Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley is our go-to park in New Jersey. This gorgeous park appeals to the whole family with its well-marked trails, peaceful forest setting, and cascading Black River. Hacklebarney is a perfect park to try out hiking with the family. Given the layout of the trails, it is possible to enjoy the Trout Brook and then circle back around to the parking lot (less than 1 mile), or to complete a full 3.5 mile loop. Most of the trails are gravel, but there are plenty of opportunities to climb rocks and boulders near the rivers. Our annual tradition is to go to Long Valley and Chester in the fall for pumpkin picking and cider donuts at Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill, and then head to Hacklebarney State Park to enjoy the fall colors.
This year, after a particularly cold, snowy, and gray winter, we were excited to see the weather reach a balmy 50 degrees in early April. We took that as a sign that our hiking season was ready to begin and we happily drove to Hacklebarney for the first hike of the year. Given that the day was rather gray, there were not a lot of cars in the parking lot. One of my favorite things about hiking in Hacklebarney State Park is that the parking lot is actually huge and right next to the trailhead. This is unlike many other parks we have been to, where the start of the trail can only be accessed by walking on the edge of a narrow and busy road.
Hacklebarney State Park Hiking Trails
Our favorite trail to follow is the 3.5 mile white-to-red-to-yellow-to-white loop. Don’t worry, Hacklebarney contains the most clearly marked trails I have seen in a park which makes it easy to know your location. From the parking lot, follow the white trail briefly until you reach the staircase down, which marks the start of the red trail. The red trail initially parallels Trout Brook and this stretch of the trail is stunning, particularly in the fall when the leaves are changing colors. This is also my kids’ favorite part of the trail as there lots of fun boulders to climb over. At this point in the hike, we veered off the gravel path to enjoy rock-hopping, but there are stairs down to the river from the trail as well. The bare trees were quite a change to how we normally view Hacklebarney, yet it was still beautiful and peaceful.
The red trail eventually reaches the Black River. There are plenty of picnic tables and benches along the path from which to enjoy the sights and sounds of the river or just contemplate the meaning of life. We didn’t have much time for contemplation, as we quickly realized that the trail hadn’t been fully cleared after all the winter storms, so we had some fun obstacles to maneuver through. We only encountered downed trees for a short stretch of the trail; the park was generally cleaned up from the winter with most trees cleared from the paths.
From there, our route connected to the yellow trail, leading us uphill to the white trail, which we followed all the way back to the parking lot. We thoroughly enjoyed our first hike of the season and can’t wait to come back to hike Hacklebarney again. This park is truly perfect for all skill levels and I frequently recommend it to families wanting to try out hiking. The many benches and picnic tables strategically placed along the paths make for great resting stops, where my kids enjoy playing on the rocks while my husband practices his photography. I’m perfectly happy breathing in the sights and sounds of nature. This park is heavily visited in the summer and fall, so come early in the morning to beat the rush, and then spend the afternoon enjoying the nearby towns of Chester and Long Valley.
Want to hike more with your kids?
Check out these Jersey Family Fun blog posts about hiking.
- Hike Mount Tammany of the Kittatinny Mountains in NJ With your Kids
- Hike Up Anthony’s Nose in New York
- Hike the Ice Caves Trail at Sam’s Point Preserve
- Hunterdon County Hiking for Kids at the Hunterdon County Arboretum
- Hawk Rise Sanctuary ~ Linden’s Nature & Wildlife Trail
- Discovering a Kid’s Love for Nature in Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve
- Updated for 2018, Get Ready for the New Jersey National Trails Day Events