A Family Hike in the South Mountain Reservation

south mountain reservation cover photo

Have you been to the South Mountain Reservation? Just outside New York City, in the suburban New Jersey is a green oasis with plenty of hiking and things to do for families. Even in the dead of winter, this is a great, easy destination to go hiking near NYC.

I always preach that you should make the best of your time, and find new places to explore in the area where you live. So today I’m back with our own adventure from mid-winter break.

This hike had us heading to the South Mountain Reservation in New Jersey. But the reason we went hiking was not totally pure…

Let me be completely upfront, in that the reason we made the drive to New Jersey, was to be able to go to the Squirrel and the Bee coffee shop. This shop is completely grain-free, and most items are also dairy and soy free, making this a special treat for us!

We thoroughly enjoyed our brunch! I would definitely suggest heading there on a Sunday, as the waffles were amazing! [Update: Squirrel and the Bee shop has closed but you can find their goods online].

The South Mountain Reservation

After indulging in so many healthy treats, we drove just a few minutes to the South Mountain Reservation.

The South Mountain Reservation is located in Essex County, New Jersey, in parts of Maplewood, Millburn and West Organge. It therefore has several access point to its hiking trails. Decide ahead of time where to start so that you can park closely!

The Locust Grove Parking lot has access to many trails, including the Lenape trail (which we loved). This side is easily accessible by public transportation, as the Millburn NJ Transit train stop is right across the street.

For this hike, we parked in the Hemlock Falls Parking Lot. The Hemlock Falls parking lot is just a small lot off S.Orange Ave (careful not to miss it)!


Hemlock Falls

It was a cold February day, but the kids immediately picked up sticks and worked at cracking some ice on the ground!

There were no functional signs, but with the help of google maps and the compass on our phone, we figured out which was the trail towards Hemlock Falls.

The trails are mostly wide but we were happy to have the carrier for Little A, as we wouldn’t have made it through the mud with a stroller.

hike to hemlock falls
first little waterfall

We happened upon a small waterfall, and the kids were really excited about it. We played with sticks, and crossed a little stream (although some of us got a little wet).

But that was only just the beginning, as we continued on the trail, we came upon the larger Hemlock Waterfalls. It was a beautiful combination of water and ice!

hemlock falls in the winter

From that point, there were stairs to go up above the falls and along the stream. We had a good time exploring and saw several other groups of people doing the same.

By the time our kids started complaining of the cold, it really was time to head back. We all got a good hike in and were tired and happy from the day!

stairs by hemlock falls
top of hemlock falls

More things to do around the South Mountain Reservation:

There are several other activities nearby

  • Turtle Back Zoo– this is THE zoo to see if you live in Northern New Jersey
  • Orange Reservoir- you can walk around
  • Regatta Playground- with a fun nautical theme
  • More South Mountain Reservation hiking trails

For more hiking around New York City, check out Harriman State Park, the Staten Island Greenbelt, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Minnewaska State Park, or check out Duke Farms on the way to Princeton.

P.S. Don’t forget to read through these tips to bring city kids closer to nature before your next hike!

Do you have a large green space nearby? Would you go hiking in the winter?

south mountain reservation with kids graphic

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