The trails in Island Beach State Park are collectively called the "Discovery Trails System." They are designed to allow you to see and learn about all of the habitats associated with a barrier island. There are interpretive signs scattered along the trails that point out interesting facts about the plants, wildlife, and natural systems that you can encounter as you are walking.
Most of the eight trails are fairly short (0.1 - 0.3 miles) and all are under 1 mile. While a few of the trails have some ups and downs or take you across areas filled with loose sand, for the most part the trails are not difficult or strenuous. There is even a wheelchair accessible boardwalk that cuts right across the island. The only potential problem you might come across on any of the the trails are insects.
The trails are interesting and worth exploring. The majority of people that visit the beach in New Jersey have only seen heavily developed areas of the coast. Even plenty of folks that visit Island Beach State Park head down the park road, park in one of the large parking lots for the swimming beach, head right for the beach only catch a small glimpse of the wild habitats that they just drove past. There is a whole other world that lies beyond the wall of vegetation and sand that you see as you drive down the park road. It is also interesting to imagine that the habitats you see as you walk the trails once dominated the landscape in places like Seaside Heights or Lavallette.
Some of the trails pass through areas that are sensitive to human disturbance and/or are located in areas that are primarily managed for preservation. It is important that you pay attention to signs that tell you where you should or should not be walking.
The trails are listed below in the order you will find them if you travel from north to south through Island Beach State Park. Oceanside trails are located on the east side of the park road and bay trails are on the west side.
Oceanside and Bayside.
This trail passes close to the Coast Guard Station buildings that you see shortly after you enter the park. This is one of the longer trails in Island Beach and extends across the entire barrier island. The oceanside section is shorter than the bayside trail. If you do walk down to the bay you will pass the site where the Reed's Hotel once stood.
Aelium Nature Center Trail.
There is a small parking lot and building that are helpful in locating this trail. Outside the building is a butterfly garden and the circular Aelium trail begins and ends at this pretty spot.
Tidal Pond Bird Blind.
A short walk that begins on the west side of the road, opposite the Ocean Swimming area parking lots, will take you to a bird blind that overlooks a small pond.
Fisherman's Walkway and Tice's Shoal Coastal Heritage Trail
Oceanside and Bayside
This trail is adjacent to Parking Area A-7. These trails are the two parts of the wheelchair accessible boardwalk that extends from the ocean to the bay.
One section of this trail to the beach has a boardwalk. This helps you to keep your feet dry as you pass over a section of freshwater wetland where you can find cranberry plants growing.
Johnny Allen's Cove trail
Oceanside and Bayside
This trail can be accessed from the Interpretive Center parking lot. The oceanside trail is a short walk. The bayside trail passes through thicket and freshwater wetland habitats before reaching the bay.
Spizzle Creek Bird Blind Trail
You can reach this trail by parking at lot 19 or 20. This trail will take you to a bird blind that overlooks the bay