The idea of being outdoors and enjoying nature certainly sounds appealing. Bergen County and the surrounding area are perfect for getting back in touch with the outdoors. There are dozens of outstanding hiking locations in and around the county, some grand and difficult while others are smaller and more manageable for the novice outdoorsman. Here’s a closer look at some of Bergen County’s popular hiking trails as well as some excellent ones just over the county and state lines in Passaic and Rockland counties.
Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Mahwah
The reservation is a dog-friendly park that features a series of five loop trails that are all well within walking distance of the parking lot. The easier of the walks is around the lower lake, which features enough shady spots and picnic benches to take a break and enjoy the water. Longer and more difficult hikes up to Hawk Rock and Cactus Ledge are also enjoyable, featuring a waterfall and breathtaking views of the Ramapo Valley. The upper lake is magnificent, but the walk up is a steep incline (partially paved) and the path around the lake is a bit a rocky. Swimming is not allowed in either lake, but your dog will certainly enjoy taking a dip.
The Giant Stairs, Palisades Interstate Park, Alpine
The Giants Stairs/Long Path Loop is one of several hikes in the Palisades Interstate Park but is quite possibly the most enjoyable. It takes some moxie to negotiate this trail because it is the park’s most difficult one to navigate. There are climbs and descents on large, uneven rocks and the walk along the Hudson River is also littered with bigger rocks. You’ll need to use your hands as well as your feet on this trail but the effort is well worth it and features some incredible views of the river and Westchester County across the way in New York. There is a café on site that serves light refreshments.
Flat Rock Brook Nature Center, Englewood
The nature center features two loops totaling 3.6 miles. It’s a self-guided experience but one that is well worth it, featuring streams, wetlands, ponds and a meadow. The hikes are part of the 150 acres that surround the Flat Rock Brook Nature Center. The hike is not difficult – there are some moderate climbs – so feel free to bring the kids. Take some time to enjoy Mystery Bridge and the waterfall over which it stands. It’s at the end of the wetlands and is a perfect spot for photo opportunities. Check out the nature center while you’re there.
Atkins Glen Park, Park Ridge
Atkins Glen has a rich local history, according to the Bergen County Historical Society, which has placed a marker at the park detailing the park’s story. Native American wore out a path up Spook Bergh, a path that was used later by Dutch settlers. A sandstone cave is said to be a hiding place for Native Americans and outlaws. While that cave is mostly filled in these days it’s an integral part of the Atkins Glen experience. The stream that runs through the ravine is gentle and calming, a perfect place for children and pets.
Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary, Rockleigh
The sanctuary covers parts of Rockleigh and Alpine and has two tracts that are accessible. The Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary is an 84-acre plot in Rockleigh while the 134-acre Lamont Reserve is in Alpine. Overall, there are more than 4.5 miles of trail to enjoy. The land, which is on the western edge of the Palisades, is formerly owned by The Boy Scouts of America. There are streams and some moderate inclines but by and large the trails are good for inexperienced hikers. Dogs are allowed but must remain on a leash.
The Celery Farm and Allendale Wetlands, Allendale
The bustling town of Allendale, which is bisected by Franklin Turnpike, doesn’t seem like it would be a place to find such wonderful trails. The farm is a 107-acre freshwater wetland nestled between Franklin Turnpike and Route 17. The farm is a hotspot for bird watchers – nearly 250 species have been seen there – but there is also plenty of other wildlife to enjoy. Pets are not permitted and you not allowed to pick any flowers.
The Allendale Wetlands is a nature preserve just about a mile or so away from Celery Farm and is located just off Franklin Turnpike. It is part of the Passaic River Watershed Coalition, which includes more than two dozen sites scattered around North Jersey.
Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve, Franklin Lakes
The preserve is a 120-acre spread that features a 75-acre lake. It features a handicapped accessible trail that is suitable for novice and hiking veterans. The trail also connects to a nearly 2.5 mile collections of trails within the preserve that ultimately link up to the dozen or so miles of trails at High Mountain Park Preserve in Wayne.
High Mountain Reserve, Wayne
You can start out at the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve and make your way to High Mountain or you can simply go a stone’s throw over the border and hit the trails over the 1,300 acres located in the reserve, which is part of the Preakness Mountain Range. The highlight of a trip to the High Mountain Reserve is the spectacular view of New York City. The view alone is well worth the trip.
Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Ringwood
The forest straddles the line between Bergen and Passaic Counties. There are several trail loops totaling nearly a dozen miles. The longest and most difficult trails should only be attempted by those who are experienced hikers. Hikers will have to cross Skyline Drive twice. While it’s not a busy road it is dangerous so extra caution must be taken. Be sure to check out the Van Slyke Castle when you’re at Ramapo Mountain. The entrance to the park is in Ringwood though the park also encompasses Wanaque, Pompton Lakes and Oakland, covering 4,300 acres.
Harriman State Park, Sloatsburg, N.Y.
Harriman, which is five minutes up Route 17 once you cross the New York State line, is nearly 50,000 acres and is the second-largest state park in New York. It is the granddaddy of all hiking expeditions in the Hudson Valley region featuring 31 lakes and reservoirs and more than 200 miles of hiking trails. Camping, boating and fishing are also available in the park, which stretches from Sloatsburg to just short of the Hudson River by the Bear Mountain Bridge. There are varying degrees of hiking trails available, all of which feature incredible vistas and wonderful spots to stop and have a picnic lunch.
By Kevin Czerwinski