Nestled a few miles east of I-78 and the Parkway is an outdoor gem — South Mountain Reservation in Millburn/West Orange, New Jersey. This 2,000+ acre park in Essex County is not only home to several miles of nature trails, but also a zoo (and yes, there are giraffes). Here’s what you need to explore this hidden gem in North Jersey.
Take a Hike
If hiking’s your thing, South Mountain is for you! The preserve has miles and miles of hiking trails, boasting waterfalls, heavily forested areas, and amazing rock formations. Hemlock Falls is my go to — not only can you hike around the base, but you can walk up a steep path where you can explore the top of the falls, too.
Visit the Zoo
If you haven’t been to the Turtle Back Zoo, you’re really missing out. The zoo has everything from kangaroos to penguins to giraffes — which you can feed! There’s also a petting zoo with goats, pony rides, a touch tank, and a sea turtle recovery center. And don’t forget the reptile house!
The zoo is part of the Zoological Society of New Jersey, which participates in global conservation efforts — including saving animals from extinction. Admission is $15 for adults (yes, you read that right), so it really is worth every penny to go watch sea lions, tigers, and bears (oh, my!),
Take a Boat Ride
South Mountain also has a huge reservoir where you can take a swan boat ride and go fishing on the waterfront. Take your kids to the awesome Pirate Ship playground (or dog to the dog park) afterward to spend the entire day outside with your whole family. You can also bring your own lunch to the covered picnic area or buy a snack at the kiosk.
No matter what your favorite activity is, South Mountain Reservation is bound to have it. When the warm weather comes, head to the wildflower sculpture park. The reservation is also home to Safari mini golf, a treetop ropes course, an ice rink, and plenty of picnic areas — just drive around and see what you can find.
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