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.
- Shorter: Lots of interconnected trails to cut it short.
- Longer: Meander around more of the inner trails, more into Rogers Woods, or hook up with the D&R Canal Towpath from the hanging bridge.
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 to cross. There is a bit more to Rogers Refuge plus the Institute’s grounds are supposed have sculptures but we didn’t have time to fully check it out.
Bonus: For history and maps of the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777 check out pbs1777.org.
Map: Print ahead or there may be maps at the Clarke House Museum.
Note: The large network of criss-crossing trails are unmarked save for some stone markers at intersections. Trails are named on the map but may not be any indication of the name on the actual trail. This makes it hard to give a detailed turn-by-turn description so we’ve done an outline below.
Parking: 40.32955, -74.67634
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 (very clean restroom).
Hike Directions: Overview: Gravel – Pipeline– River’s Edge – Marsh – Olden – Pipeline – Founder’s Walk – Trolley Track – Fool’s – Unmarked field walk
The large network of criss-crossing trails are unmarked save for some stone markers at intersections. Trails are named on the map but 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 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.
0.0 – Follow the gravel trail from the lot, passing the Clarke House off on the left.
Turn RIGHT at a stone marker and follow an unmarked trail to the Meeting House and cemetery.
0.5 – Continue, following 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.
[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.
With the bridge at your back, walk straight for just a bit (it’s marked BLUE now) and turn RIGHT on the Marsh Trail as it skirts the edge of Rogers Refuge. [There is another nearby trail over a wooden footbridge that also goes into the refuge – not that one]
1.5 – Pass a raised viewing platform that looks over the marsh and is used to spot birds.
1.8 – LEFT on Olden Trail.
2.0 – LEFT on Pipeline Trail.
2.3 – RIGHT on Founder’s Walk.
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 Fool’s Trail (a gravel bike path) to follow along an open field in Princeton Battlefield.
3.2 – Cross Mercer Road and walk across the grass to the Ionic Colonnade and stone gravemarker.
3.4 – Cross back over Mercer Road over to The Mercer Oak.
Walk towards the entrance road and parking lot.
Hiked: 2/3/18. Trail Blog: “Cold February Day at Institute Woods and Princeton Battlefield“