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Spanning more than 70 miles, the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail is the longest completed multiuse trail in the state and is described by many as the crown jewel of New Jersey trails. A portion follows the towpath of the Delaware & Raritan Canal, built in the early 1830s as a transportation corridor between Philadelphia and New York, while another portion tracks the route of the former Belvidere Delaware Railroad.
It is part of both the Circuit Trails, an 800-mile trail network throughout the Philadelphia and Camden region, and the East Coast Greenway, an expansive trail system being developed between Maine and Florida.
The trail is shaped like a V, with Trenton at its center, and is paved within the capital city. Most of the trail runs along the canal, where it is a well-maintained surface of finely crushed stone over hard-packed dirt; travelers will be most comfortable riding it on a hybrid or mountain bike.
Two types of mileage markers are used along the canal. The concrete mile markers with two numbers etched on them are historical, indicating the number of miles between the terminus points at Bordentown and New Brunswick. The other type marks every 0.5 mile starting from the Battle Monument in Trenton.
Northwest of Trenton, the trail starts near Frenchtown, a pedestrian-friendly village, and connects many towns along the way, including Stockton, Lambertville, Titusville, and Ewing Township. Heading northeast out of Trenton, the trail runs through Lawrence, where a connection to the Lawrence Hopewell Trail can be made. Continuing farther, the trail skirts near the Princeton University campus and passes through Kingston and Franklin Township, ending in New Brunswick.
The trail offers something for almost everyone. Along the route, history buffs will appreciate the 19th-century bridges and bridge-tender houses, remnants of locks, cobblestone spillways, hand-built stone-arch culverts, rail depots, and historical railroad markers, as well as an early 18th-century gristmill near Stockton and a 19th-century one in Kingston. Hungry trail users can choose between periodic trailside picnic tables or trailside cafés in towns along the way, including Frenchtown, Stockton, and Lambertville. Nature lovers can enjoy occasional wildlife sightings and river views. You can even rent canoes in Griggstown or Princeton if you prefer the water route.
Between Frenchtown and Trenton, there are six bridges that travelers can use to cross the Delaware River and explore the expansive D&L Trail, which follows the river on the Pennsylvania side for more than 140 miles. The combination of the two paralleling trails and multiple bridges means that travelers have the option to go on several looped routes. A noteworthy attraction just on the other side of the river is Washington Crossing Historic Park, commemorating the turning point in the American Revolution when, on that fateful Christmas night in 1776, George Washington’s surprise attack and subsequent victory over opposing forces provided a much-needed boost to the Continental Army’s dwindling morale.
South of Trenton, a relatively short, disconnected section of the trail spans 3.5 miles, beginning at Canal Boulevard and running through a wooded tract of the Abbott Marshlands. It ends at the historical outlet lock into Crosswick Creek at Bordentown. The trail here is dirt, with some narrow sections, mostly running next to a canal and an active rail line.
Note: Periodically parts of the trail become impassable from floods and other damage. For updates on trail conditions, visit the Canal State Park website.
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