Best Tent Camping: New Jersey, Matt Willen, High Point State Park

Camping in New Jersey’s High Point State Park

This fall, I began working on my next guidebook project, the second edition of Best Tent Camping: New Jersey. The first edition of the book was written by Marie Javins, who no longer lives in the Northeast. Given my close proximity to New Jersey, Menasha Ridge Press asked if I would be interested in doing the second edition, to which I happily agreed. I had already done some exploring around New Jersey in my work on the forthcoming Best Hikes of the Appalachian Trail: Mid-Atlantic and knew that, in spite of its population density, there are some nice places to get outdoors and to get away from the crowds.

Revising a guidebook involves a lot of legwork that entails, among other things, updating information about fees, dates, seasons, reservation procedures, campground and site amenities (such as the availability of showers, ADA-accessible facilities, and so forth), campground layouts (campsites are often renumbered, new sites added or some sites are removed), and the availability of activities in the area. It is amazing the extent to which things change even over a short period of time. The first edition of the book was published in 2005, and so I have a lot to look into.

Also, the new Best Tent Camping series will include photographs in addition to the campground maps that accompanied the profiles in the first editions. So an interesting part of the work involved with creating the second edition is figuring out what sort of photographs can best illustrate a camping experience. All of this means that I am making regular drives over to New Jersey to do the field work for the book.

Best Tent Camping: New Jersey, Matt Willen, High Point State Park

Sawmill Road in High Point State Park

I did my first bit of research on the drive down from Canada earlier this fall. As long as I was driving across I-84, I thought I would make a stop at one of my favorite hiking places in New Jersey, High Point State Park. I spent some time there earlier in the year while working on the Appalachian Trail book, and was amazed by the array of trails and great scenery.

Best Tent Camping: New Jersey, Matt Willen, High Point State Park

Looking out towards northeast Pennsylvania from the New Jersey High Point

In addition to hiking, the park has excellent tent camping facilities at the Sawmill Lake Camping Area, located a couple of miles from the park office. It consists of 50 tent and tent-trailer sites distributed around a small man-made lake. Although most of the sites are situated among the forest, some of the sites are right on the edge of the lake, which offers campers a nice feeling of spaciousness.

Best Tent Camping: New Jersey, Matt Willen, High Point State Park

Sawmill Lake at High Point State Park with the campground and monument in the background

Two things really stood out to me about the campground: 1) Overall, the sites are quite large and offer a fair amount of privacy, and 2) of the 50 sites, 20 of them have nice wooden tent platforms, which make for very even sleeping surfaces. I visited the campground on a Monday, and a couple of the sites were occupied. It was pretty clear, however, by virtue of all of the reservation tags still hanging from the site posts that the campground was full the previous weekend. That’s good to keep in mind if you are planning a weekend trip to the park.

Best Tent Camping: New Jersey, Matt Willen, High Point State Park

A tent platform at the Sawmill Lake Camping Area

Best Tent Camping: New Jersey, Matt Willen, High Point State Park

One of the nice campsites with a tent platform at the Sawmill Lake Camping Area

High Point State Park has a whole network of trails that provide excellent hiking opportunities, a lake with a swimming beach, and opportunities for boating. And it is (as the name indicates) home to the New Jersey High Point Monument, which is not to be missed.

Best Tent Camping: New Jersey, Matt Willen, High Point State Park

The New Jersey High Point Monument at High Point State Park

Matt Willen

Matt got into outdoor exploration as an adolescent by making trips to New England with his family and friends. In the late 70s, he moved out west to ski and spend more time outdoors. He eventually earned a degree in outdoor education, and began working in the wilderness service program at the Armand Hammer United World College in New Mexico and for the Colorado Outward Bound School. As a traveler, Matt has sought out those unusual places that few people ever think about visiting. From the tip of South America to the remote northwest reaches of Iceland, from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Indian reservations in northern Arizona, he repeatedly goes off of the beaten path to see what surprises might be found in places that don’t show up on most peoples’ radars and what might be learned from the people who live in these places. He brings that same curiosity about places and people to his work close to home as well. In addition to have having written a dozen or so articles on various subject, he is author of The Best Tent Camping: PA and 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Harrisburg, both of which have come out in second editions this year. His Best Hikes of the Appalachian Trail: Mid-Atlantic will be published by Menasha Ridge Press in time for the holidays. And he is currently working on a second edition to Best Tent Camping: New Jersey as well as a book of travel essays on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia.

1 Comment
  • Mark Beckert

    High Point is definitely one of the best campgrounds in northern NJ. Camping, hiking, fishing and of course, climbing the monument!

    April 2, 2019 at 5:00 pm

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