Plainsboro Preserve in Spring

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Lake McCormack

First time hiking at Plainsboro Preserve.

Spring is finally here it seems – and what a gorgeous weekend to get outside.

We were out late catching a screening at the Garden State Film Fest*, so we continued our exploration of parks under an hour away. This weekend we ended up at Plainsboro Preserve.

Miles: 4.6


For detailed hike directions visit our main “Plainsboro Preserve” page.

Having a time crunch lately and being limited to nearby parks has actually been a good change of pace – we’re getting to parks and areas of the state we’ve overlooked before.

This small park contains about 5 miles of easy trails that are a mix of gravel trail and forested trails, with Lake McCormack in the center. Be sure to stop into the New Jersey Audubon nature center to check out the turtles, snakes, frogs etc.

New Jersey Audubon at Plainsboro Preserve

This park is mostly a short casual afternoon walk, good for kids, and not a “need a backpack and my trekking poles” kinda place – but we were able to piece a 4.6 mile loop together.

The map we had from online turned out to be outdated and we arrived before the nature center was open so we didn’t have a new map during our hike.

This park is well marked and not very big, so it would be hard to get too turned around, however.

Once we got the newer map, we realized we could have extended the route just a bit by adding an out-and-back on the ORANGE trail from the nature center could be added, and the Education Trail could be used instead of WHITE.

WHITE trail

The WHITE trail is a very easy gravel path from the parking lot that follows along the lake, then we picked up BLUE and took Maggie’s Trail, which heads right out into the lake on a little peninsula.

Maggie's Trail
Maggie's Trail

There are a couple of benches out at the end.

We continued on BLUE, skipping the shortcut, and headed around the lake and then into forest.

BLUE trail

The trail leads along the water that appears to be an old drainage or canal, before turning and running parallel to a NJ Transit track.

BLUE trail

Several trains whizzed by as we hiked. This section of BLUE is an easy woods road.

Train along BLUE trail

BLUE curves back around and rejoins WHITE.

On the way back we turned off onto GREEN and followed the outside perimeter of these well-groomed (ie… no leaves… like they were raked…) forested trails.

GREEN trail

Sign-posts at junctions listed distances and directions. We followed GREEN into YELLOW and into RED before looping back and taking WHITE back.


*Non-hiking, yet Jersey-related: We saw “West End”, written and directed by Jersey-native Joe Basile, at the Garden State Film Festival. It takes place in NJ and is full of recognizable areas… and was filmed around the Jersey Shore just a few months before Hurricane Sandy.