Christina H.
Monroe, NJ
Joined August 2019
Come for the jaw-dropping views. Review for Round Valley State Park Site 52

Round Valley is certainly a must see for any type of outdoors person, or someone who appreciates relaxation in a gorgeous landscape. It is a semi-mountainous, forested setting with a very large "lake", which is really a man-made reservoir in the middle of a valley. The crystal-clear water is home to huge lake trout and the forests are bursting with wildlife. The sunsets across the lake are to die for. You will have to look very hard to find a more beautiful camping scene in New Jersey. Also, it's dog friendly!

There is no car access to these campsites, you must keep your vehicle overnight in their south parking lot. If you have a camping registration you do not have to pay the fee to enter the park after you check in to the office. The only way to get to the campsites which are located on the other side of the reservoir deep in the woods, are by boating in, backpacking in, or biking in. If you are boating, kayaking, or canoeing to your site, be very careful and watch the wind warnings. If the wind-warning strobe lights go off you should get off of the water asap because the waters can get very rough and this place is nicknamed the Bermuda Triangle of NJ. We were originally going to boat in for a quick overnight, but at the last minute we decided we wanted a challenge. We backpacked 5.5 miles in on an August morning to site #52. The trail was mountainous, rocky, hilly, but for the most part in the shade. This is definitely not a walk through the park easy trail, pack light and don't bring coolers or wagons if you are hiking it. The first three miles are very rocky, with some larger rocks protruding from the ground, but from there on the trail turns into smooth asphalt to allow for ranger and emergency vehicles and it gets a lot easier. We were a bit sore the next day with a couple of mild blisters but we were still able to easily do the 5.5 mile hike back in the afternoon. Someone who does a lot of hiking and backpacking will find the trail easy, but with little to no experience you may struggle. My dog is a 7 year old retriever with minor joint issues and the trail was a piece of cake to her (she even carried all of her own gear).

 These are truly primitive sites with only a few drinking water pumps scattered about and some primitive outhouses, however, you never feel completely alone here because the campsites are not spaced too far apart. My honest opinion: filter or purify your water right from the reservoir if you have the option, because you may be far from a pump, or it may be temporarily closed, and the reservoir water tastes good and is cold. I also opt to skip the outhouses too because they are never clean and always stink unbearably no matter where they are. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. Alcohol and smoking are not permitted. If you must bring alchohol,  bring a little in a subtle container and do not bother the other campers. Swimming is also technically not permitted but there were many people swimming and we swam also and no one was bothered.

Now onto our campsite. Site 52 was nearly perfect. The views were to die for. We were able to clearly see the water past the trees from our tent and from our picnic table. The trip to the water was just a few yards away by a footpath carved through tall grass. Unfortunately, the guests before us were very dirty and there was fresh trash scattered about our spot, so we had some cleaning to do when we arrived. The other downside to this spot is you could just barely see site 53 from your spot, which wasn't a huge deal but it wasn't total privacy. Since the surrounding campsites are just barely spaced out to give enough privacy, you can clearly hear your neighbors if they are being noisy. Keep that in mind if you are being the noisy one too. The park strictly enforces its rules and if you are being a nuisance you will be escorted off the property. We saw it first hand on our overnight trip. Our neighbors were college-age, very loud and rowdy, chugging beers and smoking (both are not permitted so don't make it obvious if you are doing either). Suddenly it got quiet and we look over and there are 3 cops at their site arresting them. We were thankful that it got quiet after that, but it was short lived, right before the sun set our other neighbors boat in and start playing music loudly and chopping wood, this continued until around 1am. We would have complained but we were just too tired and kept just falling back asleep. But seriously please don't be that guy.

Onto the the tl;dr!

PROS:

  • Breathtaking scenery
  • Gorgeous crystal-clear water
  • Sites are in a beautiful wooded area
  • Sites have a picnic table and nice fire rings
  • You can boat, kayak, or canoe right into your spot if you have a water-access site, site numbers are posted to help you find your spot
  • Great spot to watch wildlife
  • Amazing spot for water sports, fishing, swimming, etc
  • Beautiful, scenic trails to hike or bike
  • Can confirm the sunsets are gorgeous 
  • Every site is dog friendly!
  • There is a lot of variety with the sites (water access or more into the mountain, full shade, partial, or no shade, how far they are spaced apart, etc) so you will be able to find the site that is perfect for you 
  • Paths that allow for emergency vehicles, police, and rangers keep the place safe and fun while giving you the remote feeling of a campsite
  • Lots of tinder and firewood available to gather
  • Our site had a couple clotheslines hung already
  • Each outhouse had bear-proof trash cans, very handy

CONS:

  • Our site was left littered
  • Noisy, disruptive neighbors
  • Not full privacy (depending on the site)
  • Outhouses smelled like death and were terribly dirty and dark
  • Only 2 water pumps were working when we went, and they were both way too far, we brought a water filter and pumped our own water straight out of the reservoir 
  • The trail had a surprising amount of litter, mainly tinfoil and cigarette butts scattered along the trail. Perhaps the rangers could be more strict about littering
  • Mild boat noise at water-front sites

THINGS TO DO AT ROUND VALLEY 

  • Great fishing
  • Kayaking/canoeing/boating
  • Swimming
  • Beautiful hiking trails
  • Wildlife/bird watching
  • Mountain biking
  • Picnicking 
  • Relaxing
Stokes State Forest: A nature-lovers dream (Review for Shotwell Campsite)

I would definitely recommend this campsite to anyone wanting a beautiful, remote setting, but with all of the conveniences that the campgrounds offer. Anyone from a beginner to an expert would enjoy Stokes. Whether it be just a short, relaxing weekend trip or an adventure-packed week long trip, this place has the potential to be whatever you make it.

Pros:

  • Has the perfect balance of feeling secluded without feeling completely alone in the middle of nowhere; the campsite we were specifically on was just far enough to be remote-feeling and fully private with trees surrounding it

  • Cute little pond right on the campgrounds

  • Our site had a fire ring, a picnic table, and a large sturdy pole with a hook for your lantern/mesh dry bag/etc

  • Even, rocky, yet soft enough ground to sleep on, many trees available for hammock camping

  • There was a huge, nasty storm one night that we stayed there, with terrible downpour and flash flood warnings, our site was elevated and did not get flooded

  • A lot of firewood and kindling in the area to be gathered, or you can buy firewood right from the office

  • Lots of stuff to do in the area for nature-lovers and outdoors-enthusiasts (Hiking trails, fishing/fly-fishing, sightseeing, mountain-biking, kayaking/paddle-boarding (rentals in the area if you do not own), hunting, swimming, horseback riding, waterfall-hunting, bird/wildlife watching (there are hawks, rabbits, owls, deer, toads, snakes, turtles, frogs, foxes, bats, salamanders, many interesting bugs, beavers, and bears in the area, you never know what you will see), lots of beautiful brooks and streams throughout the entire park, many awesome remote areas to set up your hammock and relax) Whoever said that there wasn't much to do here is just either not an outdoors person or straight up lying!

  • Water and dumpsters are within walking distance, or if you are not up to walking you can just take a short drive to fill up and dispose of your trash

  • There are outhouses scattered around, or if you are really needing a clean restroom where you can wash your hands, the park office's restroom is always open and very clean

  • Can be buggy at night time however, I was pleasantly surprised to have experienced zero mosquito bites and ZERO ticks on ourselves and even our dog (however she did have a leech on her from playing in the brook all day). We moderately used bug spray on ourselves and the dog had her flea and tick topical on.

  • Beautiful view of the stars on a clear night (Which can be breathtaking especially to city folk or those that cannot see stars from their homes)

Cons:

  • Can hear the traffic from 206, but generally gets much quieter at night

  • Campsites are close enough that you may occasionally hear other groups if they are being very loud (We were next to a group campsite that had a very noisy party crowd, but could really only hear them at their loudest, and we weren't bothered)

  • Tent sites are located just off the dirt road where people travel to get to their sites, which means other campers' cars will occasionally pass right through your area. If this bothers you, be sure to book a site as far back as possible. Ex: Site T137 should have no vehicle traffic but your own and is the most remote of that area

  • Water fill stations can be a bit busy at certain times

  • Our fire ring rack was bent, but luckily we came prepared with our own rack to place on top of it and it worked out

  • Lots of poison ivy in the area, if you are not immune to it be very mindful of where you are stepping!

  • Our neighbor warned us that they got a flat tire after arriving at their campsite, and after searching their site found a bunch of nails almost intentionally thrown about. It's not the park's fault and the rangers were made aware of it. Carefully check your site after arriving for anything out of place and report to the office if necessary to keep these campsites safe and enjoyable.

Points of interest nearby the campsite:

  • Big Flat Brook - A beautiful babbling brook that runs all throughout the area. Has great fly fishing for stocked rainbow trout. Access to the brook was only a short but beautiful hike north from our site through some thistle fields and woodlands.

  • Buttermilk falls (Tallest waterfall in NJ), Tillman Ravine, Dingmans Ferry/Falls, and my personal favorite, Silver Spray Falls - Multiple gorgeous waterfalls and ravines just waiting to be explored, all within ~15-20 min by car. I definitely recommend checking them out while you are camping here especially if you live far away from the area.

  • Sunrise Mountain and Rattlesnake Mountain - Catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset on top of Sunrise Mountain, which is a pleasant, scenic car ride directly to the top where there is a small parking lot, a smelly outhouse, and a nice picnic table area with a great view. Rattlesnake Mountain is a part of the Appalachian Trail and is somewhat barren towards the top which makes for excellent views. Like its name, it's not uncommon to see many snakes in the area, rattlesnakes tend to hang out on the top and sunbathe on the rocks. Keep your pets on a leash and have a stick handy just in case, however, they will leave you alone if you keep your distance.

  • Lake Ashroe, Stony Lake, Lake Ocquittunk - Many lakes for multiple activities in the area such as fishing (trout stocked waters), kayaking, swimming (Stony lake has a beach area with lifeguards, restrooms, and picnic areas. Check their website for more info.)

  • Horseback riding - A few great horseback riding places nearby, some offering trail rides through the beautiful park.

  • Appalachian Trail - The widely-known Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking-only trail in the world, that runs all the way from Maine to Georgia goes right through this area. You may run into very interesting people from all over who are thru-hiking the AT.

PLEASE CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR VISIT. LEAVE NO TRACE. KEEP OUR PARKS BEAUTIFUL. THANK YOU.