Stephens State Park

Contrary to popular belief, New Jersey is one of the most beautiful states in the country. This might not be the case near the New York City area, but there is a lot more to New Jersey than its northeastern section. While it would be impossible to choose the most beautiful area of New Jersey, one place that should definitely be in the Top 10 is Stephens State Park. This is an 805-acre park with plenty to do. What makes it special is that it’s one of the few New Jersey state parks that offer so much activity and serenity at the same time. It’s possible to sit and eat a peaceful picnic lunch while overlooking the Musconetcong River while someone else is preparing his electric or gas motorboat down the river for a day of fishing. A third party might be rock climbing on the other side of the park. And someone else may be riding a horse on a hidden trail. It’s possible to visit Stephens State Park a dozen times and still have a lot left to see and do.

There are many other advantages to visiting Stephens State Park. One is that there is no entrance fee. You may come and go as you please. Like most state parks in New Jersey, the park hours are from sunrise to sunset. The office hours are from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday. The address for the park is 800 Willow Grove Street, Hackettstown, NJ 07840. And the phone number is 908-852-3790.

One of the neatest features at the park is Waterloo Village. This is different from most historic villages because it doesn’t focus on only one period of time. You can see and experience a replica of a 1600s Indian village or a Morris Canal port from the 1800s, where there are mills, a general store, a blacksmith, and several houses from that era. If you’re not into history and prefer nature, there are also interpretive nature programs. These programs are also free. To partake in one, simply show up at 1 p.m.

Stephens State Park features six miles of marked trails. That might not sound like a lot, but quality is more important than quality. The workers at this park take a lot of pride in their jobs – and their trails. Not only are the trails kept in mint condition, but they range from flat to steep to rocky. These trails are definitely more challenging than what you will find in most state parks in New Jersey, so prepare accordingly. And if you’re planning on mountain biking or horseback riding, you’re in for a special treat. Even an experienced mountain biker will find these trails challenging. And a horseback ride will be more exciting than relaxing. On a side note, two miles of the Highlands Trail runs through the park. If you have any interest in hiking the Highlands Trail in the future, this is a good opportunity to see what it’s like.

It is possible to camp overnight. In most cases, it’s a first come, first serve situation. This is in regards to the forty tents and trailers that are available. These sites come with fire rings and/or picnic tables. And if you’re not into full-fledged camping, there are toilets only a few yards away. These sites only cost $20 per night. If you’re looking to make a large reservation, this is possible at the Group Picnic Shelter. The cost is $80 per night and reservations must be made at least five days ahead of time. If you have to cancel, you will be charged $40. The Group Picnic Shelter is available all year. The smaller camping sites are available from 4/1 to 10/31.