Skylands definition using Interstate boundaries.

The New Jersey Skylands generally refers to the northwest corner of the Garden State, renowned for its rolling hills, mountains, and lakes interspersed with agriculture and small towns. The term was created by the NJ Department of Tourism to encompass Morris, Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon, and Somerset counties.

But from a geographic, cultural, economic standpoint, most New Jerseyians think a smaller footprint for The Skylands, naturally bordered by I-287 (east), I-78 (south), Delaware River (west), and New York State border (north). This more natural boundary excludes the southern lowland halves of Hunterdon and Somerset counties,but includes the mountainous northwest parts of Passaic and Bergen Counties. Go east of I-287 and you are in “North Jersey.” Go south of I-78 and you are in (the controversial) “Central Jersey”.

Preserved Rural History. You might hear the Skylands referred to as “The Highlands” or as travel writers Bill and Kay Scheller call (nearly all of) it: “Upper Delaware Valley.” Once exclusive to small town dairy farms, mining, and forestry, the creation of 3 major Interstates in the 60’s to early 90’s lead to more development before being curtailed by the 2004 Highlands Act. Real estate agents began referring to the Region as “ruburbia” to attract commuters, giving today’s Skylands a “hybrid” character, but still in marked contrast to the more congested, urbanized parts of the Garden State.

Unique Terrains. The Skylands differ from the rest of New Jersey by its numerous pastures, mountains, lakes, and upland forests. These are mostly located in the “Highlands” and “Ridge & Valley” physiographic provinces. The Skylands were shaped in large part by the Great Wisconsin Glacier 12,000 years ago. The highest point in NJ is in the Skylands’ Stokes State Forest (which also boasts New Jersey’s portion of the Appalachian Trail). Also within the Skylands is the protected “Highlands” watershed. Extending into New York, it is one of the oldest landscapes in North America (Precambrian!) and supplies clean drinking water to 2/3 of NJ’s population. We also get the most snow in the State, earliest frost in Autumn, and last frost in Spring (okay, not everything is great here). But it also brings…

Calmer Vibes. Being just beyond the border of the NYC Metro Area, the Skylands mixes small towns and tiny cities with protected open space, development limits, and agriculture. With less mass transit and smaller roads, this creates a Skylands melieu that is distinct from the “North Jersey” and “New York City Metro Area” labels it often gets folded into. Blacktop and sidewalks share the landscape, rather than dominate it. Hills and valleys are all around you. Lakes and forests abound. You learn to live with wildlife of all sizes in The Skylands. County Fairs are the real deal here, and a summer day on the lake is common. You have room to roam in The Skylands as nature is a short walk wherever you are. Along with the slower, more polite pace in the towns.

The Skylands is a model (albeit imperfect) of how development should be done and why we love it out here. Why not hit the road and get some fresh air, discover new towns, and take in the unique landscapes! 🙂

LATE SUMMER: Beaver Brook near the eastern edge of The Skylands in Denville, NJ
WINTER: Beaver Brook near the eastern edge of The Skylands in Denville, NJ
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