Growing up in New Jersey really limits many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, specifically camping and backpacking. Of course, there are a lot of campsites around the tristate area that you can pay a small fee to rent out, but they are usually right next to other campsites (and people). While that is nice, do any of you prefer the style of camping that allows you to really live off of nothing and just appreciate the outdoors? I sure do!
Many people assume backpacking around New Jersey is impossible. Unlike out west, many areas around here forbid backpacking, camping, and open fires unless it’s at an official campsite.
During the summer of 2017, we did some research to look into areas that allowed backpacking. Harriman State Forest is located in New York and allows backpacking within a certain distance to two lean-to shelters-Bald Rocks and Tom Jones. Parking for these sites is located on Route 106, at GPS location 41.23038 N, 74.13996W. The parking is free and overnight parking is also permitted. The Bald Rocks lean-to shelter hike can be started on the same side that you parked on. The Tom Jones Shelter hike can be accessed on the other side of the road. We had the privilege of going twice during October and November. If you’re interested in backpacking around this area or are a first timer, I’ll be reviewing some perks of each location and some helpful advice.
1. The Hike & Amount of People
Tom Jones Shelter area: Both offered different hikes. The trip we took in October was only about a 20 minute (0.50 miles) hike to get to the spot that was a permitted camping area. Since this was such a short hike, there were a lot more campers around here. We were looking for a place that was away from people (granted, that is hard for a place like New York…), so we were a bit disappointed, especially when a group of hikers decided to pitch a tent right next to us at about 11:00pm.
Bald Rocks Shelter area: The trip we took in November was a much longer hike than either of us had anticipated. The trail was also filled with a lot of different types of terrain. I’m definitely not the best hiker out there (Ok, I admit, I get tired pretty quickly), but even David was exhausted by the end of this hike. It took us about an hour and a half (1.5 miles, although it felt longer) until we were able to find the shelter and a place to pitch a tent. However, since this was a much more difficult hike, there were a lot less people camping in this area, which is exactly what we were looking for! We were able to pitch our tent in a peaceful spot that overlooked the forest below us.