As a lifelong New Jersey resident, I always feel like my state doesn’t get the best rap. Even before all the Jersey Shore craze began, New Jersey was always just sandwiched between Philadelphia and New York and overshadowed by both.
If you want to see the beauty of nature, though, few places are better on the East Coast than New Jersey. We’re home to tons of beaches and parks. One such park that’s quite renowned is Allaire State Park in Howell, Wall Township, Monmouth County. This historical park is a famous spot for campers the state over (and maybe a few out-of-towners from New York too; it’s okay, we won’t tell), and for good reason.
If you’re traveling the country this summer and you happen to pass by New Jersey, you might want to consider parking for the night at Allaire State Park. Here’s everything you can anticipate ahead of your stay.
What Are the Campgrounds Like?
First, let’s get a bit into the park itself, then we’ll delve into the campgrounds. Allaire State Park has a long and storied history. It’s existed since the 19th century, when it was used as an ironworks in nearby Allaire Village. James. P. Allaire, who had established the Howell Works (which was located right by the ironworks), became the park’s namesake.
After the ironworks were no longer in use, the space was renovated into a park. There are some traces of history to be found, such as the Pine Creek Railroad. This is still in operation, so if you get a chance to check it out or ride it, certainly do so!
Today, Allaire State Park is under the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Route, which is a 300-mile stretch of road in the state’s southern and eastern coasts. It passes through such stops as the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Cape May, the Jersey Shore, Sandy Hook, Perth Amboy, and the Raritan Bay.
Now that we’ve gotten some history out of the way, let’s talk about the park in the current day.
The park is open all year long, starting at 8 a.m. Closing hours vary depending on the time of year. For instance, in November, the park closes just before dark at 4:30 p.m. Once March rolls around, closing time is at 6 p.m. After Memorial Day and through Labor Day, you can enjoy extra hours at the park until 8 p.m.
There are accommodations for many activities, some that are more athletic than others. For instance, you can:
- Go bike riding or mountain biking (you can even rent bikes at the park)
- Hike or walk nature trails
- Go horseback riding
- Enjoy cross-country skiing
- Do some birding
- Spend a day on the water kayaking or canoeing
- Hunt for deer (on a limited basis only) or go fishing
There’s a food concession area, a playground, and many picnic shelters and tables, as you’d expect. You’ll even find a Nature Interpretive Center and a museum within the Visitor’s Center. Allaire State Park is also known for its plentiful plants, trees, and wildflowers, in which over 200 species of greenery grow.
There are camping reservations available for RV owners and small groups alike. The park has its own office with weekday hours from 8 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Of course, if you’re camping, you’re allowed to stay at the park overnight. It’s free to stay during the week, but there are entrance fees from Memorial Day through Labor Day. If you’re a New Jersey resident, you have to pay $20 every night to camp. If you’re a non-resident, it’s $25 every night.
You’re not allowed to bring pets unless you’re staying at a pet-friendly campsite. Alcohol is not allowed at any part of the campsite either. Said campsite is divided into six areas: A through F. The first four sites, A through D, have room for 50 campers each. The latter two sites, E through F, are smaller and have room for just 25 campers.
The entire campsite has 45 trailer and tent sites. Each has picnic tables and fire rings. While shower facilities and toilets are not included per campsite, you can typically walk to these.
There are also six shelters on the campgrounds, which are like cabins. These are disability-friendly. They have a picnic table and fire ring outside, dual double-decker bunk beds (for four campers), and a heated wood stove. The shelters are intended for cold-weather camping and are thus only available from February through the end of December. If you want to stay, it will cost you $48 each night if you’re a New Jersey resident. If you’re not, expect to pay $60 each night.
Are They RV-Friendly? What about Camper Trailers?
Allaire State Park is indeed a great place to go if you’re thinking about staying in your RV or camper trailer for a few days or even longer. Since the park is more than 3,000 acres, you’ll be surrounded by wildlife and stunning nature as far as the eye can see. There are plenty of lush trees providing shade if you camp in the spring or summertime. In the cooler months, the trees lose their leaves but are strong in number nonetheless.
There are no requirements on RV or camper trailer size available on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s website. I did further digging and couldn’t find anything specific about the size of vehicles allowed on the campgrounds anywhere else, either.
I did see some reviews where campers had brought teardrop trailers. I would say it’s best to be considerate to the other campers around you, then. If you’re camping during peak season, such as in the summertime (so now through September, really), you might want to carefully consider lugging along a large trailer. Once the busy season has passed, I’d say almost any trailer type might be fair game.
If you have a specific question about whether your trailer type is allowed on the campgrounds, you can call Allaire State Park at 732-938-2371. If you’re in the area and want to pop in and ask, their mailing address is 4265 Atlantic Avenue, Farmingdale, NJ, 07727.
As mentioned, there are 45 sites for trailers across the campground. That’s not many, especially during the busy season, so you should book ahead if you can. Remember, you have a picnic table and fire ring available to you. Walking to the shower and toilet shouldn’t be difficult. There are trailer sanitary stations on the campgrounds, but these aren’t available all year. They open in late October until late April. Make sure you follow the directions about dumping sanitary waste.
I did not see any sources of electricity around the campgrounds, unless you’re near one of the shelters. That means you will have to preserve your RV battery if you’re staying at Allaire State Park for a night or two. You may have to leave the park to charge your battery. Be careful about the use of electronic devices, and don’t leave your vehicle on for too long. Otherwise, you could drain the battery.
Things to See and Do
There’s tons to see and do at Allaire State Park. Let’s get into some of the park’s many features in more detail.
Of the 3,278 total acres available at Allaire State Park, 1,276 of them are designated for hunting. That’s 39 percent of the park total, which is pretty generous. Deer are the only animal that can be hunted. You can do so in an area marked Zone 51. The hours for hunting are 30 minutes ahead of sunrise and 60 minutes beyond sunset.
You can use portable tree stands, but you have to take them home with you once hunting season comes to a close. For safety’s sake, there’s no alcohol allowed on the hunting grounds. You’re also unable to bring some equipment and even vehicles with you to the park, as it could startle the deer. You’ll have to park elsewhere and then walk to Zone 51.
Near Allaire State Park is the Manasquan River. It moves in an eastward direction and is known for its lovely waters. Canoeists especially love traversing these waters because they are predictably tranquil. You can enjoy endless natural beauty around you as you spend an afternoon on the water.
You will have to provide your own canoe and safety equipment if you plan on canoeing in the Manasquan River.
Whether for a birthday party, anniversary, graduation, engagement party, or just to have a celebration, picnics at Allaire State Park are a common occurrence. It’s rarer and rarer to have time to spend with family and friends out in nature, so make the most of it and get outside!
There’s no shortage of picnicking amenities out here. You’ll find tables and charcoal grills dotting the park. With bathrooms and sanitary facilities nearby, you’ll have everything you need for a fun day. The shade of the trees across the park will keep you and your loved ones from getting too warm, even if your picnicking event is during the summertime.
Allaire State Park is also known for its fishing. The Manasquan River is home to many fish, including trout. Park representatives add these fish yearly so there’s always a good supply during the fishing season.
The Manasquan River is freshwater, not saltwater. If you are fishing in New Jersey and you’re 16 years of age or older, you must have a valid fishing license. New Jersey residents should have a resident license. You can obtain said license if you’re a resident for six months or more. Non-residents may want to contact Allaire State Park to ensure they’re in the clear. If you’re more than 70 years old, a license is no longer necessary.
Throughout the year, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife does have some Free Fishing Days. As the name implies, everyone can fish, even those without a fishing license. While you can catch and bring home fish with you on any day, you must make sure you’re in compliance with state regulations. You can catch up on those regulations here ahead of your fishing day.
You will have to provide your own fishing gear and equipment.
The trails throughout Allaire State Park are intended for horseback riders, mountain bikers, hikers, and more casual groups who want to walk. All trails combined are 20 miles across the park.
Here’s an overview of the trails:
- The Yellow Trail: Once going by the name of the Furnace Trail and the Floodplain Trail, the Yellow Trail is no longer in use. This is due to its location near the Manasquan River, where it acted as a floodplain. After excessive flooding, it cannot be hiked. However, you can still appreciate its beauty, so it’s worth mentioning here.
- The Boy Scout Trail: This trail is intended for younger families and beginners. There are some gullies and steep hills, but otherwise, it’s an easy hike or walk. The Boy Scout Trail is 1.3 miles long and near the group campsites. You can even see a stream on your way!
- The Oak Trail: If you want more of a challenge, the Oak Trail delivers. It’s almost three miles long and has sand and uneven terrain throughout. You’ll have to start on the Pine Trail then veer off towards Mountain Laurel Trail. You should then see a trailhead that will guide you towards the Oak Trail. With woodpeckers and scarlet oaks, this trail has more than earned its name.
- Mountain Laurel Trail: The Mountain Laurel Trail is even more challenging. It’s a solid three-mile trek that has soft sand spots and some uneven terrain. As mentioned, if you want to get on the Oak Trail, you’ll have to start on this one. There are lots of laurel trees surrounding the path. Doodlebugs, a type of insect, are often found here, as are pretty laurel flowers in the summer.
- Pine Trail: For more experienced hikers, there’s the four-and-a-half mile Pine Trail. It’s on the south side of the park and includes sand, hills, and rocky terrain. It’s not bike-friendly, so you might want to walk or hike it. This will give you more time to see the mountain laurel, lichens, and mosses that abound.
- Capital to the Coast Trail: One of the most popular trails in Allaire State Park is the Capital to the Coast Trail. It’s nearly 10 miles long, with seven miles dedicated to the Manasquan portion of the park and the other two, shorter miles passing through Allaire itself. This path is paved and has benches for taking a break. The Capital to the Coast Trail is currently unfinished and may be as long as 55 miles someday!
- Upper Squankum Trail: A brief 2.2 miles, the Upper Squankum Trail is sometimes wet and sandy but typically quite flat. Head to Hurley Pond Road to locate the northern trailhead. You will be close to I-195 during some parts of the walk, but you’ll still see plenty of nature’s bounties, among them blueberry bushes.
- Brisbane Trail: A little longer than the Upper Squankum Trail is the Brisbane Trail. This one is nearly three miles with similar terrain. There’s more pine trees around here, as well as streams (sometimes with frogs), walnut trees, insects like the green luna moth caterpillars, animals (white-tailed deer, grey squirrels, and turkeys), and oak trees.
- Canal Trail: A looping path that’s almost three miles long, Canal Trail is close to historic Allaire Village. That puts you near Atlantic Avenue and I-195, so watch yourself when hiking! You might want to take a break and check out the village for yourself.
- Nature Center Trail: The second easiest trail at Allaire State Park is the Nature Center Trail. It does have uneven steps that are sometimes slippery or even muddy depending on the weather. Keep sure footing on these stairs. Otherwise, you can get to the Canal Trail from here on horse, on bike, or even on foot.
The Nature Interpretive Center
Allaire State Park’s Nature Interpretive Center is dedicated to the fauna and flora in the park. You’ll have to go to the Atlantic flyaway to enter, but you can expect to see many birds of various species. There’s also lots of various plants, shrubs, trees, and flowers. As mentioned, there are more than 200 species in all.
The Museum and Visitor Center
Another good place for getting out of the heat is the Museum and Visitor Center. The hours at the Visitor Center vary; it’s recommended you call ahead to make sure it’ll be open when you plan to visit.
The Allaire State Park Museum features exhibits showcasing historic Allaire Village, the life and times of James P. Allaire, the past of Howell Works, and life during the bog iron industry in the 19th century.
Pine Creek Railroad
As I mentioned earlier, you can still see Pine Creek Railroad in action in certain sections of Allaire State Park. The NJ Museum of Transportation manages the railroad today. Narrow-gauge trains that run on diesel fuel as well as live-steam trains still course by on its fabled tracks. Those steam trains are an homage to the 1950s, when the railroad was used more regularly and steam trains were one of the most popular ways to get around.
Historic Allaire Village
Don’t leave Allaire State Park without taking a stroll around historic Allaire Village. Once called Howell Works, the name shift occurred sometime in the 19th century. Cast iron and pig iron were the main products of the day, and Howell Works did quite well for itself.
Nonprofit group Allaire Village Inc. keeps the history of Allaire Village alive today. They sponsor flea markets, craft shows, art exhibits, antique shows, living history events, and more than 80 other types of events throughout the year.
Other Helpful Info
According to reviews on TripAdvisor from others who have stayed at Allaire State Park, you have to be careful about which part of the park you choose to camp. As you got a glimpse from the hiking trails, some areas in the park are close to major highways and roadways. These include Atlantic Avenue, I-195, and the Garden State Parkway. The latter is a bustling multi-lane parkway.
Some who camped in the past and reviewed their experience have complained about the sound of vehicles exiting off-ramps as well as other vehicular noise. If this is a concern of yours, try to get to a more secluded spot in the park that’s farther away from highways and roadways. Since the park is nearly 3,330 aces big, you should be able to find an ideal area in your RV or trailer to keep noise at a minimum.
If you’re going to be near New Jersey on your RV adventures this summer, I recommend you spend a day or more at Allaire State Park. This park is RV-friendly, and you can even bring your pet! With hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, and more, there’s tons to do to keep yourself immersed in nature for a day or long weekend.
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