5 Things to Know Before Hiking Sourland Mountain Preserve NJ

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 8-9 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.

The 5 things to know about Sourland Mountain Preserve NJ:

sourland mountain preserve

  1. For scenic hikes, this isn’t really the best place I’d recommend.
  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:

How long is the Sourland Mountain hiking trail?

There are many ways to hike around Sourland Mountain. Trails in this area are anywhere from 2-10 miles.

Are dogs allowed at Sourland Mountain Preserve?

Yes Sourland Mountain Preserve does allow dogs, but they need to be leashed.

How high is Sourland Mountain?

Sourland Mountain has about 600 feet of elevation.

Are there bears in Sourland Mountain Preserve?

Bears are rarely in the Sourland Mountain Preserve 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).

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

1) The main Sourland Mountain Preserve hiking trail isn’t all that incredible:

sourland mountain preserve red black trail area

There are multiple trail colors throughout Sourland Mountain and I personally explored one of the longest loops there the day I went which to my knowledge is known as the Sourland Mountain hiking trail. This was a 9 mile hike and gave me a good overall experience of the area, but it wasn’t a very good one. I’ll show you a map of Sourland Mountain and the hikes there shortly, but let me get back to this specific point:

I don’t like saying this, but the main Sourland Mountain hiking trail was a bit overrated in my opinion. I even have a list of the best hikes in NJ and the one I did in Sourland Mountain Preserve is not on there. 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 (I neverr saw a decent preview of this hiking trail and that’s usually because people either don’t take good photos of it, or the trail really doesn’t have much to show, 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 hiking trail, I traveled over an hour north to do another hike called the Reeves Brook Loop Trail in Harriman State Park the very same day and that ended up being a more scenic and fun hike.

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 Sourland Mountain Preserve unless you’re hiking there in the fall.

2) Sourlands Mountain Preserve is good for mountain biking:

mountain biking sourland mountain preserve

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. Check out that link I just posted for specific trails designated to mountain bikers. The good news is that there’s plenty of trails and options available there for both mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners too.

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 and for that, I would advise getting the Salomon Speedcross 5.

4) Here’s a map of the multiple trails at Sourland Mountain Preserve NJ:

sourland mountain preserve map of trail

You will notice the arrows in the above map. That is the trail run I did when I visited this place so I pretty much saw 70% if not more of the area. But 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 but just in case if you are new to hiking in any kind of area and want to know how to not get lost in the woods, I’ve provided a resource for that.

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.

Here’s a few more Sourland Mountain Preserve photos from my day trip:

sourland mountain preserve photos

Are other Sourland Mountain Preserve reviews are critical as mine? 

Actually they aren’t. While I would rate this place a 2.8 out of 5, most of the other Sourland Mountain Preserve reviews I saw were overly positive and here’s a breakdown of 2 sources I used (Google and Alltrails):

sourland mountain preserve reviews new picture

Despite these positive reviews, one argument I would make is that because I’ve seen a lot of other hiking trails and nature places, if I were to do comparison photos of them, I strongly believe that most people would side me with that there’s better looking places than this. And I actually have a bunch of recommendations of other areas you can explore besides Sourland Moutain Preserve for reference:

Here are better areas to explore “close to” Sourland Mountain Preserve NJ:

hikes near sourland mountain preserve

1) Delaware Water Gap (1 hour away):

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 (2 hours away):

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) Stairway to Heaven trail (1 hour away):

Stairway to Heaven NJ is a shorter but more scenic hike than the stuff you see in Sourlands in my opinion so if you have the time, go here too.

4) Long Pond Ironworks State Park (1 hour away too):

Long Pond Ironworks State Park has OK hikes, and connections to other great parks (like Sterling Forest), but what I like about this place is that it has a nice mix of activities (old villages, kayaking and hiking).

5) Watchung Reservation (45 minutes away):

There aren’t any crazy trails in Watchung Reservation, but its a mellow and scenic place to explore with tons of other cool activities like horseback riding, checking out another abandoned village and more.

6) South Mountain Reservation:

South Mountain Reservation is another great hiking spot in NJ and there are nice mixes of waterfalls, decent trails and even a scenic drive.

7) Hikes near NYC:

Every trail I have listed on my best hikes near NYC article is better than the trails in Sourland Mountain Preserve (and most of the hikes I’ve done in NJ), so I highly recommend those too.

About the Nature Seeker author:

Hi my name's Vitaliy. I love nature travel and this blog encapsulates all of my adventures and top recommendations of what to see (and what to avoid).

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