A New Jersey Backroads Motorcycle Ride in Fall | Favorite Ride

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Pequannock Watershed
Rumbling through a kaleidoscope of woodland colors, a rider and his passenger on a New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride enjoy the curves of Clinton Road as it ambles through the Pequannock Watershed.

When the leaves tremble with their last days of color and the north winds begin to blow, I want to seize the day and take a ride before the snowflakes fly. I like to experience a variety of roads and sights all within the limited daylight of late fall. Northern New Jersey has great roads that ramble through state forests, around reservoirs and farms, and into small towns, making for a superb day ride.

I had plotted a route for this trip, but soon after my ride began, I saw a road sign that warned: APPLE SEASON HEAVY TRAFFIC. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in the middle of a traffic jam surrounded by carloads of apple‑­picking tourists slowly swarming toward orchards, so I threw out my itinerary and decided to go wherever the road and my gut told me.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride

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Rolling up Abram S. Hewitt State Forest’s Bearfort Ridge on the serpentine Warwick Turnpike, I avoided the congestion by taking the forest‑­enveloped Clinton Road, which snakes through a large section of the 35,000‑­acre Pequannock Watershed. There are four reservoirs open for public recreation, and the area is crisscrossed by mountain trails and home to all manner of wildlife. 

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Pequannock Watershed
A fisherman enjoys some peaceful solitude on one of the Pequannock Watershed reservoirs.

Clinton Road and its surrounding wilderness have a somewhat creepy reputation for ghost sightings, witch gatherings, weird animal hybrids, and at least one infamous serial killer. I was attracted to this particular stretch on my New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride because it was recently repaved and weaves alongside the sun-kissed reservoirs and through colorful forests, but the area’s notoriety added to its allure.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Kawasaki Vulcan
Among the fall colors, the author’s Vulcan stands ready to continue the cruise.

Several boat launches and parking areas provided opportunities to stretch my legs and drink in the scenery. Some riders are tempted to white‑­knuckle it through the many twisties of Clinton Road, but I don’t recommend it. During the late fall rutting season, deer are hyperactive and as plentiful as flies on a cow patty. Besides, a slow cruise gives you time to appreciate the beauty.

See all of Rider‘s Northeast U.S. tour stories here.

However, as I turned off Clinton Road and rode west on the mostly rural State Route 23, I ramped up the pace. The crisp, pure air caressing my face was invigorating. At Hamburg, I picked up State Route 94. Rumbling south, I spotted the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery and stopped to pay my respects. Walking through the cemetery, you cannot help but be overwhelmed with emotion and appreciation for those who served our country and now rest in this hallowed ground. 

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Headstones at Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery honor fallen soldiers.

Continuing south, SR‑­94 passes through Newton, a bustling small town, and then into lush farmland, with New Jersey’s western mountains rising on the horizon like a fortress wall.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride County Road 521
County Road 521 rolls through picturesque New Jersey farmland.

In Blairstown, I stopped for lunch at the Blairstown Diner, which has been family owned and operated for over 70 years and has tasty food and authentic retro decor. The diner was featured in the original Friday the 13th film, and in the hills of nearby Hardwick, Boy Scout Camp No‑­Be‑­Bo‑­Sco stood in for the film’s major setting, Camp Crystal Lake.

From Blairstown, I wound my way north on the rolling County Road 521, stopping briefly at the scenic White Lake Natural Resource Area and the historic Vass Farmstead. Built in 1812 and listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, it is worth a stop.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Vass Farmstead White Lake Natural Resource Area
The restored 19th century Vass Farmstead, now co‑­owned by the Ridge and Valley Conservancy and the state of New Jersey, overlooks the White Lake Natural Resource Area.

At Stillwater, I turned left onto County Road 617 and then followed a series of other rural roads. My Vulcan handled these wavy and weaving routes through farmland and forests with cool confidence. By the time I reached SR‑­23 again, the sun was hanging low in the western sky. Heading south, I cracked the whip on my Vulcan and enjoyed its pulsating power as we rode down the highway.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride
Leaves on the ground means riding season in New Jersey is drawing to a close.

As I exited onto the tree‑­lined County Road 513, my journey neared its end. Although my route was impromptu, the ride was perfect. Cruising on great roads through the beautiful countryside during the fall reminded me what riding is meant to be: unfettered by plans and going with the flow. There definitely will be more freewheeling rides in my future. As Peter Fonda’s sage old biker character Damien Blade said in Wild Hogs, “Lose the watches.”

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

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  1. Northern NJ is fantastic for riding. My friends and I would leave the Philly burbs and head up to Stokes State forest for a few days, stay in the lean-to’s and explore the area including Delaware water gap.


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