If you ever find yourself in North Central New Jersey (the pretty part, yes there is a pretty part!) and looking for a place to spend some quality time allow me to suggest Hacklebarney State Park. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic, hike, a little trout fishing, or simply getting back to nature. Perhaps more importantly it’s one of the best places on the planet to take your pooch.
Located near Chester Township, Hacklebarney State Park is almost 1200 acres of forest featuring, among other plant species, American ginseng, Hemlock, Leatherwood, and Virginia Pennywort all looking down on the flowing, occasionally rushing, waters of the Black River. Numerous trails get you from point A to point B to point C and back again. All are well marked but at times you will be convinced you’ve wandered off the beaten path only to find a blue, red, or yellow painted mark on a tree up ahead telling you to keep putting one foot in front of the next. On some of the trails the task of putting those feet in front of each other can be difficult thanks to rocks, roots, downed trees and narrow passages but others pathways are wide, well marked and easily passable.
It’s all made easier, of course, if you are led along the way by man’s best friend. Our dog has no trouble at all navigating even the most daunting looking trails especially if they lead her to the cool, refreshing waters of the Black River for a drink. Dog or no dog if you wander through Hacklebarney you’ll pass families, friends, fishermen and women, and nature lovers all taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the park. While there may be hundreds of cars in the parking lot and that many people, or more, in the park you can find yourself alone on certain trails for hundreds and hundreds of yards.
The park is “carry in, carry out” meaning there are no trash receptacles on the property so everything you have with you when you enter is expected to be with you when you exit. Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the trails feature elevation changes that are sure to elevate your heart rate. It’s all downhill to the Black River which means, of course, it’s straight up the hill to get back to your car but you don’t have to hike all the way down to the river. You can wander along the Rinehart or Trout Brooks (tributaries that feed the river) and enjoy lunch or a snack at one of the dozens of picnic tables (some with accompanying barbecues).
If your perception of the Garden State is the Newark airport, the Meadowlands or one of the
many exits off the Turnpike I hope you’ll expand your horizons and find your way to Morris County and enjoy an hour, an afternoon or an entire day at Hacklebarney State Park. For more information check out http://www.state.nj.us and click on “Things to do” or google Hacklebarney State Park.