You do not have to travel far to give your family a day of outdoor adventure. Whether you want to spot wildlife, hike, bike, kayak, take nature education classes or photograph the local splendor, there is plenty to discover in our picturesque county. Here are just a few places to get you started.
Sourland Mountain Preserve
Those who crave hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching, bouldering and horseback riding in an undisturbed natural setting can spend hours forgetting their cares at the 6,300-acre Sourland Mountain Preserve. Rich in natural resources, the area offers many stream corridors, geologic outcrops and an ecological preserve that provides a core habitat for diverse animals and plants. This is a great destination if you want solitude.
421 East Mountain Rd., Hillsborough
A visit to Duke Farms—the former estate of heiress-environmentalist Doris Duke—transports you to another world where you can experience the glories of New Jersey’s native landscape. Hike, bike and take frame-worthy photos on over 1,000 acres. Scan the sky for the resident bald eagles. Register for an educational program to learn more about habitats and ecological sustainability. Also, check out the farmer's market and bring home the finest local produce.
1112 Dukes Parkway West, Hillsborough
Washington Valley Park
Located between the first and second Watchung Mountains at the geographic center of Somerset County, Washington Valley Park offers pine and hemlock forests, open freshwater wetland marshes, impressive rock outcroppings, historic features and a 21-acre reservoir. The more than seven miles of trails offer some of the best mountain biking in the state. The park’s Hawk Watch area is one of the East Coast’s premier locations to watch thousands of raptors migrate south every autumn.
Access the park from Vosseller Ave. at Millers Lane or on Newmans Lane
Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve
The 170-acre preserve offers a number of opportunities to immerse yourself in the environment, from nature walks, bird watching and catch-and-release fishing to photography, painting and nature-journaling. Explore five miles of trails through fields and woods, a small pond, a bird and butterfly garden, two rain gardens, a restored 1800s barn complex and a historic farmhouse and cottage. Also check out its robust calendar of workshops and discover more about our local natural world.
2121 Larger Cross Rd., Bedminster
Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park
Nothing is finer on a brilliant summer day than strolling, biking or jogging on the path alongside the D&R Canal, which connects several counties. Throw a line in and see what fish—bass, sunfish, catfish—you can catch. Or slip your canoe in the water and view the path from a different perspective. A fun family game: Guess how many turtles you’ll see sunning themselves on logs during your journey. The person who comes closest gets ice cream.
The 685-acre Colonial Park offers scenic frontage on both the historic Delaware & Raritan Canal and the Millstone River and is a lovely setting to enjoy a leisurely family walk capped by a picnic. Be sure to visit the prize-winning horticultural displays. Sports enthusiasts will delight in a 1.4-mile fitness parcourse. The park’s three ponds—stocked each year by the New Jersey State Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife—offer anglers of all ages prime fishing opportunities.
156 Mettlers Rd., Somerset
Duke Island Park
Duke Island Park is a haven for those who yearn to get away from it all—but still stay close to home. It is truly an island: The park is situated between the historic Raritan Power Canal and the Raritan River. People on wheels of all kinds—bikes, scooters, skates—can be found on the trails that snake along the river. A bonus: the park’s amazing play area, dedicated to the memory of local artist and musician Raymond Willis Brown.
191 Old York Rd., Bridgewater
Environmental Education Center
Nestled within 500 acres of the western portion of the Great Swamp, the flowering meadows, sun-soaked wood edges and wetland marshes at the Environmental Education Center provide an exceptional opportunity for spotting a wide variety of species. Explore the floodplains, swamps, rivers, intermittent streams, marshes, meadows, ponds, fields and forests. Love spotting butterflies? Before going, download its Butterfly Companion Guide. Sign up for a naturalist-led adventures or kayaking lessons.
190 Lord Stirling Rd., Basking Ridge