New Jersey Backroads

The question is: Does New Jersey have backroads?

New Jersey Backroads

To find out I ordered some books from one of which is Backroads New Jersey, Driving At The Speed of Life by Mark Di Ionno which turned out to be a very good book. Mark is a journalist and the book is filled with historical and personal accounts of the state he loves. He is a true Jersey Guy through and through as well as a writer. For my purposes a book with less fluff and more maps and hard facts is probably what I was looking for, but finding out the rich history of the area was interesting. Being from New England I was under the impression we were the center of the revolutionary war, but apparently New Jersey is considered the Cockpit of the Revolution and George Washington and his troops spent a lot of time fighting the British and their allies in New Jersey. The roads that originated in that era are still there and the answer is: Yes, there are scenic backroads in New Jersey.

To truly explore New Jersey, you have to take the secondary roads. Backroads, New Jersey.

The secondary roads – also known as the intercounty roads or “500” series – are a 6,788-mile network of mostly two-lane highways. These roads, marked by blue-and-yellow five-sided shields bearing county names, makes up over 20 percent of New Jersey’s 33,741 miles of public roads.

The odd-numbered “500” roads run north-south, the evens east-west.

What the secondary road system provides is a well-maintained network of “backroads.” The “500” roads are good roads-smoothly paved and clearly marked as they wind through the countryside, connecting New Jersey’s small towns and main streets.

Many of the secondary roads have their roots in colonial times and some go back to Native Amaericans.

These roads are never the fastest or the most direct way to get to anywhere. They meander. They go through residential areas and school zones. They bog down as they become Main Street in many towns. But when you break out of the towns and hit the country, they are a pleasure to drive.

Let the people in a hurry take the Interstates, let the shoppers and the errand runners take the state highways. Leave the secondary roads to the explorers, and the restless, and the wanderers. And therein lies the true beauty of the secondary roads – so much to see, and so few to see it.

For this book Mark identifies and writes about 9 different significant routes or sets of routes. The book is broken up into 9 chapters and each chapter explores one to three of the best of the 500 series roads and represents each corner of the state. For my purposes Chapter 7 was of most interest. Chapter 7 goes over in detail an 85 mile long road from Frenchtown to Upper Greenwood Lake. The route starts on the banks of the Delaware River just north of New Hope, PA and winds its way Northeast ending just shy of the New York state border not far from Harriman State Park. This could work for us! This could be the route that will get us to Connecticut in a decent amount of time utilizing scenic backroads and avoiding the NJ Turnpike and the Gardenstate Parkway.

Chapter 9 is also worth noting. There are three routes in the mountainous northeast corner of the state which are probably the most scenic and travel through the Delaware Water Gap region. They are 517, 519 and 521.

These are driver’s roads. Mostly open, curving, sloping – a gear changing wind through New Jersey’s most dramatic scenery, roads that are challenging and fun even when you keep the speed limit. Roads built for motorcycles and sporty car commercials.