Know the New Hiking How-tos
Kingston to Rocky Hill Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take the New Jersey Turnpike south to Exit 9. Bear right after the toll booths onto N.J. Route 18 North/U.S. Route 1, then bear left to continue on Route 18 North. Take the next exit onto Route 1 South and continue for 10.9 miles to Promenade Boulevard. Turn right onto Promenade Boulevard and follow it for 1.4 miles to N.J. Route 27. Turn left onto Route 27 and continue for 1.5 miles. After passing through the historic village of Kingston, and just before reaching the highway bridge over the Delaware and Raritan Canal, bear left onto Old Lincoln Highway. Continue over an old railroad track, cross a bridge over the canal, and park in a parking area for the canal on the right.
This hike parallels a section of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, which was an important transportation link between New York and Philadelphia when it was completed in 1834. It was abandoned as a transportation corridor in 1932, but the waterway was preserved because it served as a water supply for adjacent communities. It became a state park in 1974.
Begin the hike by taking a look at the Kingston Lock and the adjacent lock tender’s house, both located just south of Route 27. Interpretive signs give the history of this area, which was a center of activity in the canal’s heyday.
After viewing these interesting remnants of the canal, head under the highway via a corrugated metal tunnel. On the other side, a trail heads to the right and soon reaches the canal towpath. Turn left and head north along the towpath, which runs between the Millstone River (on the left) and the canal (on the right). At one point, a paved road runs relatively close to the towpath, but it soon moves away from the canal, and the sounds of traffic fade away.
In about a mile, you’ll come to a depressed section of the towpath. This area is a spillway, which allows excess water in the canal to spill out into the floodplain of the adjacent Millstone River. Then, about five minutes later, you’ll notice a canal milepost – a square concrete pillar with a tapered top - on the left side of the towpath. The number “21" faces south and on the other side, facing north, is the number “23.” These figures indicate the number of miles from Trenton and New Brunswick, respectively.
Around this point, you’ll observe several large buildings on the other side of the canal. These buildings are part of a traprock quarry that is located just east of the canal. If you are hiking during the week, you may hear some noise from this large operation.
About 45 minutes into the hike, you’ll reach paved Rocky Hill Road. Turn right and cross the canal on a wooden vehicular bridge. On the other side, turn right again and pass the reconstructed stone foundations of the bridgekeeper’s house, then continue south along the east bank of the canal.
You’re now following the right-of-way of the Rocky Hill Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, built in 1864 and abandoned in 1983. The line was primarily used to ship rock quarried near Rocky Hill (today, the rock is shipped by truck). The first mile of this rail-trail has a dirt surface and is often somewhat muddy in wet weather.
A little over a mile from Rocky Hill, a bench and a sign mark the start of a short side trail that leads uphill to the historic house known as Rockingham. In 1783, George Washington lived here for over two and one-half months. Turn left and head uphill to view this historic house, which dates back to 1710. Guided tours of the house are offered hourly. For more information, go to www.rockingham.net.
Return to the canal and turn left. For the last part of the hike, a gas pipeline (marked by yellow posts) parallels the trail. After curving sharply to the right, the trail emerges onto a grassy area, with a parking area for the Flemer Preserve on the left. Continue ahead, cross Route 27 (use extreme care crossing this busy highway), and turn right to return to your car.