountain Creek – Vernon Township, NJ
If you’re looking for an excuse to catch the sights and crisp, fresh air, start at Mountain Creek in Vernon Township, New Jersey. At this skiing and snowboarding destination, huge mountain peaks tower around the Appalachian resort lodge to display the wonders of winter in New Jersey. Coast down the largest ski area in the region, where visitors of all skiing and snowboarding levels can participate in the fun of seasonal sports.
Let your thrills roll over into the evening to experience night skiing, or stay overnight in the lodge to enjoy everything from heated pools to arcade rooms. With 1,000 snow-making machines and terrain for every level, a variety of outdoor activities await at this ski resort.
Campgaw Mountain – Mahwah, NJ
The Winter Olympics start in February of 2022. There, all kinds of skiing and snowboarding competitions will be on display. Instead of waiting to watch the events on television, visit Campgaw Mountain in Mahwah to master the sports yourself.
At this learn-to-ski, learn-to-snowboard destination, a variety of terrains are available to practice honing your gliding skills. Instruction is available for visitors of all ages. The Cruiser program works with children ages four to six, offering complimentary hot chocolate at the end of lessons. For older crowds, the Mountain Masters program teaches beginner and intermediate instructions to test and challenge your abilities. And for even more thrills, Campgaw Mountain also provides an extensive and exciting snow-tubing slope.
Big Snow American Dream – East Rutherford, NJ
With a long-anticipated reopening in early 2022, Big Snow American Dream is North America’s first and only indoor, year-round ski and snowboard resort. Kept at a steady 28-degrees, this indoor facility ensures every day is a snow day. The venue is equipped with indoor ski lifts as well as several cafeterias on site.
For those looking to step outside the realm of classic winter sports, the snow dome also offers sno-go bike rentals for visitors to pedal their own paths. With lesson programs and private instruction, along with spectator tickets to watch the action unfold, Big Snow American Dream accommodates visitors of all skill levels and abilities.
High Point Cross Country Ski Center – Sussex, NJ
At High Point Cross Country Ski Center, located in the snowiest parts of northern New Jersey, experience a true combination of athletics and winter wonderlands. Throughout the terrains, this cross country skiing venue displays alpine plants, lakes, wildlife and hollows. The peak rests 16,000 feet above sea level, with roughly 10 miles of trails. There are terrains for each skill level, from beginner to expert.
Sledding & Snow Tubing
Allamuchy Mountain State Park – Hackettstown, NJ
There’s nothing like hovering above a hill, jogging a few paces, and launching forward on a snow tube during wintertime. I can still recall the days of my family linking tube handles and coasting down the snowy slope in a cluster of laughs and screams. The best sledding and snow tubing locations are hilly, wide, and isolated. Luckily, Allamuchy Mountain State Park meets all of this criteria.
With 9,200 acres of wooded winter wonderland, this mountainous area is a popular destination for New Jersey residents to grab their sleds and hit the slopes. A more scenic region, this state park also offers plenty of opportunities for snowshoeing and ice fishing. With a wide variety of activities, this is a great place for families and friends.
Flood’s Hill – South Orange, NJ
In life, it’s good to have obstacles. For sledding, however, it is not always ideal. At one of the most popular hills in all of New Jersey, enjoy wide-open slopes for sledding without obstruction from trees or other objects. Flood’s Hill, located at the northwest part of Meadowland Park, is a very steep slope that provides all the thrills of sledding and snow tubing. Though somewhat challenging for younger children, this location is perfect for several long hours of snowy, slick fun.
South Mountain Reservation – Millburn, NJ
For some, the ups and downs of sledding can be difficult––most notably the walk back up the hill! At South Mountain Reservation, located in Essex County, two hills accommodate different levels of ability. At the forefront, a small, wide hill is an easy climb for children. For more experienced tubers, a longer path behind the initial hill provides more of a thrill.
During the winter months, the surrounding treelines create an outdoor wonderland of winter scenery. This makes the perfect background for photos of family members sliding down the snowy hills together.
Belle Mountain – Lambertville, NJ
When talking about a slippery slope, Belle Mountain in Lambertville may come to mind. A very steep hill, with a 175-foot vertical drop, sits right beside Route 29 for older sledders and thrill-seekers. Also frequently attracting skiers and snowboarders, this steep slope is a challenging and excellent workout for winter sports enthusiasts. In fact, one of the longest trails to try stretches nearly 1,100 feet. After an afternoon workout here, be sure to visit the surrounding area of Lambertville for lunch or evening activities.
Fort Mott State Park – Pennsville, NJ
Searching for the best public snow tubing and sledding in South Jersey? Look no further than Fort Mott State Park. A former golf course, this 124-acre park is now largely used during the winter months by thrill and chill seekers. The park comprises small and large hills, each perfectly tailored towards different skill levels. These rolling hills are open from sunrise to dusk. And, if you’re hoping to explore more of the outdoors, there are also hiking and skiing trails to fully experience the Garden State’s scenic winter.
Flemington Ice Arena – Flemington, NJ
The magic of the holidays is always exemplified by the sounds of skates gliding on ice. For everything from freestyle ice skating to private lessons, the Flemington Ice Arena is one of the best facilities for families and friends of all ages. This popular indoor rink hosts a variety of events, including hockey games for children and adult leagues as well as figure skating lessons and competitions.
To truly get in the spirit of the holidays, visit Flemington Ice Arena on Dec. 19. There, families can experience brunch with Santa before hitting the ice and skating alongside him.
Skylands Ice World – Stockholm, NJ
There’s only one thing that makes freestyle skating across an open rink even better—music. At Skylands Ice World in Stockholm, New Jersey, Friday nights are devoted to the notorious Ice Jam. At this weekly event, the skating rink is lit up by performances from a live DJ, turning the facility into the perfect youth nightspot. Skylands Ice World hosts two NHL-size ice rinks and is also equipped with a snack bar and cafe for visitors. Offering everything from instructional hockey and figure skating to public recreational use, this New Jersey takes “cool” fun to a whole new level.
Winter Wonderland – Paramus, NJ
Nothing warms up the season faster than the lights of holiday festivals. Thankfully, during these brisk months, the Van Saun County Park is lit up in festive decor by the Bergen County Winter Wonderland event to accomplish exactly that. Along with the beautiful carousel, heated pavilion, and beer and wine gardens, the event is also widely renowned for its outdoor ice skating rink. Also offering skate rentals, this stunning attraction brings winter nights to life. In between skating, visit any of the delicious food trucks or exciting games for kids to make the night spectacular.
Ice House – Hackensack, NJ
The Garden State is home to many unique and extravagant facilities—one of which is Hackensack’s Ice House. The largest facility of its kind in the tri-state area, this facility hosts four NHL hockey rinks. With a full food court, party rooms, and a skate shop, this world-class skating venue is one of the most well-known throughout the region. Here, visitors can sign up for everything from skate camps to public skating. To watch ice skating in action, guests can also purchase tickets to watch competitive hockey games. Host to nearly 2,000 hockey and figure skaters, this popular destination is an excellent place to break the ice.
Vintner Wonderland – Egg Harbor City, NJ
Horse-drawn carriages and live entertainment in front of a festively-decorated winery could easily become scenes in a fairytale. But, at Vintner Wonderland, those moments and more are available throughout the winter months. At the Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City, visit the ice skating rink shimmering under the lights for an evening of wonder. Hosting local artisans, seasonal foods, a community food drive, and events throughout the month, the Vintner Wonderland remains a popular destination for New Jersey locals.
Newport Skates – Jersey City, NJ
At Newport Skates in Jersey City, the ice skating experience is a breath of fresh air. Sitting along the Hudson waterfront, this outdoor rink offers private lessons and recreational skating to guests of all ages and abilities. As the sun goes down, holiday lights dazzle along the ice’s surface to illuminate the evening. With plenty of room for family and friends, this is a popular destination for New Jersey locals. Parking at the River Market Garage is recommended.
Snowshoeing & Ice Fishing
Watchung Reservation – Mountainside, NJ
Hiking in the Garden State is a surreal experience. If you’re missing the chance to revisit nature, New Jersey hosts a special kind of winter hiking––snowshoeing. Best on smooth, flat terrain, like those featured at Watchung Reservation, locals can trudge through a winter wonderland like no other.
At Watchung Reservation, a six-mile snowshoeing trail displays everything from Lake Surprise to the deserted village of Feltville under a blanket of soft, untouched snow. Though more difficult than hiking during the summertime, the seasonal views are worth the effort.
Monmouth Battlefield – Monmouth County, NJ
While you can technically snowshoe on any open trail, one of the best places to crunch through the snow is Monmouth Battlefield. The site of one of the longest battles in the American Revolutionary War, this state park is rich with nature and history. Twenty-five miles of flat terrain makes an ideal setting for a winter hike through the winding paths of New Jersey’s forests. And, for an extra workout, bring your skis and snowboards to try any of the state park’s cross country skiing trails.
Jenny Jump State Forest – Hope, NJ
If you’re hoping for a challenging yet rewarding snowshoe hike, visit Jenny Jump State Forest in Hope, New Jersey. With 14 miles of trails displaying everything from meadows to lakes, Jenny Jump State Forest remains a popular destination for adventurers.
For the greatest feat, hike the Summit Trail. Peaking at an elevation of over 1,000 feet, this trail provides a panoramic view of the Great Meadows and Mountain Lake. A famous destination for cross-country skiing, this state park comes alive during the winter months. For wildlife enthusiasts, reserve a timeslot at Lakota Wolf Preserve after your hike to experience more of New Jersey’s seasonal ecosystem.
Swartswood Lake – Swartswood, NJ
New Jersey is filled with surprises. For local fishermen, Swartswood Lake is one of them. Located in Swartswood State Park—New Jersey’s first state park—this lake is notorious for its seasonal walleye fish. A trophy catch for many ice fishers, this lake has the best population in the region, making it a popular destination. This area has maintained its reputation for wildlife, from fish to bald eagles, giving patient ice fishermen plenty to experience while waiting for that first bite.
Lake Hopatcong – Morris & Sussex County, NJ
One of the most popular lakes in New Jersey, Lake Hopatcong is central to the state’s recreational fishing and watersports activities. Luckily, a sheet of ice across this historic lake isn’t enough to deter fishing. As New Jersey’s largest lake, a variety of winter fish, including pickerel, perch, and bass, circle below the surface.
Planning on taking up any of these New Jersey winter sports? Let us know in the comments!
Featured image by Ben Kitching