Between Long Valley and Chester in north Jersey is Hacklebarney State Park, an ideal autumnal recreation destination with wide trails for hiking, cookout spots, trout fishing, hunting, bird-watching and more.
It’s unclear how Hacklebarney got its name—historians think maybe it’s rooted in a Native American word meaning bonfire, or maybe after a landowner in the area, possibly someone named Barney Hackle (though that seems a little too obvious).
The initial thrill of visiting Hacklebarney, besides saying it over and over on the way there, is that driving (or biking) in, you see fewer and fewer things, and the seclusion becomes complete when you enter the park. Centered between I-80 and I-78 to the north and south, and Routes 31 and 206 to the west and east, one must intend to come here, and so traffic is minimal entering the park, and outside, human-created noise is minimal just a few steps onto the trail
And the trails are the thing here. Start out on the big, looping 1.8 mile riverside trail, which’ll take you down Trout Brook, along the Black River and up to the Rhinehart Brook. Along the way, you’ll have opportunities to jet off to look at waterfalls, set up a day camp site, take in some vistas, or fish in the brooks or river.
There are also plenty of felled trees along the brooks, creating de facto bridges across calmer water ways. Assess each for safety, of course, but they could be a fun natural jungle gym for those in your party.
You’ll gain some moderate elevation toward the end of the riverside trail, as it loops north and runs along the Black River. You can jet off onto smaller, more natural trails to get various vantages of the waterways. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure park once you’re in there, and there’s no shortage of pure nature to take in.
Bridges ensure you’ll make it over waterways and, although it feels immense while in it, the total mileage of the trails is only 5 miles, so if you get a little confused as to where you’re at, the end is never too far away for the moderately experienced recreationist. But whether you’re out for an excursion or just looking to take in some nature therapy on some riverside boulders, Hacklebarney’s there for you, and it’ll be an ideal leaf-peeping spot in a matter of weeks.