New Jersey has a bit of a bad reputation—'Armpit of America' anyone? However, most residents will wax rhapsodic about The Garden State's lush greenery, idyllic lakes, abundance of wildlife, and general non-smelly, non-MTV Jersey Shore ambiance.
Here are 19 photos proving that North Jersey defies the Dirty Jerz stereotypes, starting with High Point State Park in Sussex, NJ.
High Point Monument, High Point State Park, Sussex, NJ
Completed in 1930, the High Point Monument stands at 220 feet tall and 1,803 feet above sea-level (the highest peak of the Kittatinny Mountains). Visitors can take in the vistas of three states—Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains (West), New York's Catskill Mountains (North), and New York / New Jersey's Wallkill River Valley (Southeast).
Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, Montclair, NJ
Known as the "rainbow on the hill", Presby Memorial Iris Garden (at Mountainside Park on Upper Mountain Ave. in Montclair) is home to 10,000+ irises of approximately 1,500 varieties.
The Meadowlands District contains 30.4 miles of marshes, wetlands, habitats, and parks (100+ acres of open space and eight miles of trails) to explore. On offer for the public: pontoon tours, canoe tours, nature walks, and six parks where you can spend the next sunny Saturday.
Great Falls, Paterson, NJ
The Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey is a 300-foot wide, 77-foot high waterfall that propels up to two billion gallons of water per day over its edge. For more on the Great Falls, head this way.
Sussex County Sunflower Maze, Augusta, NJ
With over 1.5 million flowers in 2014, this attraction has been dubbed the "largest Sunflower Maze on the East Coast". Come back in August 2015 for your photo opp.
Delaware Water Gap
With more than 100 miles of hiking areas, waterfalls, abundant widlife, historic villages, and much, much more to explore, the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is one of NJ's finest and most-visited nature destinations.
Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ
With incredible views of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, this 1,212-acre park is a show-stopper. For more amazing views of NYC, head this way.
The Hudson River famously froze during the winter of 2015.
Wick House in Jockey Hollow, Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, NJ
During the Revolutionary War, The Wick House (built circa 1750) and the land surrounding it served as living quarters for at least four brigades of the Continental Army over the winter of 1779-1780. While the Wick House is currently closed for rehabilitation, Jockey Hollow will remain open to the public and is surely worth a visit.
Ken Lockwood Gorge, High Bridge, NJ
Designated by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife as a trout conservation area, Ken Lockwood Gorge is an easy-to-get-to escape that many North Jerseyan's dub the most picturesque location in the state.
Lakota Wolf Preserve, Columbia, NJ
A Wolf Watch Tour (10:30am and 4pm daily; $15 for adults and $7 for kids under 11; cash or check only) will get you up close and personal with wolves, fox, and bobcats!
Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1983, The Palisades are a 20-mile stretch of steep cliffs (ranging from 300 to 540 feet high) that begin in Jersey City and end in Nyack, New York.
Reeves-Reed Arboretum, Summit, NJ
The 13.5 acre Reeves-Reed Arboretum property was once traversed by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans and farmed during the Revolutionary War. The Gretchen Keller Azalea Garden and Rock Garden contain about 850 shrubs and 25 trees and The Susie Graham Reeves Rose Garden contains 286 rose bushes.
Rifle Camp Park, Woodland Park, NJ
225-acre Rifle Camp Park is rife with hiking trails, picnic spots, an amphitheater, fitness course, and the John Crowley Nature Center and Astronomical Observatory. Pictured here, the pond.
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Morris County, NJ
According to MorrisParks.net, "the Great Swamp was created approximately 15,000 years ago, when the melting waters of the Wisconsin Glacier poured into the natural basin known as the Passaic Valley". The refuge was declared a National Natural Landmark in May 1966 and today consists of 7,768 acres of varied habitats. Download the brochure for more info and a great map to take with you for your visit.
Lake Surprise, Watchung Reservation, Mountainside, NJ
Fun fact: The Union County Park Commission purchased the gorgeous 25-acre lake for inclusion in the Watchung Reservation and renamed it Lake Surprise, due to the fact that visitors don't see the lake until they are literally right next to it, coming upon it from a winding road.
Branch Brook Park, Belleville/Newark, NJ
In 1895, Branch Brook Park was the first county park opened for public use in the U.S. In 1927, Caroline Bamberger Fuld (sister of Louis Bamberger, the founder of now-defunct Bamberber's department store in Newark) donated 2,000 Japanese cherry blossom trees, starting the vast collection that stands today. Now at a sprawling 360-acres with 4,000+ cherry blossom trees, Branch Brook Park attracts over 10,000 visitors each April. For more photos from Branch Brook Park, head this way.
Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange, NJ
Aside from the 408 acres of forests, streams, hiking paths and generally awesome nature, the views of New York City from the Essex County 9/11 Memorial within the reservation are breathtaking. Download the map.
The Barbette Battery, Fort Lee Historic Park, Fort Lee, NJ
For sweeping views of the George Washington Bridge, head to the north end of this 33-acre park. Don't miss the highly educational Visitor's Center.