Hot summer weather always leads us to choose: “hike or bike?”. The forecast this weekend made the choice easy. Saturday was supposed to be a bajillion degrees with dire heat warnings in effect. Sunday was shaping up for early-AM rain followed by afternoon thunderstorms… so with that sliver of available outdoors time, we tossed the bikes onto the car and headed over to the towpath at Washington Crossing.
A suggestion to hike Bowman’s Preserve (a wildflower preserve that is right off of the towpath) from Linda over on our NJ Hiking: Connect site got me thinking about doing a section we hadn’t done before: crossing over the bridge into PA and taking the towpath north and returning south on the Jersey side. Then I recalled we’d planned on doing a similar route before changed last minute when we found the bridge was closed. (see D&R Canal Biking: Washington Crossing to Stockton).
Route: – View in Google Maps – Washington Crossing in NJ, cross the bridge to PA, take the towpath north through New Hope to the bridge to Stockton, south from Stockton, NJ through Lambertville, and back to Washington Crossing in NJ.
As usual, we managed to have a bit of an adventure.
After walking our bikes over the bridge into PA we rode straight for a couple of blocks on the street. When we saw a street leading into Washington Crossing Park (PA side) we decided to turn right and just go through the park instead. Once in the park, we headed left and followed the outer park road around, assuming we’d run into the towpath – and we did. [the actual route is down the street we were on, or we could have just turned right onto the gravel path after coming over the bridge, and gone through the park from there... which I think we'd do next time]
The towpath is really pretty and quiet on this side as it passes large, well-landscaped houses that front the canal.
At only 2.5 miles into our ride we came upon a HUGE tree blocking the towpath. The couple biking just in front of us looked at it and turned around. We walked over and saw there was a path beaten through the brush around it. It was slippery, thorny and a little dicey so we walked it first but decided it was doable to get the bikes around.
A few miles later we had to lift our bikes over fallen tree, and over another at 6.5 miles but that was it for the PA side.
At 7.2 miles we arrived in New Hope. We didn’t see any signage nor any indication where to pick up the towpath again. So we set off through town. New Hope is full of nice restaurants, lunch stops, ice cream and funky shops and is a destination in itself. You can also cross the bridge here and head back on the NJ side, if you want to cut this ride shorter.
Soon there was a sign to turn left for the towpath but it was in a narrow alley up a bunch of stairs so we figured we’d just go up to the next block and turn. When we found access again it was closed anyway and we could see it was closed at the next intersection as well. Hunh. Wasn’t expecting that.
So we kept meandering through town, figuring we’d hit the towpath eventually. We got back on at Bridge Street and rode on. We were getting close to 11 miles so we turned right at the bridge to head into Stockton, NJ. [Note: the bridge is up some stairs, though not terribly hard to haul your bike up it's worth a note. There is also a trail kiosk that again this time had a nice fold-out map of the entire towpath]
Once over the bridge, we walked straight for a couple blocks (didn’t see any signs… come to think of it, there really aren’t many along the towpath as it’s mostly obvious where to go). Turned right onto the path – it’s obvious with trail kiosk and gate, at a little store.
The rest of the ride was mostly smooth sailing. We did have one more tree that we had to walk under… which was COVERED in poison ivy – leaves everywhere – and that required ducking under the trunk while avoiding the big, fuzzy poison ivy vine on it.
I shudder to think of all the people going under that tree that didn’t realize what was on it…
Parking: N40 17.894 W74 52.098
Rt 1 S to 95 S to 29N. Left onto Washington Crossing Pennington Rd then quick right at River Dr., turn right again into the lot (watch the entrance/exits, they are one way) There is also a PDF that gives GPS coordinates of the parking areas. Restroom in the parking lot.
Map: For an overview map use this Delaware Canal State Park map or this Delaware Canal State Park map.
Also… for the PA side: delawareandlehigh.org and for NJ: dandrcanal.com and D&R Canal Towpath. [Check each site for closed sections, but we ran into a closure around New Hope that was not noted on the D&L interactive map.]
Sample loop routes on this: Towpath Trails
Delaware and Raritan Canal Historic Map – 1976, also contains info about the canal’s creation. Via Rutgers Special Collection.
Book: Rail-Trails Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York includes a long section from Bristol through Lambertville to Easton, PA, which part of this route uses.
Wildlife spotted: Two Blue Herons, tons of geese, a pair of swans and a large very bright orange fish in the canal that looked really out of place, like an escapee from a koi pond…
Gear recommendation: We use Burt’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap when we get home after getting anywhere near poison ivy. Do we have proof it works? Nope… but we haven’t gotten poison ivy after using it. But then again, we are super vigilant about not romping through it to start with… at any rate, we figure it’s a cheap and easy precaution.