Washington Crossing State Park Loop

Overview

Walk through history in the footsteps of Revolutionary War soldiers then traverse the park through a well marked network of hiking trails, horse paths and the D&R Canal towpath.

Details
Time:
4 hours
Difficulty:
Easy
Length:
6.65 miles
Route Type:
Circuit
Dogs:
Allowed on leash
Features:
Historic feature
Location
Park:
Region:
County:
Mercer
State:
NJ
Publication
First Published:
11/17/2011
Submitter:
Daniela Wagstaff

Photo

Parking


View Washington Crossing State Park in a larger map

Trailhead GPS Coordinates
40.297243, -74.867736

Driving Directions

From I-95 take exit 1 for NJ-29 North/River Road.  Take NJ-29 North for 2.6 miles.  Turn left on Washington Crossing-Pennington Road (Rt. 546), cross over the canal, turn right on River Drive then right into parking lot.

If the parking lot is full, exit the lot, turn right on River Drive and proceed a short distance to another lot that is less heavily used.  Although a seasonal fee applies to enter the park at the main entrance, there is no charge to use these lots.

Description

Walk south through the parking lot towards the Nelson House, a white historic building with a white picket fence.  Follow the brick walk around the house as it veers left and leads to a pedestrian overpass into the park.  At the end of the pedestrian walkway, the green dot trail begins but first head to the left a short distance to a walled-in overlook for views of the Delaware River and canal below.

Return to the green dot trail and follow it to the left until you reach a paved park road.  Turn left on this road briefly where you will find the historic Johnson Ferry house ahead should you wish to make a small detour.  To the left at the large Continental Lane sign enter into the tree-lined depression between two park roads to follow the path of Washington’s Army’s march to Trenton.

About half of a mile into the hike, just after the red dot trail has joined in and ended, watch for the Visitor’s Center and Museum on the right where you can detour from the hike to view Revolutionary era artifacts before continuing on.

Don’t be concerned when you encounter a closed gate almost a mile into the hike.  You may open the gate and pass through.  It is merely to section off a portion of the park for native wildflower regrowth.  Continental Lane passes through and a second gate exits out of the enclosure.

At a sign with an arrow towards the park office, make a sharp left turn on to the yellow dot trail.  This trail meanders along the south branch of Steele Run and passes by the backside of an open air theater that has accommodated Steele Run to flow under the stage.

When the red dot trail joins the yellow dot trail from the right, turn right on the red dot trail for just a few steps then right on the blue dot trail.  In .35 mile the blue dot trail veers right beyond a wooden gate into an open field.  To the right is the front of the open air theater.  Continue through the field, keeping to the left towards a post at the other end showing you are still on the blue dot trail.  Follow along the outside of a paved drive then turn left into the woods, still on the blue dot trail, at a sign directing to the Nature Center.

When the blue dot trail makes a sharp right turn towards Knox Grove, turn left on an unmarked trail that brings you to the red dot trail.  Turn left on the red dot trail.  Immediately after crossing the north branch of Steele Run on a footbridge, turn right on an unmarked trail and follow briefly next to Steele Run.  At a solid blue trail (all trails in the Nature Center area are marked with solid squares where the rest of the park is colored dots) turn right then right on the solid red trail.

You will now stay on the solid red trail completing a .7-mile loop ending up back at this solid blue trail.  Along the way you can stop at the Nature Center if it is open.  At the end of the loop, turn right on the solid blue trail heading back the way you came but after the second footbridge, turn right where you arrived from the left previously.  A short distance ahead turn left on solid green, then follow solid white to the left. 

Leave the solid white trail to the left as signs direct you on unmarked trails to the wildlife blind.  After checking if any wildlife is there for viewing, retrace keeping to the right then right on a woods road designated as a horse trail.  At the T-intersection turn right on the next woods road.  You will soon pass a white house on the left and just beyond that house, turn left on a gravel road when the path you are on ends.  A short distance ahead at a small parking lot, turn right and walk beyond the gate between two ponds.  A short loop trail brings you around the larger, prettier pond on the left.

Return on the gravel road the way you came, turn right before the gate, pass the white house now on your right, and keep straight on the woods road for the next  .65 mile.  At a T-intersection, turn left on the blue dot trail.

After .6 mile, at the top of an incline with wooden beam steps, turn right on the red dot trail.  In .35 mile turn right on the blue dot trail when you run into it once more and in a quarter of a mile, turn right on the yellow dot trail which ends at Route 29.  Carefully cross Route 29, walk across the canal on the Grant Street bridge, then immediately turn left on the Delaware & Raritan Canal towpath which runs to the right of the canal.  This multi-use towpath returns you to your car in .35 mile.

While in the area, you might want to drive a short distance to Goat Hill Overlook, a hike of under a mile with great views of the Delaware River.

Click here for more pictures of this hike and for a longer option.

Turn by turn description

[  0.00]    Walk south towards the Johnson Ferry House; take walkway over Route 29
[  0.35]    At beginning of the gravel green dot trail, turn left to overlook then retrace and continue on green dot trail
[  0.50]    At paved road, turn left briefly then right on unmarked Continental Lane
[  0.65]    Red dot trail merges in from left
[  0.75]    Keep straight on Continental Lane crossing paved road when the red dot trail ends
[  0.85]    Cross paved park road
[  0.90]    Open gate to enter fenced area, close gate behind you
[  0.95]    Open gate to exit fenced area, close gate behind you
[  1.10]    Cross the main park road; trail descends
[  1.20]    At sign pointing right towards the park office, make a sharp left on the yellow dot trail
[  1.25]    Cross foot bridge, paved road, then another foot bridge
[  1.30]    Back side of open air theater on right
[  1.45]    Straight on yellow dot when green dot comes in from left
[  1.50]    Rock hop across creek, continue left on yellow dot trail
[  1.55]    Keep straight when a bridge goes left over the creek
[  1.70]    When red dot/yellow dot goes straight, turn right on red dot; after a few steps turn right on blue dot
[  2.00]      Keep straight when unmarked connector trail goes left
[  2.05]    Keep right on blue dot when unmarked connector trail goes left, go beyond gate, keep to left of open grassy area and continue straight
[  2.15]    Continue along paved circular drive which goes to parking for open air theater; turn left on blue dot foottrail at sign for nature center
[  2.30]    When blue dot turns right towards Knox Grove, turn left on the unmarked connector trail briefly then left on red dot
[  2.55]    Turn right on blue dot when red dot goes straight downhill on wide wood beam steps
[  2.60]    Keep straight on red when unmarked goes right
[  2.65]    Cross foot bridge over creek then immediately turn right on unmarked along creek briefly then right on solid blue
[  2.70]    Cross foot bridge then turn right on solid red; stay on solid red back around to this point
[  2.85]    Beginning of self guiding trail with orange numbered squares - same as solid red trail
[  3.00]    Trail comes out at nature center, continue follow solid red to left at sign that says "counter clockwise"
[  3.15]    Keep left on solid red when solid white goes right
[  3.25]    Keep left on solid red when bridge goes right on solid white/green
[  3.30]    Straight when solid blue/green goes left
[  3.40]    Turn right on solid blue, cross bridge, pass bench, cross bridge, turn right where previously came in from left
[  3.50]    Keep straight when a trail goes to the left indicated by "E" on post
[  3.55]    Turn left on solid green
[  3.65]    Turn left on solid white when green/white goes right
[  3.75]    Continue straight on unmarked towards wildlife blind when solid white goes right
[  3.80]    Turn right towards the wildlife blind; retrace keeping to the right towards wide horse trail
[  3.90]    Turn right on wide horse trail
[  4.00]    At T-intersection, turn right on wide horse trail
[  4.05]    Pass white park building on the left
[  4.10]    At gravel road with park gate and buildings on right, turn left on gravel road towards small parking area; right at parking area beyond get to loop around pond
[  4.25]    Come out on clearing and keep left back towards parking lot
[  4.30]     Continue on gravel road towards park gates, turn right on woods road just before gates, pass white building on right
[  4.45]    When a wide horse trail goes left, keep straight
[  4.70]    Pass open field with parking on right through trees
[  4.95]    At T-intersection, turn left on the blue dot trail
[  5.05]    Turn left on the blue dot trail when unmarked goes right towards homes
[  5.45]    Keep right on blue dot when unmarked goes left
[  5.55]    At top of beam steps, turn right on red dot when blue dot goes straight
[  5.80]    Left on red dot when unmarked goes straight (not on map)
[  5.90]    Right on blue dot when red dot goes straight
[  6.15]    Right on yellow dot when blue dot goes left
[  6.30]    Cross Route 29, cross canal on Grant Street then left on D&R Canal towpath
[  6.65]    Turn right on steps down to parking lot

Comments

The most convoluted trail I have ever been on

I am an experienced trail walker but these directions are not followable. Finally, in frustration, we ended up walking out of the park and on to a residential street where we headed to the canal and followed it back to the trail head. This trail is poorly marked and with so many twists and nebulous turns that it is not worth the effort.