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Gravitas: Hiking: Proximity:
For beginning to intermediate hikers, Hacklebarney gives you a taste of what wilderness hiking is all about. The park is truly beautiful, with trails that overlook tiny, pristine brooks that still support NJ’s wild native brook trout, and descend through dense woods towards the Black River. It’s about 70 minutes by car from Trenton.
The topography is quite hilly, and much more varied than a typical “beginner” hike. However, the main trails are nicely paved: footing is easy and even though there’s over 200 vertical feet from the parking lot to to the lowest point on a paved trail, we think most beginners won’t have any problem (and there are plenty of park benches along the way if you need to catch your breath). Staircases are provided for the steepest bits.
There’s a set of secondary trails that offer a bit more challenge. They are not paved, and some are fairly rugged. Maximum vertical change is over 300 feet. Execute a loop into both the Trout and Rhinehart Brook drainages, sticking mostly to the secondary trails, and you’re looking at a fun Intermediate hike. If you get tired, you can connect back to the main trails and simplify your walk home: you may still need to climb, but the walking will be considerably easier than on a typical wilderness trail. (Note the parking lot is located on top of a plateau, at nearly the high point of the park. You’ll start walking downhill on most trails.).
Really, the only downside is the Park’s popularity. I went on a recent Tuesday afternoon and was surprised to find a couple of dozen cars in the parking lot. The parking lots are enormous, with room for a couple of hundred cars. If the lots are full, this relatively small park would be overrun.
Still, for a glimpse of some of NJ’s most beautiful terrain in a setting that’s quite accessible, it’s tough to find a nicer spot than here.
For fishermen, the Black River is heavily stocked in season, and is the stream where most fishermen go. Rhinehart and Trout Brooks are quite skinny water. They do support wild brook trout, but few and far between.