Dog-friendly hiking trails to discover in New Jersey

Want to spend some time in the great outdoors of New Jersey? Take your dog with you on your next hike or hike.

Not only will this provide a beautiful way to see some of our state’s most spectacular sights, but you and your dog will benefit physically and mentally from the fresh air and exercise.

Before leaving for your excursion, be sure to pack plenty of water, a water bowl, snacks and meals for you and your pooch. “Don’t rely on natural bodies of water – streams, rivers, the ocean, etc. – to keep your dog hydrated. These can actually be very harmful,” advises Dr. Christina Montalbano, a veterinarian who is part of NorthStar VETS Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Team.

Also consider the terrain you will be spending the day on and be sure to bring the proper gear and clothing for your pet.

Union County

Designed by the famous Olmsted brothers, sons of Fredrick Law Olmsted, the famous designer of Central Park in New York and themselves designers of the South Mountain Reservation in New Jersey, as well as parks in Verona, High Point and Branch Brook , the Watchung Reservation spans over 2,000 acres of unspoiled land in northern New Jersey. The 10.3-mile, pink-hued Historic Trail winds through the Union County Park System along a series of historical and geologic sites, including the remains of the 1800s old mill town of Feltville, which are marked with signs with fun facts. Lined with trees with plenty of shade and doggy bags for easy cleanup, this trail is the perfect forest walk for an active pup. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times. Be sure to take in the serene beauty of Surprise Lake along the way, a great place to rest, eat lunch, and play fetch.

Monmouth County

This 664-acre park in the heart of central New Jersey is home to over 10 miles of trails, with levels ranging from easy to difficult. Hit the paved half-mile loop connecting the Pond View and Forest Edge areas for a relaxed ride with Fido. Another must-see spot in the park is the charming David C. Shaw Arboretum, comprised of 22 acres of ornamental trees and shrubs. Then, settle into one of the park’s picnic areas with lunch for you and Fido. Leashes are mandatory.

Monmouth County

A former railway right-of-way, this flat, paved trail stretches for 24 miles. The southern section takes people and mutts from Marlboro to Freehold through woods and fields, while the northern section stretches from Aberdeen to the Atlantic Highlands, offering 14 miles of shoreline views. With wetlands, streams, forest, and a beach visible from the 10-foot-wide trail, this trail has something for everyone. Pooches must be kept on a leash.

Camden County

This 2.8 mile trail offers mountainous views of the pine forests of southern Jersey. Paved in its entirety and considered a moderate walk, it is also lined with benches for those times when you or your dog need a break for a drink or a rest. The stairs above the slopes are a great way to see the Philadelphia skyline. Wildlife like deer and rabbits are often seen by hikers, so be sure to keep your dog on a leash at all times. Parking is available at Pole Hill Park in Gibbsboro.

ocean county

Take in the beauty of Barnegat Bay on one of six walking trails in this 530-acre park. For a good look at the wildflowers that cover the lands of the Toms River, take the Butterfly Bogs Trail, a 2.4-mile windy trail overlooking the bay. For a shorter walk, the Island Trail Loop is a flat trail of just over 3 km lined with blue markers and, often, osprey.

Mercer County

Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve offers a 2.3 mile loop that is a flat walk with lots of shade. The path is marked by a vast lake visible from the brick bridge, leading through the rocky path bordered by forests with streams. This 400-acre park sits just north of downtown Princeton, making it easy to get into town afterwards for an alfresco meal at a dog-friendly restaurant or a leisurely stroll around the beautiful campus of the Princeton University.

Monmouth County

Head to Thompson Park to see the vast scenic fields of Lincroft. With 14 miles of multi-use trails, the park has seven trails ranging from easy to moderate. A paved path to make getting around on foot easier is the Thompson Loop, a 4.2-mile loop trail through the central and northern portions of the park. For a shorter walk with Fido, try the Inner Loop, a 1.2-mile route that takes walkers from the playground to Lake Marlu and back (with a 0.8-mile shortcut). For high-energy dogs ready for a challenge, try the Reservoir Loop, a 7.8km path around the Swimming River Reservoir and Lake Marlu through Lincroft Forest.

Middlesex County

A prime location where a northern hardwood forest meets a southern Pine Barrens ecosystem, Cheesequake consists of open fields, saltwater and freshwater marshes, and a hardwood forest with five trails to see all sites. Choose from red, yellow, green or blue trails for hiking and walking. Choose the best trail option for you and your pup’s strength, with lengths ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 miles and easy to moderate inclines. Keep in mind there are bikers on the white trail.

This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer issue of NorthStar VETERINARIANS‘Pet Perspective magazine. Read the full issue digitally here.

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