Are you visiting New Jersey and looking for a fun new park to explore that is free and family friendly? Then you must plan a day trip to Hacklebarney State Park. Located in Central New Jersey in Morris County, this gorgeous park is conveniently located if you’re staying in Newark, Trenton, and even further afield.
Hacklebarney State Park was once used as an iron ore mine in the 1800s, but today, the park attracts anglers and hikers wanting to get outside and feel the sun on their face – that includes us! It’s centerpiece is the gushing Black River, its many waterfalls, and the lush greenery that surrounds it all.
Visiting a new state park can be a little overwhelming if you don’t know what to do or how to start planning. However we know this park well, so keep reading to find out the best things to do in Hacklebarney State Park for the next time you visit New Jersey!
Things to do in Hacklebarney State Park
Hiking in Hacklebarney State Park
Hacklebarney has the Hacklebarney Hiking Trail which is a fantastic set of paths that traverse the park and take you along pretty rivers to gushing waterfalls. There are nine different trails you can do – of differing lengths and difficulties – and you can see a map of them here.
When you first arrive, make sure you visit the ranger station at the top of the parking lot. From there you can get copies of the trail map, as well as stickers and nature activity packs for kids! If you have children, you only have to venture around ten minutes into the trails to find fun bridges that cross the ravine and rivers.
We recommend following the Riverside Trail that runs beside the stunning Black River. The river flows over the rocky topography throughout the park, often turning it into waterfalls. There are also two tributaries—the Rinehart and the Trout Brooks—that flow through this pretty park too.
The trailheads for all nine hikes begin in the parking lot. If you decide to walk on the higher trails, you will see the Rinehart and Trout Brooks tributaries flow into the Black River, which results in multiple waterfalls.
However as the river areas are diverse wetland habitats, and there’s some rocky terrain throughout the park, make sure you wear proper footwear. The actual hikes themselves are not too difficult.
And if you want to see the park in a really unique way, visit in the winter months and try your luck at cross country skiing! Just bring your own skies and enjoy the trails at your own pace.
An added bonus is that Hacklebarney State Park is dog friendly, so you can bring your four-legged friend with you as you hike around the park. Authorities do ask that dogs stay on a leash.
These trails can be used by horse riders too, so horseback riding is allowed in Hacklebarney State Park.
Fishing in Hacklebarney State Park
No matter the time of year, there’s plenty of fishing opportunities at Hacklebarney State Park’s Black River!
If you visit with your rod and reel in the spring or fall, you will be able to catch trout that the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife have stocked the river with.
The Rhinehart and Trout Brook tributaries are actually designated as Native Brook Trout Streams. But don’t worry—the trout that get put into the river tend to stay in this area, so you will have many little nibbles when fishing here.
If you do want to fish in Hacklebarney State Park you’ll need a permit – you can start that process by applying with the NJ Fish and Wildlife Division. Their website is here.
Wildlife spotting at Hacklebarney State Park
Hacklebarney is known for its birdwatching opportunities, especially during the migration months from late summer through the fall, and in the late winter through the spring. In fact there’s more than 100 species of bird that visit here!
However the best place to view wildlife in their natural habitat is probably the park’s Natural Area System. Established in 1978 as a mechanism to preserve the area’s ecosystem, this area of the park is more rural and wild, and parts are completely covered in hemlock and oak trees.
As for what to look for, keep your eye out for deer, fox, woodchucks and even black bears. All have been sighted in the park’s wilder areas.
Hunting at Hacklebarney State Park
You can go hunting in a southern portion of Hacklebarney State Park that spans 628-acres, and is far enough away from the day use areas and hiking trails.
Hunting here comes under the Chester Township’s controlled hunting program and is used to manage the wildlife population, specifically white-tailed deer. You do need a permit and there are certain blackout dates that you can’t go hunting on, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But you can choose to hunt with a bow, shotgun, or muzzleloader. Just make sure you have all the necessary paperwork before heading to this particular part of the park. You can see more information on hunting, and application forms for permits, here.
Picnics at Hacklebarney State Park
One of the best parts about Hacklebarney is how many potential picnic spots there are throughout the park!
There are three picnic areas and one picnic shelter near the different hiking trails, but there’s also lots of opportunities to sit on the boulders near the river and waterfalls and find your own perfect lunch spot.
Take your time, enjoy the trails and sit on a boulder and dip your toes in the water. This is a lush beautiful space that grants you an opportunity to get away from 21st century life for a few hours.
Just keep in mind that this is a carry in, carry out park, so there aren’t any trash cans on the trails. Make sure you take all trash with you.
Ideas for what to do after exploring
There are a few activities near Hacklebarney State Park that could be perfect additions to your day if you’re not too tired after your hike.
You can go to Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill, where you can enjoy a yummy ice cream and rehydrate with a nice cool cider. They even let you bring in your own packed lunch if you wish.
Or you can visit the Nathan Cooper Gristmill. Built in 1826, this restored water-powered mill is a historic spot that teaches visitors about the area’s history.