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.
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.
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.
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.
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.