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South Mountain Reservation played a key role in the Revolutionary War; due to its high peaks with excellent views of New York City, George Washington set up a beacon hill signal station on the hilltops. There, his soldiers were able to covertly observe military movements and report back. Nearly a hundred years later, the state of New Jersey began purchasing land in 1895 with its eye on establishing a recreational park for the New Jersey residents to enjoy. Development began in earnest in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps, operating under President Roosevelt’s New Deal, blazed miles of trails, built footbridges, shelters, and paved roads. This work allowed people to more easily enjoy the park’s beauty.
In 1962, around 16 acres were set aside for what would become Turtle Back Zoo. The zoo has grown from its humble beginning with a handful of animals to house a few hundred species of animals, some of which include penguins, big cats, reptiles, and native New Jersey wildlife.
The closest large town is Union, NJ, roughly seven miles south, which has a small hospital equipped with an emergency room, a Walmart store, and a retail shopping district. The city of Union is largely a bedroom community. There are several homes and buildings registered on the National Register of Historic Places, including a set of homes that are made entirely out of poured concrete, which was one of Thomas Edison’s experiments. Search for an RV in Union County and get ready to embark on an RV camping trip of a lifetime.
Covering a little over 2,100 acres of woodlands, South Mountain Reservation consists of low mountain ridges that many people would call hills. The forest floor is flat enough that these nubbly mountains grant hikers and adventurers an excellent view of the New York City and Newark skylines. Around 15 miles of trails wind and weave through groves of towering hemlocks and hardwood trees. Some trails ascend to the hilltops for a sweeping view of New Jersey. Other trails meander past old, long-abandoned settlements, small meadows that were once used as grazing lands, and quaint, picturesque waterfalls that will delight a landscape photographer.
There are two waterfalls in South Mountain Reservation that usually gush year-round, though, during a dry year, the flow of water often will slow to a trickle. Hemlock Falls is about 25 feet high, and Blackrock Falls is a multi-tier cascade of around 20 feet.
The South Mountain Reservation borders Orange Reservoir, which is a popular fishing hole. Although there are no boat launches (only paddleboats are permitted), bankside fishing is allowed. Anglers can expect to catch a variety of fish, including but not limited to largemouth bass, white bass, carp, yellow perch, and bluegills.
In the heart of New Jersey suburbs, there is no RV camping at South Mountain Reservation due to the local regulations and policies. However, a few miles to the west, there are several options that may work. RV camp near Flanders, NJ, at Fla-Net Park Campgrounds. The campground has oversized RV sites for large rigs, and guests can choose between partial or full hookups. The restrooms with hot showers and flush toilets are a short walk from most sites.
The Panther Lake Camping Resort may be a good option to consider, too. Near Andover, this resort boasts a private lake. The RV sites are scattered across 160 acres, and the full-service resort has an on-site camp store, laundry facilities, and the staff also holds several planned activities like live band, art and craft activities, and games.
Alternatively, go camping with an RV at the Great Divide Campground in Newton. A larger campground with around 270 sites, all of which have full hookups, guests can choose between RV camping in an open space or a wooded setting. The campground has a security gate, which helps create a sense of security, and is extremely pet-friendly.
In the heart of northern New Jersey, it’s only logical to hop into a rental motorhome and hit the surrounding towns and cities in search of attractions and interesting sights. Thomas Edison National Historical Park, found in West Orange, is a must-see for many visitors to New Jersey. The historical park spotlights Thomas Edison, an inventor, and entrepreneur who generated thousands of inventions, many of which are still in use today (eg: lightbulbs, nickel-iron batteries, and x-rays).
Newark, NJ, is perhaps best-known for its airport, the Newark Liberty International Airport, but the town has other interesting attractions that should not be overlooked. Newark Museum of Art houses a comprehensive collection of art from around the world, including famed artists like Georgia O’Keefe, Frank Stella, Thomas Cole, and Childe Hassam. There are dozens of other museums in the area as well in nearby New York City.
Whether you’re after a classic RV camping experience or convenient access to the New Jersey and New York scene, renting an Airstream will help you achieve it all.