Take a break from the city at New Jersey’s Spruce Run Recreation Area. During warm weather, its awesome sandy beach is the focal point of many outdoor activities. During the winter, there are miles of backcountry trails to explore. You could flip these activity seasons, but we really wouldn’t recommend that.
Spruce Run Recreation Area is located on one of the largest reservoirs in New Jersey. That’s good for a couple of reasons. First, the large lake usually attracts a good crowd. So, there are lots of activities here that are not available at other New Jersey state parks. Second, the state only draws water out of the reservoir during extreme droughts. So, even when the weather really warms up and dries out, the water level hardly ever drops.
If RV camping is your thing, Spruce Run Recreation Area is a great place to take your rig during warm weather months. Over 60 RV campsites are close to all the action. The RV campground is on the edge of a peninsula, so it’s surrounded by clear blue water on three sides. All in all, it’s a very nice setup.
Spruce Run State Park is about halfway between the New York/Newark metro area and the Pennsylvania border along the Phillipsburg-Newark Expressway (Interstate 78). So, it’s very accessible from pretty much any point in the Tri-State area. There is a fair amount of traffic on this road, but it’s also wide and well-maintained.
If you prefer the scenic route, there are plenty of options. A dense network of state highways and rural routes crisscross this part of northern New Jersey. No matter which direction you come from, there are plenty of ways to get to the park in a reasonable amount of time while enjoying some nice scenery.
Inside the park, there is lots of large vehicle parking on either side of the beach, around the picnic areas, near the boat launch, and at other places as well.
This RV campground is open from April 1st to October 31st. It has 67 no-hookup sites, so it’s the ideal roughing-it RV campground. Each level site has a picnic table, outdoor grill, and fire ring. All that outdoor stuff makes these campsites ideal for long summer nights. Campground facilities include a playground, dump station, camp shelter, restroom/, shower area, boat rental area, and plenty of lake access. Both reservations and walk-ins are accepted.
Both reservations and walk-ins are accepted at this state park.
Spruce Run Recreation Area has one of the nicest beaches in New Jersey that’s not on the Jersey Shore. There is lots of parking all around the beach, so it’s very accessible. The boat launch and boat rental area are both on the opposite side of the park, so the swimming area is very serene as well. Lifeguards are generally on duty during the summer. Grilling is allowed on the beach, and it’s hard to beat a summer beach cookout. Spruce Run beach also has lots of family-friendly facilities. There’s a concession area, restrooms, a shower area, and changing area. Sporting fields, including basketball courts, are located just off of the beachfront.
The boat launch area has a ramp launch and two cartop boat launches. The ramp is mostly for powered craft and sailboats, while the cartop launches are mostly for canoes and kayaks. Windsurfing is also very popular here. Only a tiny portion of the lake is off limits. For the most part, it’s yours to explore. Paddlers usually like to stay around the shore, powered boaters usually stick to the big open areas of the water, and fishing boats and sailboats typically stay on the western part of the lake. So, there’s enough space for everyone.
There are roughly 30 species of fish in Spruce Run Lake. Every year, park rangers stock the lake tributaries with trout hatchlings. Bass, perch, and catfish are usually biting here as well. The consistently high water levels make Spruce Run Lake one of the most fertile ones in New Jersey. The most popular shore fishing site is near the boat launch. But there are many other spots as well, and park staff diligently maintains them all. Boat fishing is popular as well, and as long as there’s no ice, boats are allowed at all hours. Speaking of all hours, night fishing for catfish and bass is popular during the summer. During the winter, ice fish for pike, perch, and crappie.
At Spruce Run Recreation Area, a picnic is basically an all-day affair. There are four picnic areas, and three of them have small private beaches. All of them have ample barbecue grills and restroom facilities. There’s also the huge Group Picnic Area, which is in one of the quietest areas of the park. This area features a large covered pavilion, several super-size charcoal grills, a children's play area, and a large parking area.
The deer hunting is outstanding here, and people know that. So, get to the park early if you want to stake out a good spot. Limited hunting blinds and tree stands are allowed. Pheasants and ducks are also plentiful here, but you probably want to use a gun to bag these things.
The Spruce Run Trail is a relatively flat trial except at either end, where it gets a little steep. For the most part, it follows an old logging road through some really cool evergreens. It’s also mostly a double-track trail, although there are a few single-track spots. The trail gets a bit muddy and slippery after a heavy rain, so be especially careful at the few rocky and steep points.