5 Things to Know Before Hiking Sourland Mountain Preserve

Several days ago, I finally decided to go hiking at Sourland Mountain Preserve.

And I say finally because beforehand, I didn’t really see much on YouTube, nature websites and Google that made it look very interesting to check out, so every time I’d get a chance to go hiking close to this park in NJ (which typically happens once a week), I’d instead look for places that I consider to be more interesting and scenic to explore around the area.

But after finally deciding to “get it over with” and hiking about 6 miles around the Sourland Mountain Preserve, I’d like to share my experiences in this post and give you 5 things I learned about this place and what to expect from it if you decide to go there for your first visit too.

Here are the 5 things to know about Sourland Mountain Preserve before you go:

  1. For scenic hikes, this isn’t really the best place I’d recommend.sourland mountain preserve
  2. It’s great for mountain biking.
  3. It’s also great for a good trail run/nature walk workout.
  4. There are multiple ways to navigate the trails at Sourland Mountain Preserve.
  5. The “boulder” parts of the Sourlands are a mixed bag for me (I’ll explain why).

Those are the initial things to know about my personal experiences in hiking within this park in New Jersey but I’ll explain all of that in a moment after first covering the basics:

Commonly asked questions about the Sourland Mountain Preserve:

1) What is the Sourland Mountain Preserve?

It’s a 6,000+ acre park in New Jersey State that is a popular hiking/nature destination for locals.

2) How high is the elevation in the Sourland Mountain Preserve?

About 500 feet at most. The elevation and hikes there are very gradual but nothing too difficult to overcome.

3) Should I be worried about bears and other dangerous animals at Sourland Mountain Preserve?

They are rarely in this area, and most of the trails are pretty popular meaning you’ll more than likely see people there, but rarely if ever a bear or another dangerous animal (maybe a snake which is also rare).

4) Are there waterfalls or rivers at Sourland Mountain Preserve?

Yes but depending on the weather and time of the year, you may not see it. Such was the case for me when I went as there were barely any streams to see, let alone a waterfall. It was very dry when I went there.

5) How long are the trails at Sourland Mountain Preserve?

If you do the longest hike (outer trails of the park), you’re looking at about 7 miles of total hiking and you can mix up the way you hike here for less or more miles added/subtracted.

6) How difficult is it to hike at Sourland Mountain Preserve?

Most of the trails are pretty beginner friendly and a lot of them, including the white trail have easy to walk on bridges. You would have to customize your trail hike in this park to challenge yourself basically.

7) Is it easy to get lost in Sourland Mountain Preserve?

I’ve seen it happen to people, but in my case, I was fine the entire time. As long as you keep a map handy (take a picture with your phone) and keep an eye out for the trail markers, you’ll be fine.

8) Is it worth hiking at Sourland Mountain Preserve?

That depends on your taste. For me personally, it was a mixed experience and I doubt I’ll be going back there anytime soon and this isn’t to say it’s bad. It’s just that I prefer what I consider more scenic areas.

Now let’s get to the 5 things I wanted to explain about this region:

1) For scenic hikes, Sourland Mountain Preserve really doesn’t offer much:

sourland mountain preserve red black trail area

I don’t like saying this and being that this park is in a region of New Jersey where you won’t really find that many scenic spots to hike, this is to be expected.

For me personally, when I hike once a week, I do my best to find the best scenic hikes when I’m traveling and this is one of the reasons why I avoided going here for such a long time (no preview of this place ever really showed how beautiful it is, so I had my doubts).

I like a good scenic hike that will make my day off worth the effort to travel there, which is actually why after finishing the Sourland Mountain Preserve hike, I traveled over an hour north to do another hike in Harriman State Park (that turned out to be a better experience).

I get that in this part of NJ, and being that I’m a bit spoiled and dedicated to finding amazing places to explore, I kind of have high standards, but at the same time, my half day hike at Sourlands Mountain Preserve was worth it.

But if you’re like me and want to see some nice scenic areas, I wouldn’t consider this park to have many of them.

2) Sourlands Mountain Preserve is good for mountain biking:

If there’s one thing I can definitely see myself going back to this place for, it would be mountain biking. Given the scenery and area, to me it looks like a perfect place for beginner and intermediate mountain bikers to enjoy a nice day at.

Mountain bike trails are available in Sourland Mountain Preserve and this is one activity I would consider to be well worth the visit there.

3) Sourland Mountain Preserve is good for a nature walk or trail run:

sourland mountain preserve white trail image

While sitting around in this area doesn’t strike me as fun, a good way to make the most of your time here is just to engage in a nice trail run or nature walk if you prefer that. That’s pretty much all I did when I went there.

Sitting around and “enjoying the scenery” isn’t something I saw myself doing here and rather than get bored, I kept moving and when I would find interesting spots like a tree downed or boulders there, I’d take a few minutes to climb that to make the hike more interesting.

But even if you are like me and would get bored here, it’s still a nice place to do a good trail run at and get a great workout out of it.

4) Note that there’s multiple ways to do the trails at Sourland Mountain Preserve:

Here is an image of the trails available in this park (and the one I did):

sourland mountain preserve map of trail

Overall, you can customize how you want to hike here based on your time, physical level and so forth. For me, I decided to go basically the outer edges to the park and challenge myself a bit more.

The trail markers in this park are pretty easy to spot so getting lost isn’t really a major problem I’d worry about here.

Here’s how I hiked Sourland Mountain Preserve (a loop trail):

  • I began at the parking lot and started at the orange trail.
  • I shifted to the yellow trail 1/4 mile after.
  • I followed it until I took a fork and did the short pink trail (Devils Half Acres Boulders).
  • Afterwards, I went back to the yellow trail.
  • I followed that to the red trail.
  • I kept following it until I turned to the red trail with black dots.
  • I took that to the red trail with black dots and blue trail.
  • I shifted to the blue trail (Roaring Rocks Boulders).
  • I then took the white trail.
  • I shifted to the white trail with black dots back.
  • I took the white trail at the southern park of the park.
  • I followed that east to the orange trail and back to the parking lot.

It was not difficult to navigate this trail even though I did a lot of switching. Overall, it took me about an hour and a half to finish this (including with the filming I did).

5) The boulder areas of Sourlands Mountain Preserve are a mixed experience:

sourland mountain preserve trail markers image and boulders

Maybe I missed it, but I made sure that when I chose my trail path in this park, that it would take me through the boulder areas.

Beforehand, I did some research and saw some YouTube videos of people climbing there and felt that might make the trip to this park a bit more exciting.

Well after getting to those spots, I feel like while there’s certainly potential with those boulders, hopping them and doing some fun climbing, it’s nothing really incredible.

The boulders in this park aren’t that large so you’d have to be pretty creative to make a nice experience out of that.

The only area with the largest boulders and rocks I saw was on the river bed on the blue trail.

That has some nice hopping potential, but aside from that, most of the boulders on the trails are just nice to look at as you run past them.

That’s going to be up to you though.

Other areas to explore besides Sourland Mountain Preserve:

1) Delaware Water Gap:

Delaware Water Gap is about 1 hour and 30 minutes away from this area and in my opinion a lot more fun to explore. It’s also in New Jersey.

2) High Point State Park:

High Point State Park is in the northern most edge of New Jersey and the Delaware Water Gap and is a really nice park to explore for the hikes and scenery.

3) Nearby parks:

If you look at my post on how to find easy hikes near me, you can use that to find a lot of other parks near Sourland Mountain Preserve. One of the options that came up with the 6 mile run state park.

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