Season usually peaks in early to mid July
Every July, usually a week or two after the 4th the “wineberries” (wild raspberries) start to ripen in open shade along the wooded slopes of local mountains. Baldpate Mountain and the Sourlands preserve are two such areas. The wineberries are actually an exotic species, originally from Asia, but now growing wild across much of eastern US. When ripe, the berries make fantastic eating.
A week or two after the wineberries are at their peak, the wild blackberries come into their own. While wineberries do best in open shade, blackberries prefer full sun. A prime location for these bushes is the gas pipeline right of way that cuts through the center of Somerset County’s Sourland Preserve. Once you’re on the summit ridge, you’ll pass bush after bush right along the path: many more if you’re willing to push your way into the thick brush.
If you do that (to harvest either blackberries or wineberries), keep in mind that 1) these bushes are prickly… nothing like a rose bush, mind you, but something unpleasant against bare skin, 2) there’s poison ivy in those places, mixed among the bushes and other brush, and 3) the odds of picking up a tick go up enormously plowing through brush compared to walking on a wide path. So wear long pants and sleeves, wash your hands and any exposed skin with Tecnu or other anti-poison-ivy soap within a couple of hours, and strip down, shower, and check yourself for ticks as soon as you can.
I’m not necessarily suggesting you need to go for a big harvest. My wife and I love hiking this time of year, just scanning the sides of the trail for ruby-red raspberries. In the course of an hour or so, we might pick 20 or 30 little morsels one by one. They are bursting with so much flavor they put commercial raspberries to shame. As the season goes on, you need to explore ever more obscure trails to find a good supply, but that’s part of the fun anyway.
The “season” usually lasts a few weeks, depending on elevation, and especially the pattern of sun and shade on any given bush. The sunnier spots ripen first, the shadier spots later. It’s a lot of fun, and the supply of ripe berries keeps renewing itself for while.