Despite its reputation, New Jersey has much more to offer than just highways and developed land. In fact, much of the state has beautiful, vibrant landscapes. Among NJ’s mountains, forests, rivers and lakes are plenty of options for outdoor activities. Tent camping is a great way to fully experience the outdoors and to appreciate the natural beauty of New Jersey. Depending on the site, it’s a great place to take the whole family for an affordable weekend getaway.
While “glamping”—camping without sacrificing the luxuries of the indoors—has infiltrated many of New Jersey’s camping communities, traditional camping is still very much alive. With a mix of both public and private establishments, here are the best places to go tent camping in New Jersey:
1. Stephens State Park- Hackettstown, NJ
The Musconetcong River runs through Stephens State Park creating great spots for fishing, especially since every spring it’s stocked with trout. Picnic tables along the river, as well as six miles of marked hiking trails, make for no shortage of daytime activities. All 40 sites include fire rings and wooden tables and are within walking distance of flush toilets. Sites open April 1 through Oct 31.
2. The Great Divide- Newton, NJ
Covering over 100 acres of land, The Great Divide is a massive compound including 270 campsites. The sites designated for tents have fire rings, tables and are within walking distance from restrooms with showers. This campground also has the unique service of firewood and ice delivery directly to your campsite. There’s a private lake for fishing and boating, but no swimming–there’s actually a pool for that. The main attractions to The Great Divide are the amenities which are all surprisingly well maintained.
3. High Point State Park- Wantage Township, NJ
Located all the way on the northwest tip of New Jersey, High Point State Park has a very mountainous terrain along with other nearby natural features that make it a great place to get active on your trip. Breathtaking views of the park and surrounding area can be found atop High Point Monument, which is a short hike away from your campsite. A portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through the park, holding more astonishing views. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, guests can swim in Lake Marcia. High Point has 50 tent sites with fire rings and picnic tables as well as two group campsites that hold up to 35 people.
4. Turkey Swamp Park- Freehold, NJ
With 64 sites for tents or trailers, (cabins also available) as well as water and electricity at every site, Turkey Swamp fuses traditional camping with glamping. In addition to picnic tables and fire pits, each site conveniently has a charcoal grill. Their pond creates ample opportunities for fun with canoes, rowboats, kayaks and paddleboats all available to rent. It’s also loaded with bass and catfish.
5. Belleplain State Forest- Woodbine, NJ
Covering almost 23,000 acres, Belleplain State Forest is one of the five forests located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens covers over one million acres across seven counties in the southeast section of New Jersey. Belleplain was established as a state-protected recreation area way back in 1928. In the center is Lake Nummy, surrounded by 169 tent sites with fire rings and picnic tables. Its 50 miles of hiking trails are largely used for bird watching.
6. Allaire State Park- Howell, NJ
Allaire State Park is just like any other state park on this list except for one crucial difference- Allaire has dinosaurs. Within the forest, New Jersey artist, Robin Ruggerio, has taken it upon herself to build a dinosaur art exhibit out of fallen branches. The traditional campground has 45 tent and trailer sites over 3,000 acres of land. The Manasquan River runs through the park and is annually stocked with trout. Deer hunting is actually allowed in designated areas as well.
7. Round Valley Recreation Area- Lebanon, NJ
Round Valley is one of the few state parks that offers wilderness camping, meaning you can’t drive your car to your campsite. Instead, you must park roughly three miles away and hike to the site. This is a much different experience from packing up the car with all your supplies and food. Wilderness camping forces you to pack light, since you can’t bring big heavy things like firewood or a portable grill.
Round Valley Reservoir covers over 2,000 acres and is the deepest body of water in New Jersey (180 feet). It has 85 wilderness sites with fire rings which are within walking distance to pit toilets and drinking water. The area also has four hiking trails which vary between one and nine miles. This isn’t the most family-friendly site on this list, but great for experienced, serious campers.
8. Bass River State Forest- Tuckerton, NJ
Back in 1905, New Jersey acquired their first state forest, Bass River. The purpose was for public recreation, water conservation, and wildlife/timber management. Today, the forest is most used as a campground including 176 tent and trailer sites with fire rings and picnic tables. Each site holds up to six people and two vehicles. Group sites are also available to accommodate up to 25 people. A piece of the 50-mile Batona Trail runs through Bass River marked pink. In the center of the campground is the 67-acre Lake Absegami, which gets used for swimming, boating and canoeing. Around the lake are picnic tables, charcoal grills, restrooms and a playground.
9. Worthington State Forest- Columbia, NJ
Located on Kittatinny Ridge and adjacent to the Delaware Water Gap, Worthington State Forest is a great place for scenic camping along the Delaware River. It has 23 tent-only and 52 tent/trailer sites, spanning over 6,4000 acres. Visitors can enjoy over 26 miles of hiking trails, one of which leads to the 44-acre Sunfish Pond. One trail even leads to the top of Mt Tammany, which holds a miraculous 360-degree view of the Delaware Water Gap.
10. Stokes State Forest- Sussex County, NJ
One of the more mountainous tent camping sites in New Jersey, Stokes State Forest varies between 420 to 1,653 feet above sea level. There’s 33 miles of marked trails including 12.5 miles of the renowned Appalachian Trail. The 51-tent sites vary from very secluded to open, natural land along the river. Some sites at Stokes are actually open all year long. Group sites are also available, holding between 10 to 45 people depending on the site.
11. Mohican Outdoor Center- Blairstown, NJ
If you’re looking for a rustic and private place to go tent camping, Mohican Outdoor Center in Blairstown, New Jersey is the campground for you. Catfish Pond is in the heart of the facility which provides some lovely views right from your campsite. Guests can explore the land with the Beaver Swamp hiking trail, starting April 1 when the campground opens for the spring season.
12. Wawayanda State Park- Hewitt, NJ
The main appeal to this state park is the enormous, 255-acre Wawayanda Lake. Visitors can swim in it between Memorial Day and Labor Day, as well as fish any time of year. The whole complex covers over 40,000 acres, including a 19.6-mile section of the Appalachian Trail. Additionally, there are over 40 miles of other hiking trails, some of which go through Wawayanda Mountain, creating some stunning views of the surrounding land.
13. Mullica River (in Wharton State Forest)- Hammonton, NJ
Wharton State Forest has plenty of places to camp, but the most intriguing spots are along the Mullica River. They only offer wilderness camping by the river since it’s only accessible by foot or boat. The location is the selling point of the Mullica River, being in the heart of the New Jersey Pinelands Reserve as well as having access to the Batona Trail. There are also unpaved roads that are often used for horseback riding or mountain biking. It’s also a great place to see some diverse wildlife such as bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, turkeys, beavers, fox and deer.
14. Camp Taylor- Columbia, NJ
Spanning over 400 acres in the mountains of Northwest New Jersey is the family-owned, Camp Taylor. They have 150 sites that vary between tent-only, tent with electric and water, cabins, and RV sites. They also have a two-acre lake which is used primarily for swimming. The campground is right next to Worthington State Forest, The Delaware River Gap and Appalachian Trail. Camp Taylor is perfect for those looking for a simple trip somewhere that isn’t thousands of acres big. Reservations open May 1.
Have a favorite tent camping site in New Jersey? Let us know in the comments below.
Main photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh