The Garden State is the most densely populated state in the U.S. Its proximity to New York City and Philadelphia makes it an excellent place for people who prefer suburbia over city life but enjoy a weekend excursion to the Big Apple. Despite its notoriety for bad drivers, reality TV, and the north-south divide between a Pork roll or Taylor Egg and ham, it is home to several outdoor recreation oases. This is good news for northeast rock climbers as hidden gems of outdoor boulders and rope routes lay tucked away, awaiting your sends.
- Allamuchy Mountain State Park; Morris, Sussex, Warren Counties
Dubbed “the best” climbing crag in NJ, you’ll find many top-rope routes and boulders to explore. While Mountain Project will be your best friend for rock climbing in NJ, you can check out the “Garden State Climbing” guidebook, published by Joseph Vulpis in 2020. Two other guidebook options exist, including a 2023 republished edition of “Rock Climbing and Bouldering NJ” with a corresponding app. The third option is “Falcon Guide: Rock Climbing New Jersey” by Paul Nick and Neil J.A. Sloane.
A big draw to this location is the easy access from the road (a five-minute walk). You will need to fill out a climbing waiver found at the trailhead. Most of the listed climbs are either top-rope or traditional (trad). The lack of sports climbing in NJ is unsurprising as NJ does not allow bolting of rock faces. The highest established rope grade in Allamuchy Mountain State Park is 5.12. The highest established boulder grade is V7, but unfinished projects and undiscovered lines await!
- Sourland Mountain Preserve; Somerset County
The Sourland Mountian Preserve in central Jersey straddles Hunterdon and Somerset counties. It is important to note that climbers are only allowed to climb in the part of the preserve located in Somerset County. Hunterdon County does not permit climbing. Sourland is a bouldering-only location, but it won’t disappoint you.
On the Somerset side of the preserve, you’ll find two boulder fields and your pick of some excellent boulders. You can find over 80 boulders listed on Mountain Project or invest in the “The Sourland Bouldering” guidebook, which sports 166 problems running from V0 to V11.
If you’re looking to do something fun in the spring, there is an annual outdoor bouldering competition called the Sourland Smackdown for all levels of rock climbers.
- Mt. Tammany; Delaware Water Gap
On the border of PA and NJ, Mt. Tammany is one of two mountains with climbing. The second mountain, Mt. Minsi, sits on the Pennsylvania side, but Mt. Tammany is in New Jersey and is home to the state’s best multi-pitch climbing. In the winter, there are also a few ice-climbing opportunities, and you can find a handful of top ropes and boulders.
There are a few guidebooks to choose from, including:
- “Falcon Guide: Rock Climbing in New Jersey” by Paul Nik and Neil JA Sloane (2000)
- “Garden State Climbing” by Joseph Vulpis
- “Climbing Guide to the Delaware Water Gp” by Michael Steele (out of print but can still be tracked down online)
- “Rock & Ice in the Gap” by Hugh Dougher (also out of print, but can still find copies).
While New Jersey may not be a well-known rock-climbing destination, there are fantastic bouldering, top-rope, trad, and multi-pitch options for locals to explore. Depending on where you live, the travel could be just a few minutes or an hour or two. The population density is partly due to its small geographical size, so a day trip to Allamuchy, Sourlands, or Delaware Water Gap is likely feasible for most. If there are any other noteworthy crags in NJ, please share them with fellow climbers below. Or, if you know any helpful info about these three spots, feel free to add to these descriptions in the comments!