The List: 10 Great New Jersey Bike Trails to Help Get You Psyched for Cycling

Meir Rinde | March 7, 2016 | The List
Ocean views, picturesque towns, historic sites, and a paradise for birders are just a few of the reasons to bike or hike the Garden State

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New Jersey boasts hundreds of miles of bike trails and routes around the state, ranging from family-friendly paved paths and beach boardwalks to gnarly, muddy forest trails designed to challenge mountain bikers.

Some trails are less than a mile long, while others wind for 40 miles or more. Intrepid riders can stitch together trails and roads to create extensive tours, including a 238-mile, top-to-bottom ride that takes cyclists from the state’s northernmost corner in High Point State Park to its southernmost at Cape May Point.

This list of some of the best sites focuses on mid-length and long trails that capable cyclists will find inviting. They are listed in descending order by the length of biking trails in each park.

Always remember to wear a bike helmet when riding, and watch for pedestrians, cars, horses, and other bicyclists. For more tips, tour maps and other resources, visit the state Department of Transportation bike recreation site or individual park sites.

1. Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park

The D&R Canal towpath, once used by donkeys pulling boats on the canal, is a smooth, mostly flat riding and walking route. The nearly 70-mile path consists of crushed stone in parts. Running from Frenchtown down to Trenton and then up to New Brunswick, and accessible at several entrances, it offers picturesque views of nature and small towns.

2. Patriots Path

This trail system across Morris County, from East Hanover to Washington Township, includes 35 miles of mountain-biking routes, with some portions suitable for road bikes as well. The varying surface material includes earth and rock in some sections, crushed stone and gravel in others, and short paved portions in Morristown and Morris Township.

3. Cape May Shoreline

Though more of a route than a trail, this 34-mile loop on streets around the lower end of the Cape May Peninsula is a classic New Jersey ride, with plentiful beach and ocean views and places to stop at restaurants and other attractions. Highlights include Cape May Point State Park, with its lighthouse and visitor center.

4. Delaware Water Gap

This national park’s many scenic byways include Old Mine Road, a paved vehicular road that parallels the Delaware River for 34 miles and passes numerous historic sites. Another nearby option is the McDade Recreational Trail, a 32-mile gravel cycling trail on the river’s Pennsylvania side.

5. Paulinskill Valley Trail

The 27-mile former railroad bed in Warren and Sussex counties is one of two trails in Kittatinny Valley State Park, along with the similar 21-mile Sussex Branch Trail. The Paulinskill trail runs along a Delaware River tributary from Sparta Junction to Knowltown Township. The path is mostly straight and flat and is used by horseback riders, hikers, and cross-country skiers in the winter.

6. Belleplain State Forest

The park in Cape May and Cumberland counties offers camping and other activities in addition to trail hiking and biking. In addition to some 20 miles of dirt trails suitable for mountain bikes, the park’s paved roads and paths allow more leisurely road biking. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, admission for vehicles is $5 for NJ residents and $10 for non-residents on weekdays, and $10/$20 on weekends. Bike riders enter for free.

7. Ringwood State Park

A relatively rugged 20-mile network of trails runs through Bergen and Passaic counties, with mountain riders describing a challenging terrain of rock, fallen trees, and steep drop-offs. One popular 7.5-mile loop begins in the park’s Shepard Lake area. Drivers pay an entrance fee, which varies by location, residence, and day of the week, while admission for bikers and walkers is free.

8. Hartshorne Woods Park

The 10 miles of bike trail in this wooded Monmouth County park are considered among the best in the state, with varying terrain and difficulty levels. Some areas are appropriate for kids, while rougher sections are favored by mountain bikers. Riders enjoy views of the ocean, Sandy Hook, and the Navesink River.

9. Island Beach State Park

The main road of this barrier island park, between Barnegat Bay and the ocean, offers nine miles of easy riding on a paved surface. Most of the route offers little in the way of views, but the park is a paradise for birding, and the beach and bay can be reached by short walking paths from the road. Entrance fee for vehicles.

10. Cooper River Park

A 3.8-mile family-friendly paved path in Camden County takes bicyclists, roller bladers, joggers, and walkers through a verdant park and over two bridges across the Cooper River. In addition to the river views, the park has sports facilities, picnic tables, yacht club, restrooms, and other amenities. If the trail is too congested, cyclists can also use the road that circles the park.

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