It is finally mid-to-late October, the peak time to catch the trees shedding their leaves in a spectacular display of vibrant red, orange, and yellow. As the scorching summer heat begins to fade and temperatures start to cool, there is no better time to immerse yourself in the breathtaking seasonal changes nature has to offer. Known as the Garden State, New Jersey boasts an abundance of state parks, tranquil lakes, and picturesque trails that offer many opportunities to experience the vibrant fall foliage. From hiking through colorful canopies to taking a scenic stroll along dirt paths, here are some of the best spots to capture the colors of autumn in New Jersey before winter arrives.
High Point State Park | Sussex, NJ
Holding its title as the highest elevation point in New Jersey, the High Point Monument boasts a picturesque landscape with a mix of lush farmland and dense forests adorned with soft hills and valleys. This breathtaking scenery stretches across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, providing a fantastic opportunity to soak in a 360 view of the vibrant autumn foliage. Several hiking trails are available for visitors to use alongside other areas for foliage viewing such as picnicking and camping activities. Admission to the park is complimentary, with operating hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The monument, however, can only be accessed between 8:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.
Ringwood State Park | Ringwood, NJ
This historic and charming oasis encompasses over 4,400 acres of land and offers visitors a range of recreational activities such as hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and more. It is also home to the historic Ringwood Manor – a 51-room mansion built in the 19th century and owned by well-acclaimed irons masters. Ringwood features a variety of landscapes including lush forests, fields, and gardens, ideal for a scenic fall adventure. Stroll along their impressive 25-mile hiking trail system as you enjoy breathtaking views of the signature autumn foliage colors. Admission to the park is free year-round, with daily hours spanning from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Additionally, tours of the mansion are available monthly from March to November.
Branch Brook Park | Newark, NJ
Although the spring display of cherry blossom trees is undoubtedly Branch Brook Park’s most famous attraction, visitors can also enjoy a stunning foliage exhibit during autumn. The park boasts a diverse collection of trees, including varieties such as maple, oak, and sycamore, which create a beautiful array of colors as the leaves change in the fall. This makes it an ideal destination for nature lovers and photographers alike, as they can capture the vibrant hues of orange, red, yellow, and gold that adorn the park during this season. Stroll through a portion of the 36-mile Lenape trail alongside other family-friendly activities available throughout the season such as live-themed events, roller skating, and even baseball and tennis on the surrounding fields and courts.
Cape May Point State Park | Cape May, NJ
Despite the Jersey Shore’s reputation as a summer destination, this coastal region offers stunning landscapes filled with vibrant fall scenery that is just waiting to be explored during the peak fall season. While Cape May Point State Park may not offer the same level of coverage as a state forest, it still boasts numerous opportunities to catch a glimpse of the vibrant autumn leaves. Breathtaking views of the Cape May peninsula painted with stunning shades of crimson and auburn can be viewed by guests from the historic Cape May Lighthouse, a towering 157-foot structure used as a crucial navigation tool even today. If heights aren’t your thing, take a stroll through the Cape May Point trail, a short 1.8-mile loup journey open year-round that offers accessibility for all guests to experience the tranquility and charm of this scenic location. Additionally, the park is strategically located along the annual path of the monarch butterfly migration, providing guests with the unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of butterflies fluttering among the colorful fall foliage.
Cheesequake State Park | Old Bridge, NJ
Located in Middlesex County, this 1,610-acre landscape takes visitors on a striking journey through a diverse array of ecosystems, including open fields, saltwater and freshwater marshes, an Atlantic white cedar swamp, pine habitats, and a northeastern hardwood forest. Guests can even gain a deeper understanding of the three unique habitats as well as learn about the previously inhabited Native American communities and early colonizers through their educational Interpretive Center. These natural forest and trail areas provide a perfectly relaxing view of picturesque fall foliage for the whole family, making it a must-stop on your annual tour. Enjoy free entry within park hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the Interpretive Center open Friday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area | Bushkill, PA
Running at an impressive length of 40 miles between the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania lies a scenic haven featuring breathtaking waterfalls, peaceful trails, and luscious greenery. As this vegetation turns from its summer green into the quintessential colors of autumn, visitors are invited to fill their itineraries hiking the Appalachian Mountains, paddling, picnicking, fishing, hunting, and more surrounded by the vibrant colors of the fall season. Additionally, there are opportunities to explore the rich history of the Delaware Valley through educational tours of popular sites such as Millbrook Village and Old Mine Road. Be sure to take full advantage of the peak autumn scenery with park hours occurring daily between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Duke Farms | Hillsborough, NJ
Duke Farms is one of the largest privately owned green spaces in New Jersey, consisting of a variety of natural habitats including scenic trails, gardens, lakes, and waterfalls. It is managed by the Doris Duke Foundation, established by the daughter of park founder James Buchanan, and is dedicated to promoting environmental conservation and sustainability. This historic 2,700-acre sanctuary provides plenty of opportunities for visitors to enjoy the colors of fall amongst flower gardens, paved trails, and even an orchid range greenhouse. Additionally, the park provides reserved shuttles that transport guests with limited mobility around the vast acres, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to bask in the breathtaking autumn views. Operating hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.Tuesday through Saturday, providing ample time for guests to explore the autumnal scenery.
Monmouth Battlefield State Park | Manalapan Township, NJ
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Located in Freehold Township, the Monmouth Battlefield State Park is a historic site that commemorates one of the most significant battles during the American Revolutionary War in 1178. Nestled within 1,800 acres of scenic landscape, this significant moment in American history is brought to life for visitors through tranquil walks and immersive educational programs. As you make your way through the various trails of the park sprouting with autumn shades, keep your eyes out for different animals native to the area, such as wild turkeys, deer, and red foxes. In fact, there are over one hundred different species of birds that call this park home, including red-tailed hawks, great-horned owls, and bluebirds. The park provides an exceptional opportunity to take an educational walk while admiring active wildlife against a beautiful backdrop of red, orange, and yellow hues.
Lake Hopatcong | Lake Hopatcong, NJ
As New Jersey’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Hopatcong provides a fantastic opportunity to catch a panoramic view of autumn’s vibrant colors. All year long, residents and visitors can partake in the various aquatic adventures the lake has to offer such as boating, swimming, sailing, kayaking, fishing, mini golfing, and more. Although boating tours are currently closed for the season, visitors can still enjoy a scenic fall leaf display with a diverse array of outdoor restaurants along the impressive 45-mile-long strip. Whether you choose to explore on land or by sea, there are plenty of opportunities to catch the stunning fall foliage with open hours daily from sunrise to sunset.
Wharton State Forest | Hammonton, NJ
Known as the largest state forest in New Jersey, this unique natural ecosystem boasts a wide variety of possibilities to observe fall’s beautiful amber hues through numerous hiking trails, campsites, and 500 miles of unpaved roads for an adventurous mountain biking or horseback riding journey. There are also various lakes and ponds available for wildlife observation as you bask in the scenic autumnal backdrop. Visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour through the rich history of Batsto Village, which served as a center for bog iron and glassmaking industries until the late 1800s. There are plenty of chances to experience the colors of fall with open hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and no entry fee is required.
Allamuchy Mountain State Park | Stanhope, NJ
This state park just miles away from the historic Waterloo Village is known for its remarkable views, diverse wildlife, and plentiful outdoor activities, making it a popular destination for hikers, campers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. There are several marked and unmarked trails spanning a total of 34 miles, each ranging from 1.5 to 9 miles in length with elevations occurring from 659 to 1,114 feet above sea level. The Musconetcong River gracefully flows through this radiant 9,200-acre park providing visitors with some of New Jersey’s best trout fishing you can find. Saunter through the several miles of crisscrossed trails, intertwined with leafy forests and flourishing marshlands, offering ample opportunities to immerse yourself in the stunning spectrum of colors that autumn has to offer.
Parvin State Park | Pittsgrove, NJ
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This classic South Jersey spot is a nature lover’s paradise complete with two beautiful lakes that are best for observing the picturesque display of oranges, reds, and yellows. Visitors can rent canoes or kayaks to take out right on the water for their viewing pleasure surrounded by the pine and swamp forests. Trails are abundant for strolling, hiking, mountain biking, and a wheelchair-accessible trail so all can enjoy the beauty of nature. Campsites for an extended view of the fall foliage can be reserved on their official website, with 56 individual, group, and pet-friendly campsites available from April 1st until November 30.
About the Author/s
Laura DeSiena is a certified Jersey Girl with a passion for music, playing the guitar, and binge-watching 90’s sitcoms. As an aspiring writer and author, she hopes to publish a book someday. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her browsing the shelves of Barnes & Noble in search of her next read.