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...
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.
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
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.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.