Those looking to surround themselves in nature should not miss New Jersey's oldest state forest. Bass River State Forest, located an hour from Philadelphia, Pensylvania, offers acre after acre of secluded pine forest for visitors to explore. You’ll find over 10 miles of hiking trails leading through this Civilian Conservation Corps era forest, along with a wide range of wildlife that calls the park home. You can also connect to the 50-mile long Batona Trail if you are up for a real challenge.
Centered around Lake Absegami, Bass River State Forest has plenty more to do than just hiking. Take a boat out onto the water and try your hand at fishing, or rent a kayak and explore the scenic shoreline that is surrounded by some of the most beautiful pine trees in the state. Once there, you’ll find a large sandy beach where you can relax with your family and enjoy the sun.
If you plan on RV camping, you can choose from two campgrounds conveniently located on-site, one north of the lake and one south of it. Though you won't find any hookups at the campgrounds, guests have access to restrooms with showers, drinking water, and laundry facilities. Both campgrounds give you easy access to the lake, as well as all of the hiking trails.
Located in southern New Jersey, Bass River State Forest can easily be accessed from multiple major cities in the region, making in an excellent destination if you are looking to travel by RV. Bass River State Forest is just a half-hour north of Atlantic City, so it's easy to hit the casinos after a day in the park.
If you are coming from New York, take Garden State Parkway out of the city, and you will arrive in less than two hours. Bass River State Forest is also a quick drive from Philadelphia. Take the Atlantic City Expressway, and you will reach the park in a little over an hour.
Once you reach Bass River State Forest, there are paved roads that will take you directly to both campgrounds. If you're navigating a rig, you won't have to worry about any steep inclines or sharp turns.
If you're camping with a large group, Bass River State Forest offers six group campsites. Each site is able to accommodate between seven and 25 people and is equipped with a picnic table and a fire ring. Restrooms and drinking water are also located nearby. Pets are not allowed at group campsites. Reservations are required and can be made up to 11 months in advance.
Most of the sites located at this campground are for tent camping. However, you will find 13 sites that can accommodate RVs up to 55 feet in length. None of these sites have hookups, although you do have access to showers, restrooms, drinking water, and laundry facilities within the campground. All of the sites are also pet-friendly and have a fire pit and picnic table. All of the sites are within walking distance of Lake Absegami. You’ll also be able to quickly reach the Absegami Nature Trail, as well as access the park’s network of hiking trails. And there is a playground located in the middle of the campground. The campground is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.
This campground has more RV sites available than its counterpart on the North Shore. You’ll be able to choose from 32 campsites that can accommodate rigs up to 55 feet in length. None of the sites have hookups, but they do have easy access to showers, restrooms, drinking water, and laundry facilities. Each site is equipped with a fire pit and picnic table, and you’ll be able to bring your pets to all of the sites.
The sites at this campground are a bit closer to Lake Absegami than those on the North Shore, so the beach is easy to access. And there are picnic shelters located on the edge of the campground. Two of the park’s hiking trails start directly in the camp as well, so you’ll be able to connect to the network of trails. The sites at both campgrounds can be reserved online up to 11 months in advance and are both open year-round.
If you're looking to ditch the RV for a night or two, there are six lakefront cabins available to rent from April through October. Each cabin is equipped with electricity, running water, a kitchen with standard appliances, two bedrooms with bunk beds, a bathroom with a shower, and a screened-in porch facing the lake. Pets are not allowed in the cabins.
Step back in time and learn more about the park's history and why it looks the way it does today. Between 1933 and 1942, members of the Civilian Conservation Corps worked to build Bass River State Forest into the park you see today. You can still see remnants of their work as you walk along the CCC Trail. You'll see stone foundations, picnic areas, cabins, campgrounds, and by far their biggest work, the 67-acre Lake Absegami created by damming two streams that flow through the forest. Grab a brochure from the Forest Office before beginning the self-guided trail.
Bass River State Forest has an excellent network of hiking trails that will give even the most adventurous camper plenty to explore. All the trails are well-maintained, making them accessible for all hikers. You can also access the 50-mile Batona Trail from the park and explore other state forests in the area, including Wharton State Forest and Brendan T. Byrne State Forest. For a shorter treck, check out Joe's Trail. This easy trail is less than a mile in length and will take you along the south shore of the lake to the historic picnic pavilion at the South Shore Campground. The hiking is excellent no matter when you decide to visit the park. You’ll find it really shines, however, at the end of the peak season.
If you want, ditch the boat and jump into the lake for a refreshing swim. The waters stay warm even as the temperature drops in the fall. The 67-acre lake provides enough space for swimmers and boaters, even during peak summer times. There is also a large beach area, so you’ll have plenty of room to stretch out and relax even during peak season. There are showers at the beach, as well as a picnic area and playground.
There’s plenty more for you to do than hike when you come to Bass River State Forest in your campervan. There is excellent fishing in Absegami Lake. You can fish year-round, but the fishing is best from April through October. Common catches include pickerel, sunfish, and catfish. If you plan on fishing, you’ll need a New Jersey state fishing license, which can easily be purchased at multiple sites near the park.
When you park the rig at Bass River State Forest, you can't miss the West Pine Plains Natural Area. This rare, nearly 4,000-acre forest, also called the Pygmy Forest, is the largest of its kind. The extensive forest is full of miniature pine and oak trees that only reach four feet at maturity. If these tiny trees aren't enough to draw you the natural area, there is also an endangered plant species, the broom crowberry, along with several rare moth species. This place will undoubtedly have you feeling out of this world.
Lake Absegami offers 67 acres of scenic waters in the middle of the Bass River State Forest. Bring a kayak when you visit and explore the beautiful shoreline of the lake, or take a canoe out with your family for a fun day of paddling on the lake. There is a boat ramp for easy access if you are planning on using a larger boat (although motorized boats are not allowed). If you didn't bring your boat along in the rig, no need to worry, you could rent a kayak at the lake. Boating is excellent year-round, but truly special as the leaves begin to turn in early fall.
Want to come to Bass River State Forest in your Sprinter van during the winter? You’ll find the forests are excellent to explore as the trees turn, and snow begins to fall. The extensive, even trails turn into outstanding cross-country skiing routes during the winter. Wind your way through the pines as they crust over with ice and snow, and keep an eye out for the wildlife that lives in the forest during the winter. If you are planning a winter trip, it can be hard to prepare for snow. Bring a pair of skis, just in case. Or head out for a last-minute trip to enjoy a winter storm. The campgrounds are often open during the winter, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding a site.
The secluded forests also make for excellent hunting grounds. You’ll find deer, rabbit, and grouse in the park. As the forests are quite popular with hikers, make sure you take extra precautions whenever you hunt. State park officials closely monitor the forests, so always be sure to follow all hunting laws. Both campgrounds are open year-round, making it easy to start your hunt right outside of the Airstream. The hunting seasons vary widely by species, so make sure you check before you visit the park.