Trenton fulcrum of D&R Canal
I have covered, over the years, every centimeter of the Delaware and Raritan Canal trail between New Brunswick and Frenchtown (even Milford), and in its entirety it is a super-star trail. I just hope the reviewers who have skipped the Trenton segment because they feel intimidated by the prospect of traveling through poorer urban neighborhoods do not frighten off less faint-hearted cyclists.
The Trenton portion is not the most sylvan part of the trail, to be sure, even though the quality of the trail through Trenton in most places is actually quite good. Coming south from Princeton, the canal runs for 1.2 miles right alongside US Route 1 through an old industrial zone of Lawrence Township and Trenton, at which point the canal disappears under Route 1 at Mulberry Street. For the next 1.5-mile stretch, where Route 1 was built over top of the canal, there is now a very good-quality asphalt trail running alongside the freeway on an old railway bed. The trail crosses over Route 1 to connect again with the canal as it reemerges from under the highway in Trenton's downtown. Starting at Montgomery Street, the cyclist following the feeder canal is going to have cross a quick succession of streets that pass over it. There is an awkward moment, just south of Trenton's revolutionary-war battle monument, where there is no cut-away in the curb on Broad Street; if you don't want to have to lift your bike up onto the curb you can go half a block north, where a cut-away leads you cross through the one-block park.
An asphalt trail hugs the feeder canal for the next block, to Willow Street. At this point the D&R Canal Park now offers two route options. One is to stick close to the canal, crossing a half dozen streets where crossings are usually signaled by Belgian-block crosswalks; this is a somewhat wending route that takes you within a block of the New Jersey State House and a cluster of other historic sites. The alternative is to follow a trail laid on the old rail bed of the Belvidere rail line, which is not at grade level and thus allows you to make a straight shot without having to pause for cross streets, from Fowler Street till the canal trail reconnects with the rail trail west of Prospect Street.
There is one grade-level crossing ahead at Hermitage Avenue (where yes, neighborhood folks congregate or "hang out," but melanin-deprived cyclists should not feel threatened). Beyond that it is a straight shot past Cadwaladar Park for 2.3 miles to the next grade crossing at Lower Ferry Road in Ewing Township.
I do this route frequently--and fearlessly. There is a mix of urban landscape and, west of Hermitage Avenue, a surprisingly wooded and pastoral feel.
There's another piece of the canal to explore, a bit to the south. Two miles of the main canal were emptied in the late 1940s to permit construction through Trenton's downtown south of the US 1 freeway and then State Route 129. The last 4 miles of the canal, to the terminus where it empties into the Delaware River at Bordentown, still remain, however, and in 2009 a trail was opened up alongside this orphaned segment of the canal. Running through the Trenton-Hamilton Marsh, this segment is unlike any other along the main route of the canal. It's a very different eco-system from the rest of the canal, and there is no urban or suburban (or even rural) encroachment, though the River Line does run alongside the canal on its other side and we do have to pass under Interstate Route 295. One oddity is that, because this segment of the canal is disconnected from the the canal's water flow, its water level rises and falls with the tides in the tidal marsh. From Trenton the cyclist has to navigate the city's streets and its riverside park path to get to the entry on Canal Boulevard, but it's well worth discovering. And if you don't want to cycle back on the same route, hop the River Line in Bordentown for the 10-minute ride back to the Trenton train station.
Have riden the trail many times and, as a Trenton native, I can't recommend riding the Whitehead Rd to Lower Ferry Rd. part. That area was unsafe in the '70's and still is. I rode the following bypass last week and it allowed me to go from Kingston to Lambertville.
1) exit trail at Whitehead Rd, making a left
2) make left on Sweetbriar Ave
3) Right on Klockner
4) Right on Hamilton Ave (area gets a little iffy between Olden and Morrisville, but not to bad. Recommend doing it in the morning)
5) 3 miles to Broad St, make left
6) quick right onto 2nd
7) quick right onto Bridge
8) follow road to the right, going under Rt. 1 overpass
9) Make left at the light, get on the sidewalk
10) walk across Trenton Makes bridge
11) right on Delmorr Ave
12) at next light (E. Trenton Ave), look for the canal to your left, get on the trail
13) follow trail up to Washington's Crossing
14) cross back to NJ and get back on trail
Best trail I've ever biked on
This is easily the best trail I've ever biked on. Not only is it smooth (I ride a street bike and never had a problem) and extremely fast, but the scenery, history, and nature alone are breath taking. I start at the Rutgers access point (beginning of trail) which is in a very urban neighborhood, and somehow, as soon as you're on the trail you feel like you're in the New England countryside. I can't say enough good about this trail; I've taken some great pictures, stopped during my 25 mile bike ride to read on one of the benches, learned some NJ history from the plaques, and met some great people while stopping for a rest.
I also think some of the previous reviews are exaggerating how bad the trail is after a rain. Unless we had days of rain or torrential downpour the trail is usually ok within a few hours of sunshine (longer if cloudy). The only thing though is that the rain kicks up alot of allergens if you have them.
One thing I would also like to recommend is driving to different access points because the trail scenery and terrain really vary along the way. I work in Princeton and when I get on there it's totally different than New Brunswick or Bound Brook. I'm hoping to go out ever further this summer.
The only warning I have is to watch out for the living things! After 6-6:30 sunglasses are a MUST to keep the gnats out of your eyes (so painful) and mosquito spray is essential. Earlier than that there isn't much. Also, if you go in spring time watch out for the SNAKES! They are mostly just racer snakes but they dart across the path alot which could get you bit (unlikely) or more likely kill a snake or fall off your bike trying to avoid it! I've also encountered baby red fox (thought they were kittens at first), deer, beaver, groundhog 1/2 the size of capybara, frogs, huge fish (in the canal), and more turtles then I've ever seen in my life. Also, full of rare birds. All in all just great.
The Late Great Bel-Del Railroad
I'm 16 and I live in the heart of New Hope, P.A., and since I was about 7, my interest in the railroad tracks in Lambertville and Milford have increased tenfold, I know the whole story of the Bel-Del, from when it was built in 1851, when the last freight train ran to Phillipsburg, N.J. in 1978, and unfortunately the utter destruction of the once famed Pennsylvania Railroad divsion in 1979 and 1980.
I am a railfan, and I am always going to be sad to have never seen a long freight running to Trenton or Phillipsburg, but my curiosity continues to let me ride my bike along the Bel-Del's R.o.W.
I've only explored the town of Milford which isn't sanctioned on the rail-trail (abandoned tracks still exist), between Frenchtown and Milford, below Frenchtown where the Kingwood Station foundation remains reside, the Byram area and the Bull's Island (Raven Rock Station) area. I got to these places by car, and I only investigated these particular areas without walking to the next point. I used my bike from Lambertville all the way to Prallsville (a section of Stockton), and Lambertville to where the Golden Nugget Flea Market is located, which is also the site of Goat Hill Station. I've taken rides to Moore, Somerset and Wilburtha, walking around to look for any railroad elements. My Trenton visits were only based in the former Pennsylvania Coalport Yard where the Bel-Del merged with what's now an abandoned portion of the NJT Camden-Trenton Branch. I've been here at least twice, and I did feel somewhat safe walking along the one abandoned track next to Bel-Del's R.o.W.
Overall, though I'm sad I was born too late to see a train run through Lambertville from Trenton or Phillipsburg, the D&R does it's best to keep its trail in a well condition.
A quick note though, the Bel-Del trail above Lambertville becomes a bit rougher because some of the railroad ballast rocks are still in the ground, and this goes on and off north to Frenchtown.
Rode both portions
Rode from Washington's Crossing to Frenchtown and from Princeton to New Brunswick this weekend (speaking as a Trenton-proper native, I wouldn't recommend the interim portion). Both are currently unobstructed, with all repairs completed from last Fall's storms. Rode the Princeton section after a thunderstorm and it was nothing but puddles and mud, but much better after Rocky Hill. Newly resurfaced for the latter half into New Brunswick. Where the trail ends in New Brunswick leaves you on a rather busy George St. Look for a park entrance and cut through that to the Rutgers campus. The WashCross to Frenchtown can be done with a road bike (crushed stone surface). The Princeton to New Brunswick would be best with a 28cm-32cm tire (crushed stone, but sections of stones, puddles, mud, large-stone flood drainage portions. The camping sites at Bulls Run have been closed, but water/bathroom facilities still there, I believe (as, also, in Washington's Crossing and just south of Lambertville (towards the river)). In Stockton and Frenchtown, you're reliant on the businesses. From P-town to New Brunswick, not much available. Cold drinks and a port-o-potty in Griggstown, otherwise no water or facilities for 26 miles. Grease trucks on Collage Ave in New Brunswick. All in all, beautiful riding!
I parked in the South Bound Brook parking lot, the rode to just south of the Rte 1 overpass to the Hamilton NJ Transit location, took a train to New Brunswick, then rode back to Bound Brook - 37 miles. The trail has been resurfaced with a crushed red stone (slate?) that makes for a really nice smooth ride from New Brunswick to mile marker 18. Even going south on the older surface was not bad - the condition varied from good to very good.
I found a nice Deli on Market Street in East Millstone, just south of Amwell Ave (a 2 min bike ride off the trail). South of Bound Brook, this is the most convenient place I've found for food and drink.
I had heard that the trail condition south of Princeton was not so great, but it was not bad and some nice scenery (my first time South of Princeton).
If you like Indian food, there is a fantastic restaurant Hoysala at the north-westcorner of the Easton Ave / JFK Parkway intersection. There is a bridge about a mile north of that intersection that allows you to cross the canal. [There is a diner there also, on the eastern side.]
The New Jersey Transit connections make this ride do-able from NYC or really anywhere you can get to NJ Transit, and you could do either or both sections (the Bound-Brook to New Brunswick ride took me about an hour as it took a while for me to get to the trail from the station.
Nature Lover's Dream!
We Rode this trail on 7/22/10 on our hybrid bikes. We started the trail at Bulls Island State Park (plenty of parking) and rode to Washington's Crossing State Park, about 13 miles each way. The crushed stone trail was in excellent condition, in spite of heavy rains the night before. Path was nicely shaded, so it was relatively cool even though the outside temps were in the low 90s. The path goes between the Delaware River and the Canal. People were trout fishing, canoeing, tubing, etc in the water. We spotted one deer having lunch in a field off to the side; one turtle floating in the canal; 2 very large swans floating and eating in the canal; and multiple butterflies, squirrels, geese, birds and ducks. Variety of trees, ferns, plants and flowers on both sides of the trail (but mostly on the river side). Trail is interesting as you near Lambertville--seems to almost go down an alley (tho one in good shape) and you can easily view the backyards of houses and businesses that border the canal. One of the best, most enjoyable rail trails we've done in the last year or two. Did notice, though, that the trail looks to be a bit rougher beyond Washington's Crossing SP.
Rode the Whole 79 Miles in 2 Days!
Having grown up in Somerville in the '70s, it was a dream come true for me to return to NJ just to ride the canal. This review is a bit late, since I took this trip on Columbus Day weekend in 2008. The weather was clear and sunny, middle 70's, and autumn colors were fantastic both days.
My riding companion and I (good to have one when you get to Trenton) set out at the River Road landing in New Brunswick at about 9AM with our mountain and hybrid bikes. The first historic spillway is a very rough crossing, but after that everything was smooth sailing. The path was mostly pea-size gravel and compaced sand/clay. It was level, but constant pedling to keep moving. There is little relief as far as coasting goes, but it's not that bad.
The first day we rode from New Brunswick to Trenton on the Main Canal, from 9:00AM until around 4:30 PM. We stopped at every gatehouse, lock, bridgekeeper's house, and spillway, took lots of autumn color photos -- about every two or three miles. We also detoured from the trail to break for lunch in downtown Princeton. But things do get a bit seedly around Lawrenceville and tricky when the canal goes "underground" at the northeast side of post-industrial Trenton. Here, it's a very good idea to map your route ahead of time and keep moving. We spent the night at the Marriott hotel downtown -- a bit pricey, but reasonably safe and close to the canal trails.
The next day we set out around 8:00AM, found the feeder canal and headed toward the Delaware River. Here, the path is along the former Belvidere & Delaware railroad right-of-way. It's better to go through West Trenton in the morning, and we had no problems. It was espeially fun when the canal crosses two aquaducts with city streets beneath. (A third aquaduct is south of Princeton where the canal crosses the river.) Once we got to NJ Hwy 29 the scenery along the feeder canal and Delaware River improved dramatically. We spent about an hour hob-nobbing around Washington Crossing Parks (both sides), and made it to New Hope and Lambertville for lunch. (Yes, they are touristy, crowded, pricey, and altogether wonderful towns to spend some time.) We then continued on a slightly upward grade, pausing and taking pictures everywhere and seeing everything until we made it to Frenchtown by 3:00 PM. We even found an ice cream shop for our end-of-ride reward.
Yes, I would dop this ride again in a heart beat. We were dog-tired by the end, having done 40 miles on Day 1 and 39 miles on Day 2, but still excited to talk about it. If you don't want to arrange for a drop-off and pick-up like we did, I'd recommend the New Hope-to-Washington Crossing loop.
Still a beautiful train in great shape on the NJ side...
I rode from Lambertville to Frenchtown on a nice sunny day, about 32 miles roundtrip. Just to update the earlier reviews, I can say that the trail is still wide, flat, smooth, shaded, and in excellent shape on the NJ side. Lambertville is fairly large and attractive, but touristy. Restrooms are hard to find here and along the entire section I rode. No fast food places or gas stations with open facilities. Stockton and Frenchtown are small, but clean and attractive with a few trendy places to get food and drinks. This is an awesome ride and I look forward to doing it again. BTW, New Hope is very touristy, pricey, and overrun with Harley riders and loud motorcycles on weekends. I would avoid it, although there are more decent restaurants there.
Stockton to Frenchtown/ Stockton to Lambertville
I'll start off by saying I do this for exercise, not sight-seeing. But the sight seeing is very nice most of the time, especially in the fall. I'm 63 and do the best I can !!!
I use these two trails because your are in the shade over 90% of the time. This is a plus on hot summer mornings.
For the last 7 years I have done one of these two "Saturday Morning Rides" virtually every Saturday morning April thru Sept.
Stockton to Frenchtown:
Just a tad over 12 miles each way. I start and end at Stockton. The first 4 miles or so are reasonably flat. The last 3 miles approaching Frenchtown are flat. The middle 5 miles are a constant uphill grade. My guess is 2-4%, depending on the stretch. When you get to Frenchtown, drive around the town for a mile or so, then head back south (and downhill) to Stockton. When you finish, you will have completed 25 miles. Typically, it takes me 2 hr 15-20min to do the ride. This does not include my 10-15 minute break when I get to Frenchtown.
Once back at Stockton you can check out Meal's Restaurant. Excellent food. Tho after my 25 mikes, all I want is one of their Dried Cherry scones and an ice tea.
Stockton to Lambertville:
OK, stick with me here. Head north on the trail until you get to trail mile marker #41, then turn around and head straight back south. Continue past Stockton where you got onto the trail. Keep heading south toward Lambertville.
Do be a bit careful about 3-4 miles south of Stockton. After you pass under a highway overpass and some power transmission towers the trail makes a sharp left turn and then an almost immediate right turn.
Keep going into Lambertville. A great little town to walk and ride thru and find some decent "fast food."
When you return to Stockton, you will have ridden about 25 miles. This entire ride is pretty flat. Ride time about 2 H 10 Min.
Gravel, gravel, gravel!
I was on the trail this past Saturday (accessed it via the Weston Causeway.) It looks like they laid some new gravel, or better said, a lot of little rocks, on the trail.
Because of this, it made the trail quite slippery, and traction was difficult as well. I'm sure that as the gravel settles and is packed into place, the trail will be much more pleasant, but for now, it can be quite a challenge. It's rideable, as long as you keep spinning those wheels and no sudden turns!
It's going to be a great summer ...
"All of it, including the sketchy parts"
"I rode the whole trail from Frenchtown to Trenton over the course of a few days. I was biking from Port Jervis to Trenton and had a stayover in New Hope, Lambertville, and Tyler State Park in Newtown (Bucks County).
The trail actually starts a little south of Milford, NJ and a little north of Frenchtown so you have to backtrack. Milford is not so great and has half a main street to see. The trail is great here and Frenchtown is touristy but nice and small. The breeze from the Delaware is nice and so are the historical markers, but they do repeat in each town. There are some side roads further south near (Titusville) where you can hit a boat launch and take a swim. Stockton was small and had nice historic buildings with a wedding at the mill.
Lambertville and New Hope were tourist traps, but they were nice. Each village has great neighborhoods, establishments and little alleyways with the trails going under bridges and roads and through the town. The towns are basically 18th century settlements with Lambertville being bigger and more spread out and flat. New Hope is traditionally more touristy and mountainy but there are some great non-touristy real places to hang out at.
The locals talked about the flood waters that had just receded and it was the 3rd flood in 22 months. The river was high in many places and they had just reopened their shops, and the newspapers were still talking about it. The locals also talked about how the trail on the Pennsylvania side and Route 32 was basically still flooded, and was since a year ago but the trail maintenance still hadn't happened and they were quite angry.
South of Lambertville, it goes through Washington's Crossing, but about 2 miles or so before that, you can turn off the trail to a dirt road that follows the water and becomes a paved road with great houses and parallels the trail to end at Washington Crossing State Park. A great restaurant/liquor store is here on the road near the bridge. South of here is West Trenton and the population grows. The trail is spotless until you get to West Trenton and there is more and more trash everywhere. In Trenton, folks inhabit the right of way. I heard stories of crack dealers and prostitutes and people stealing bikes. I saw nice people who were basically drifters, but towards the end of the day, prostitutes were walking the trail. Just be yourself and keep moving.
In Trenton, you'll see a wooden bridge (double tracked) with a fork. If you take the left, you'll end up eventually at Southard and Brunswick Avenue in a weird, dilapidated part of town. Trenton is very poor, even near the Capitol, but the locals are nice with getting you on the lost trail through the city. The trail ends at a little park, but you can still go forward. Look for the traditional red gates with the D and R logo. If you backtrack to the fork and go right it ends, sort of at Calhoun Street and there's a really old canal house at the bridge. The Capitol is down the street. The canal is visible and there's tilework on the bridge. They make it easy to follow as there's a brick outline in the street between the canal segments that are cut off by the pavement. You go to the right of Calhoun St and it continues through properties and ends near Green Street near the capitol at another old house from way back in history, tucked behind an old neighborhood. You can follow this across the street behind houses and across town where it eventually gets lost around Route 1. This took a few hours but I kept retracing and you have to be a little adventurous when tracing history. Don't just end where you think it ends. Continue. The canal does go through the city.
I was told you can pick it up at Whitehead Road in Lawrenceville, on the Trenton/Lawrenceville border."
Biking and Kayaking
"This was our fifth time returning to this trail and still we have enjoyed it like it was our first. This time we started from Rockyhill and headed north toward the most northeastern part of this grand trail. The nice weather complimented the nature enjoyed from a shaded riding-way that is stretched for miles. The smooth terrain with occasional small ups and downs made the ride the more interesting. However, there was a very short segment where the riding surface was composed of rocks that made the ride rough, but this only adds to the character of this unique trail. We saw a fair number of joggers, hikers, kayakers and other bikers along the way. About 15miles later, we found a nifty hotdog / ice cream / gift shop that was not too far off from the trail. After rejuvenating our energy, we started to head back. I am serious, there should be a triathlon race for married couples consisting of rollerblading, biking, and kayaking. On our way back, we could not resist the kayak/canoe rental and checked out a twin otter kayak. We paid a mere $14 for one hour of ride and that clearly was enough kayaking for us. After completely working out our legs, arms, shoulders, exhausting our strength, we were incredibly happy to see our car waiting for us when we got back.
" This trail is almost 70 miles long, which is amazing for New Jersey. It is essentially two connected (actually disconnected) trails. The section along the Delaware River from above Frenchtown to downtown Trenton is a rail trail that picks up and follows the canal from Bull's Island south. The section from Trenton to New Brunswick lies on the towpath for the canal.
The first section is quiet and lies between the river and Rte 29. Once the canal begins, there are more artifacts to see such as locks, mills and increasing towns. Towns such as Stockton, Lambertville, and Titusville are picturesque and provide places to sightsee and to eat. There are bridges to Pennsylvania at a number of points, including a footbridge at Bull's Island. In the upper areas, groups of rafters can often be seen on the river. Lower down there are rapids, dams and falls. Washington Crossing State park provides many activities and facilities. As the canal reaches West Trenton, it has become elevated above the surrounding land. Roads pass through tunnels under the canal. As the canal goes deeper into Trenton, urban decay is evident, but the canal remains intact and wends it's way through parking lots, past tenaments and high rise buildings. This section ends when the canal disappears beneath Rte 1 for just over a mile.
The second section from northern Trenton on gradually leaves the industrial area of Trenton behind and enters suburban, then rural areas. The section in Princeton is quite heavily used, but the trail becomes less busy and more rural from here on. There are many locks in place along this canal and fishermen can always be found along the banks. The largest frogs in the state in large numbers make their home in the canal. The entire canal is used as a water supply system. As the canal approaches South Bound Brook, the Raritan River comes alongside. The canal follows the river until it disappears into the river in New Brunswick.
The rail trail along the Delaware is finely crushed and compacted stone. Walking, jogging and biking are allowed. Fishing and small boat use is allowed along the whole canal. The towpath from Trenton north is natural surface, in various conditions, all suitable for hiking and biking, and horseback riding is allowed here also.
This trail is a gem! It was preserved early by the state after it's prior uses had been abandoned. Enjoy the state's foresight!
Rates a 9 out of 10!
Main Trail Review - Fall 2001
"I biked the main trail from New Brunswick to Route 1 in Lawrenceville on 11/10/01. Round trip distance for this stretch is about 58.5 miles.
It was my first time on the trail and I was very impressed by its cleanliness and upkeep. Although the peak fall season had ended, there were still many splended views of nearby farms, fields, the Canal itself, and lakes.
I saw many families with young children biking and hiking but the trail was not crowded at all. There were several sections of this route where I was the only individual in sight. However, the sections near New Brunswick and Princeton Township were very populated with people.
I parked off of Easton Avenue in Franklin Township but there are many on-off points along this route. There are several street crossings; the busiest has a tunnel under Route 27. Caution should be exercised with young children.
Unlike many rail trails I've ridden, this route does not pass directly through any business districts. So, carry your own food & drink to save taking a long side trip off of the path. There are many benches along the route to stop for a rest, drink, or snack.
I traveled one hour by car to get here and was not disappointed at all.