Where To Go Camping in New Jersey
With woods, beaches, and even casinos, there are numerous fun destinations to camp out around in New Jersey. Both tent campers and those in hard-sided units like RVs will find what they’re looking for on this Atlantic Coast state.
The Garden State is generally an ironic name at this point, though New Jersey was once filled with farmland. Today, there are only five states with less farmland. The state does boast a good offering of mainly state-run camping options.
Best Times to Go Camping in New Jersey
Summer travelers often set their sights on the Jersey Shore. That’s probably the best place to be during the warm and humid New Jersey summers. While you’re in the Northeast, where summers are relatively less oppressive, it’s the peak travel season and the best time if you’re looking to cool off in the ocean. If you can only travel during the summer, stick to the coast and try to travel towards the end of the season.
The general travel season in New Jersey tends to be May to September or so. If you can’t avoid the peak season, May and September are probably your best bets. For those who can travel outside of summer, spring, and fall are going to be more enjoyable. You’ll find some of the best fall colors in the Highlands region of northern New Jersey.
Spring is likely the most popular time for camping, hiking, and backpacking here, though summer travelers can camp in relative comfort at the National Park Service (NPS) sites that offer camping facilities. Springtime is perfect for those wanting to backpack and do longer hikes, especially starting in the middle of the season as the weather starts to warm up. Late spring will see higher visitation but also warmer temperatures.
Winter camping here really isn’t advisable. While those who really love winter camping and anyone in an RV can do it, there are just better choices elsewhere. Even Moorestown, which is known as the warmest city in New Jersey, sees overnight lows below freezing all winter long.
National Park Service Sites in New Jersey
There are 11 total NPS sites in New Jersey, though only three of them offer camping. Of those, two of them have established campgrounds, whereas the Appalachian Trail (AT) is for backpackers. Most of the NPS sites in the Garden State are historical in nature, so while you’ll have numerous opportunities for interesting day trips, traditional outdoor NPS options are more limited.
- Gateway National Recreation Area
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail (backcountry camping only)
National Forests in New Jersey
New Jersey actually ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to the percentage of tree cover. 42% of the Garden State is forested, though there aren’t any national forests here. However, the state does run 11 state forests that visitors can enjoy. Do note that, unlike national forests, you cannot disperse camp in state forests. Non-residents pay a nominal extra fee upon entry as well.
- Abram S. Hewitt State Forest
- Bass River State Forest
- Belleplain State Forest
- Brendan T. Byrne State Forest
- Jenny Jump State Forest
- Norvin Green State Forest
- Penn State Forest
- Ramapo Mountain State Forest
- Stokes State Forest
- Wharton State Forest
- Worthington State Forest
Best Free Camping in New Jersey
There isn’t much in the way of federal land in New Jersey. In fact, less than four percent of the land is run by the federal government. That land is split between the National Park Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the United States Department of Defense (DOD).
What many travelers don’t know is that FWS has free camping opportunities throughout the country. Unfortunately, New Jersey does not have any. Still, it’s worth keeping FWS campgrounds in mind when planning your next trip.
New Jersey doesn’t really have any free campgrounds, so campers are going to have to pay for accommodations. Like all other states, there are certain entities like Walmarts, Cracker Barrels, and some state-run rest areas that will allow you to spend the night there for free. Other than those, dispersed camping is effectively non-existent in the Garden State.
New Jersey State and Public Parks
New Jersey has 38 total state parks, and 13 of those feature camping of some sort. Most of them have standard tent camping, though Round Valley Recreation Area and Wawayanda State Park are the exceptions here. Besides those two, the remaining 11 state parks provide standard tent sites alongside a variety of other accommodations. Certain parks will offer cabins, yurts, and even lean-to’s for rent, so check each state park’s website to see who offers what.
- Cheesequake State Park
- High Point State Park
- Parvin State Park
- Allaire State Park
- Vorhees State Park
- Spruce Run Recreation Area
- Swartswood State Park
- Stephens State Park
- Round Valley Recreation Area (group and wilderness campsites only)
- Wawayanda State Park (group campsites only)
RV Resorts and Unique Stays
What New Jersey lacks in free camping, it does make up for with its glamping and resorts. There are plenty of RV resorts for those bringing their rigs, as well as camping resorts, which tend to offer glamping-style comforts but focus more on offering memorable outdoor adventures. These six spots are great representatives of what the state as a whole offers.
- Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort: South Jersey
- Sun Retreat Long Beach Island
- Panther Lake Camping Resort
- Wading Pines Camping Resort
- Sun Outdoors Cape May
- Timberline Lake Camping Resort
The Garden State may have paved over a lot of its gardens, but don’t think it’s completely concrete. With a respectable showing at the state level, New Jersey offers plenty of camping accommodations in both its state parks and state forest systems.