• This Is Rutherford

Fifteen Nature Walks Less Than 15 Miles From Rutherford

Updated: Sep 18

Submitted by Anne Schuchman Berrettini

Photo credits: Anne Schuchman Berrettini

You can work from home, you can school from home, but sometimes you just need to get out! Studies have shown that being outdoors in nature can improve mental health and strengthen immunity, and it’s an easy and enjoyable way to get in some exercise. Here are fifteen great places to take a nature walk, all less than a fifteen-minute drive from Rutherford. There’s a little bit of everything: wetlands, woods, mountains, even a waterfall! Most of these are fairly short walks, but all provide opportunities for bird watching, getting some fresh air, and seeing some wildlife. They also show that even small parks can offer a whole lot to preserve wildlife and maintain a healthy community. Grab the kids, lace up your shoes, and pack your masks and some water bottles. With nature walks this close you can be there and back in just a few hours. Most parks are open from sunrise to sunset, and all are free. When possible, check park websites for the latest information about hours and closures.


1. Former Norfolk Southern Railway (the Rutherford “Highline”)

A former train line that passed through the now-defunct Carlton Hill train station, this path has been cleared for about ten years, thanks to local volunteers. Bergen County is currently in negotiation with Southern Norfolk Railroad, which still owns the land, for development into a rails to trails walkway. One of the few open spaces in town that has not been developed into residences, business, or playing fields, it is one of the best places in town to see local wildlife, including a variety of birds (Northern flicker, Baltimore oriole, downy woodpecker, goldfinch, warblers, marsh wren, red-tailed hawk, and many others.).

Location in Rutherford: On the border between Rutherford and East Rutherford, beginning roughly around Montross and Erie Avenues, and continues across Jackson Avenue, and until the Passaic River.

Trail length: about 1mi

Trail difficulty: Easy

Facilities: This is private land, so technically you are trespassing, but the railway has been turning a blind eye for years. As a courtesy to your neighbors, please keep dogs on leash and take your trash with you. No bathrooms, except for facilities in Rutherford Memorial Field.


2. Kingsland Park, Nutley

More a pleasant stroll than a hike, Kingsland Park runs along the Passaic River in Nutley, and passes through playgrounds, ballfields, small waterfalls, and benches, merging into Essex County Yanticaw Park.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 7 minutes

Trail length: about 2mi, accessible

Trail difficulty: Easy

Facilities info: Dogs allowed on leash. Street parking. Bike friendly. Playgrounds.


3. Richard W. DeKorte Park (Meadowlands Environmental Center), Lyndhurst (photographed above)

After decades of use as a dumping ground, the establishment of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission in 1969 (now merged into the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority) developed a plan for habitat preservation and regulated development of the Meadowlands District. DeKorte Park is the largest of the NJSEA parks, and home of the Meadowlands Environment Center and McDowell Observatory (closed due to COVID19, but keep posted).

Driving Time from Rutherford: 11 minutes

Trail length: about 3.5 miles, partially accessible

Trail difficulty: Easy

Facilities info: Bathrooms inside Environmental Center (closed); Dogs allowed on leash.


4. Alonzo Bansal Wildlife Preserve, Montclair

Nice little park in a neighborhood, along part of the Third River, or Yantecaw River, a small stream now that meanders from Great Notch Reservoir in Woodland Park, through Passaic and Essex counties, before emptying into the Passaic River in Clifton.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 11 minutes. Street parking on Riverview Drive or Daniels Dr. (both dead-end streets).

Trail length: about 1-mile path and stairs, not accessible.

Trail difficulty: easy, but parts can be muddy.

Facilities info: No bathrooms; Dogs permitted on leash.


5. Mill Creek Marsh Trail, Secaucus (photographed above)

Part of the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority (formerly Meadowlands Commission), this park is a small gem, located across the Hackensack River from the Meadowlands Sports Complex, and tucked behind the Harmon Meadows shopping area. It’s a short walk on elevated platforms and dirt trails, and the Turnpike provides a constant drone in the distance, but the trail offers an interesting glimpse of the stumps of the former cedar forests that used to cover the area, a reminder that what is now marshland was once forest.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 12 minutes (put in Bobs Discount Furniture, Secaucus, in your GPS, otherwise google may act as a state trooper and tell you to just pull over on the side of the Turnpike).

Trail length: 1.5 mi, accessible

Trail difficulty: Easy

Facilities info: Dogs allowed on leash; No bathrooms; Bike-friendly, but some of the trails aren’t very wide, so be considerate of others as you pass.

6. Clarks Pond, Bloomfield (photographed above)

The Third River that flows through Alonzo Bonsal Wildlife Refuge in Montclair, flows into Clarks Pond behind the Bloomfield middle school, before continuing to Nutley. This is a small, quiet trail, both paved and unpaved, not always well-maintained. Fishing allowed and the pond supposedly is stocked with trout (permit required). You may see deer in the woods.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 12 minutes. Street parking on Bessida St. or from Bloomfield Middle School.

Trail length: 1 mile (trails aren’t very well-maintained, but the park is so small it’s not like you will get lost).

Trail difficulty: easy, partially paved (near the middle school) or gravel (going toward the lake)

Facilities info: No bathrooms; Dogs permitted on leash; Fishing


7. Morris Canal Greenway, Bloomfield

With the Garden State Parkway zipping by right nearby, this very small segment offers a respite with a kiosk with information about the Morris Canal and the Greenway project that extends throughout the state.

Distance from Rutherford: 11 mins.; park on Oaktree Lane

Trail length: < 0.5mi

Trail difficulty: easy

Facilities info: No bathrooms; Dogs on a leash

8. Laurel Hill Park, Secaucus

Set against the impressive backdrop of Laurel Hill (Snake Hill), a former quarry of igneous rock used in the development of surrounding areas, this park is home to the Hackensack Riverkeeper’s Paddling Center where you can rent canoes and kayaks and book Eco-Cruises on pontoon boats. You can also see the Meadowlands from the water with guided tours from Rutherford’s Tom LaTourette at Meadowlands Kayak Tours (variety of locations).

Driving Time from Rutherford: 14 minutes

Trail length: about a mile, accessible

Trail difficulty: easy

Facilities info: Playing fields,; Playgrounds; Dog park; Boat launch; Fishing dock; kayak rentals


9. Losen Slote Park, Little Ferry and Moonachie

Dutch for “winding creek,” Losen Slote is a good place for birdwatching. You may also see deer. Mehrhof pond, in the middle, is fenced off.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 12 minutes; park in lot next to BCUA.

Trail length: about 1-mile trail, not accessible

Trail difficulty: easy, but muddy; wait for a day after a few sunny days, and wear boots

Facilities info: No bathrooms; Dogs on a leash.

10. Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, Paterson

Not your typical nature trail, Paterson Great Falls, run by the National Park Service, is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. Paterson is the first planned industrial city in the United States, and these falls powered the surrounding factories. The Great Falls have been featured in the epic poem Paterson by William Carlos Williams (“the river comes pouring in above the city/and crashes from the edge of the gorge/in a recoil of spray and rainbow mists”), the television program The Sopranos, and the Jim Jarmusch film, Paterson.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 15 minutes

Trail length: Stony Ridge Trail 0.6mi

Trail difficulty: Easy

Facilities info: Bathrooms and museum are closed until further notice; a park ranger is available for questions and information


11. Mills Reservation, Montclair

Mills Reservation, right near Montclair State University, is a great place for a walk any time of the year. Several of the trails are loops, which makes planning easy, and some sections go along a quarry ledge and offer great views of northern New Jersey all the way to New York City (take care with kids, mountain bikes, and dogs).

Driving Time from Rutherford: 15 minutes; parking lot on Normal Avenue, or else street parking near the Presby Iris gardens on Upper Mountain Avenue and walk up to the park on the Lenape (yellow) trail.

Trail length: several miles of trails wander through the woods, some accessible

Trail difficulty: easy to moderate

Facilities info: Dogs allowed on leash; No bathrooms.


12. Overpeck County Park

The largest park in the Bergen County Park system, Overpeck offers a little of everything: playgrounds, horseback riding, canoe, and kayak rentals, and bike and walking paths along the Hackensack River.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 15 minutes

Trail length: 5miles of trails

Trail difficulty: easy

Facilities info: Bathrooms; Bike-friendly; Dog park; Playgrounds; Picnic areas; Playing fields.


13. Saddle River County Park

Large county park stretches 5 miles along the Saddle River, with various entries and parking. Although the park is flanked by several major highways, you can see a surprising amount of wildlife here, including assorted birds and waterfowl, turtles, and deer.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 15 minutes

Trail length: about 6 miles (but you can just do sections); mostly accessible

Trail difficulty: easy

Facilities info: Bathrooms, Dogs allowed on leash; Bike friendly; Playgrounds; Duckpond; playing fields; Fishing with permit.

14. Mill Creek Marsh Trail, Secaucus (photographed above)

A complex with an approximately 1.6-mile greenway that winds through marshes on raised platforms, asphalt, and gravel path. Overlooking the Hackensack River and Mill Creek, this is a great place to see fish and birds. While you’re here, pop down the road to Schmidt's Woods Park, which offers a rare opportunity to see natural woodland in the meadowlands area. In the 17th Century, settlers in the Meadowlands District cleared most of the forests away for farming.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 15 minutes

Trail length: 1.6mi, mostly accessible

Trail difficulty: Easy

Facilities info: Dogs allowed on leash. No bathrooms.


15. Borg’s Woods Nature Preserve, Hackensack and Maywood

Borg’s Woods is 14-acre county nature preserve with old-growth trees (average age 200+ years) and a small pond (Borg’s Swamp). Plus it has a cool name! The park was named after Hackensack resident and Bergen Record founder John Borg.

Driving Time from Rutherford: 15 minutes

Trail length: several short trails, probably 1mi altogether

Trail difficulty: easy

Facilities info: No Bathrooms; Dogs allowed on leash


PLUS FIVE MORE NATURE WALKS UNDER 20-MINUTE DRIVE:

Rifle Camp Park, Woodland Park

Garret Mountain Reservation, Woodland Park

Flat Rock Brook, Englewood

Teaneck Creek Conservancy (partially closed for restoration)

Hilltop Reservation, Cedar Grove, Verona, and North Caldwell


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