Institute Woods, Rogers Refuge, Princeton Battlefield

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Institute Woods
Wander easy trails, cross a swinging bridge, do some birding, and explore a Revolutionary War battlefield.

3.6 miles, mostly level, mix of wide paths and trail, very muddy when wet.

Our two cents:

This area leans more toward a casual stroll than a hike but some trails can be very muddy and hiking boots might be a better choice than sneakers.

The cool swinging bridge is sturdy and easy (and fun) to cross.

Bonus:

For history and maps of the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777 check out pbs1777.org.

Update: 9/2019 – re-hiked, new photos, minor description tweaks.

Map:

Print ahead or there may be maps at the Clarke House Museum.

Books:

Similar routes in Hiking New Jersey and 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Philadelphia.

Parking: 40.32955, -74.67634

500 Mercer Rd, Princeton, NJ 08540. Route 1 – South of New Brunswick area; R on Alexander Road exit; L on Mercer St.; L into park entrance.

Restrooms:

Possibly in the Clarke House Museum, which is open W-Sa from 10-12, 1-4 and Sun 1-4.

We were there outside of that so we stopped at a Sunoco on Route 1 South not too far from the park.

 

Hike Directions:

Overview: Gravel – Pipeline– River’s Edge – Marsh – Olden – Pipeline – Founder’s Walk – Trolley Track – Fool’s/Bike – Unmarked field walk

The network of criss-crossing trails are a mix of unmarked trails,  stone markers at intersections, occasional letters painted on trees (“F” for Founders etc), and metal markers in Rogers Refuge.

So while trails are named on the map there may not be any indication of the name on the actual trail.

This makes it hard to give a detailed turn-by-turn description and we’ve not noted many of the unmarked intersections because it gets too confusing.

The trails are mostly in a grid, so if you miss one turn there are usually several others to get back. Be sure to have a map or use our Interactive Map linked above.

0.0 – Follow the gravel trail from the lot, passing the Clarke House off on the left.

Turn RIGHT at a stone marker. This brief section was grassy and overgrown the last time we hiked (9/2019). Turn left on the gravel path.

Soon, the Meeting House appears on the right, take a short path to it and a cemetery. Return to the gravel trail.

0.5 – Follow the wide trail as it curves to the LEFT (should be Pipeline on the map at this point).

0.7 – Turn RIGHT on Far Trail.

1.0 – Near Stony Brook, turn LEFT to follow River’s Edge Trail along the water.

1.4 – Arrive at the Swinging Bridge – we just crossed for fun and then came back.

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Longer option: Cross the bridge to a spur trail that leads to the D&R Canal Towpath which continues in either direction for many many miles.
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With the bridge at your back, walk straight for just a bit (it’s marked BLUE now) and turn RIGHT on the Marsh Trail.

[Near the swinging bridge is another wooden footbridge that also goes into the refuge – not that direction.]

The Marsh Trail skirts the edge of Rogers Refuge.

1.7 – Pass a raised viewing platform that looks over the marsh and is used to spot birds.

1.8 – Don’t follow blue as it turns right – continue ahead where now the path is marked with a 3-pronged RED symbol painted on a tree.

1.9 – LEFT on Olden Trail.

2.0 – LEFT on Pipeline Trail.

2.3 – RIGHT on Founder’s Walk. There was an “F” painted on a tree to the left, again in a bit after turning right.

2.5 – A rock marker (Founder’s Rock) at the intersection of the Trolley Trail, near a grassy area at the edge of the Institute for Advanced Study grounds. Turn LEFT onto Trolley Trail.

2.7 – Turn RIGHT on a gravel/mowed bike path (at the intersection of Fool’s Trail on the map) that follows the edge of a field in Princeton Battlefield State Park.

The field contained tall wildflowers when we last hiked it.

3.1 – Cross Mercer Road and walk across the grass to the Ionic Colonnade and stone grave marker as a memorial for the Battle of Princeton on Jan. 3rd 1777.

3.4 – Cross back over Mercer Road over to The Mercer Oak.

Walk across the field towards the entrance road and parking lot.

Hiked: 9/15/19. Trail Blog: “Hiking to the Swinging Bridge in Princeton, New Jersey
Hiked: 2/3/18. Trail Blog: “Cold February Day at Institute Woods and Princeton Battlefield