1. Wharton State Forest
The most isolated of Wharton State Forest's nine campgrounds, Mullica River and Lower Forge,
are inaccessible to motor vehicles.
Mullica River Campground can be reached by canoe or by walking .8 mile from the parking
area on Mullica River Road. The parking area in turn lies 4 miles south of the nearest paved road,
along a rough and rugged dirt track that is not recommended for the average family car. You will
come to a forested clearing on the slow-moving Mullica River, where the typical white sand of
the Pine Barrens is dotted with pitch pines, shrubs, and patches of green grass. Campers can
pitch a tent anywhere within the campground limits, and ground fires are allowed in makeshift
fire pits. Although the site is relatively small, you stand a good chance of being the only person in
the campground. One water pump and two pit toilets are centrally located. From Wharton's
Atsion office, drive south on Quaker Bridge Road for 2.2 miles to the wooden Mullica River
Camp sign and turn right on the thin dirt track (Mullica River Road). Proceed 2 miles to the
parking area marked by three orange rings on a tree, then walk south along the yellow-blazed
Mullica River Trail for .8 mile to the campground.
Lower Forge Campground is also inaccessible to motor vehicles, located near the
geographic center of Wharton State Forest. You must either canoe in along the Batsto River, or
hike .3 mile from the parking area on Lower Forge Road. The parking area at Lower Forge is
technically accessible to cars, but it lies 5 miles from Route 206 along weather-beaten dirt roads.
You will come to a clearing bounded by forest and the tea-colored Batsto River, where you can
pitch a tent among the pitch pines, patches of grass, and white sand covered with pine needles. A
few access points to the Batsto River lie 30 feet down an embankment, but much of the river is
bordered by shrubs and out of view from the campground. As with most of Wharton’s
wilderness campgrounds, there are no designated sites at Lower Forge and fire pits are
makeshift. The campground has one pit toilet, but no water. From Wharton's Atsion office,
drive 3.9 miles south on Quaker Bridge Road, cross the Batsto River, and turn left on Lower
Forge Road. Drive .8 mile to the parking area on the right, then walk west from the parking area
for .3 mile to the campground.
New Jersey's Top Five Serene Campgrounds
2. Jenny Jump State Forest
Jenny Jump’s family campground, eight shelters, and two group sites go relatively unnoticed by
New Jersey campers. You will sometimes find a note on the office door during the off season
urging campers to choose a site and slide money through the mail slot. The tranquility is no
doubt due to the absence of developed recreation areas, swimming beaches, and food
concessions, which makes Jenny Jump a perfect escape from the typical summer tourism
scene. The remote sites are well spaced throughout a dense forest of sugar maple and red oak,
some perched atop wooded hills surrounded by glacial erratics, and some recessed into the
forest at the end of thin hiking trails.
Jenny Jump’s 22 tent and trailer sites line East Road in the shadow of a forested ridge.
Eight shelters lie on the west end of the campground near the park office, but the sprawling
layout of the campground means you have to drive almost 1 mile to the last campsite, number
36, on the east end of the park. A few of the sites are large enough to accommodate small
trailers. Most occupy secluded clearings far from the road and pressed in by trees, where the
nearest chance of nighttime lights comes from the tiny town of Hope almost 3 miles to the
west. Sites 15 through 36 begin .5 mile east of the park office and line both sides of East Road
for another .4 mile. The eight shelters are accessed from a parking area about .1 mile south of
the park office. A set of log stairs on the east side of the parking area leads to tent sites 9
through 11, the most secluded options in the forest.
3. High Point State Park
The Flatbrook River drains 20-acre Sawmill Lake, a clear mountain
pool looking like a perfect oval at the bottom of a gently sloping
basin. One road circles the campground about 30 feet above the
lake, where you can look down and see the campsites ringing the
shore. All of the campsites are well spaced, and many sit at the
water’s edge. Some rise above the road and look down upon the
scene. A thick cover of oak, maple, and hickory ring the
campground, creating an unbroken chain of forest, ever rising,
from the banks of Sawmill Lake to the Appalachian Trail. Turn left
out of the High Point State Park office onto Route 23, drive .5 mile,
and turn left on Sawmill Road. Proceed 1.9 miles to the
campground on the left.
All excerpts from New Jersey State Parks: Camping and Recreation Guide
4. Stokes State Forest
The four camping areas at Stokes—Lake Ocquittunk, Shotwell, Steam Mill, and Haskin’s Group
Campground—all lie within the shadow of the Kittatinny Ridge, bordered by the forested New
Jersey Highlands. Lake Ocquittunk holds the most sought after sites, where campers can pitch a
tent on the banks of a clear mountain stream. Many of the campsites are well spaced from one
another and private. The lake is within view, and the Big Flatbrook River weaves through the
southern edge of the grounds. Boats with electric motors are allowed on the lake, and some of
the best trout fishing throughout New Jersey can be found in the Big Flatbrook River, although
the premier trout pools are a few miles downstream. Around the campground, the river is gentle
and shallow, creating just enough melody to be heard through your tent walls at night.
From the Stokes State Forest office, drive north on Route 206 for 1.8 miles and turn right just
over the small bridge onto Flatbrook Road. Follow Flatbrook Road east for 2.8 miles and turn
right on the gravel road into the Lake Ocquittunk campground.
5. Round Valley Recreation Area
Round Valley is unique for campers in several ways. It holds New Jersey’s only wilderness
campground outside of Wharton State Forest, and offers the only boat launch in New Jersey
reserved solely for campers and scuba divers. The wilderness camping is a bit of an anomaly,
when one considers the park lies only 35 miles from Newark, and another 10 miles from New
York City. Round Valley’s campground is accessible by foot, boat, or mountain bike alone.
Campsites begin 3 miles from the trailhead and stretch for another 3 miles around the south
shore of the reservoir. Because of the long hike, campers are required to register at the office by
4:30 P.M. before setting out.
The 85 campsites are perfect for anyone seeking seclusion. Options range from sites
perched on a wooded hillside overlooking the reservoir, to landlocked sites near Lower
Cushetunk Trail. Many lie directly on the shore, and some occupy open clearings in the woods.
All are spaced far from their neighbors. About 40 of the sites each offer a path down to the
water, a place to land small boats, and markers on shore for boaters who arrive from across the
reservoir. Overnight parking is allowed at the South Lot, where you will find the camper’s boat
launch and a trail leading to the campsites.
Boaters can simply head east across the reservoir from the South Lot boat ramp and look
for the 40 placards marking sites near the water. If you’re hiking or biking, take the red-blazed
Cushetunk Trail on the north side of the parking lot (behind you as you face the reservoir). Hike
3 miles along the Cushetunk Trail until you come to the yellow-blazed Lower Cushetunk Trail
descending left into the campground. At last check, the Lower Cushetunk Trail was not marked
at the turn. You will find site number 1 at the bottom of the hill. The campground itself is 3
miles long, so you must hike a total of 6 miles to reach the last campsite.
|All material copyright 1990-2014 Scott Zamek
New Jersey State Parks is a Stackpole Books publication
High Point State Park campground at Sawmill Lake