Category Archives: Activities

Active things to do (mostly outdoors), such as hiking, cycling, fishing, and birding, Also included are sightseeing excursions and visiting historic places.

On the Beech (Carson Road Woods)

Carson Road Woods is a superb, 183 acre swathe of preserved farmland less than 15 minutes from downtown Trenton. Unlike many such preserves, the land has several miles of walking trails, and some stunning stands of trees. The preserve is a mix of woodlands and open fields, with mowed walk-ways along the margins. In a few places, trails are cut through stands of trees, including, notably, a stunningly beautiful stand of beech.


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Buried Treasure and Sights Unseen (Goat Hill Park Bushwhack)

Goat Hill Park was acquired in 2009 by the State of NJ, and is managed as a satellite park of Washington Crossing. It is potentially one of the most spectacular hiking destinations in central NJ, but budget and regulatory constraints have blocked the state from developing it. It’s a pity. Of course, if you’re willing to bushwhack, you can still go exploring.


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School, Old (Tyler State Park)

Tyler is an old school park. Yes, there’s some nature. You can hike, but mostly on paved or gravel paths. More to the point (and why it seems “old school” to me) it’s really about “activities”. Depending on the season you might find yourself riding a horse, paddling a canoe, playing “golf” with a Frisbee, swimming, fishing, cycling, sledding, or x-country skiing. (Driving time is about 25 mintues; as a hiking destination it’s rated for beginners)


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Nocka-Rocka Scramble (Haycock Mountain at Nockamixon State Park)

Haycock Mountain is an entertaining, short hike (only about 0.75 mile from the trailhead to summit). You gain 460 vertical feet in this distance, which puts the average gradient about 12%, though the hike gets a fair bit steeper as you approach the summit. The payoff is the scramble: from roughly the midpoint of the hike to the summit, you’re picking your way through giant boulders. The short length and scrambly nature of the hike makes it particularly entertaining for experienced hiker-kids. It does require experienced hiker-adults to accompany them because the trail is poorly blazed, and appears as if it was never officially marked. (Driving time is just about an hour; rated for experienced hikers for elevation gain, scrambly nature, and poor blazing).


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Fiddle Dee Dee (Fiddler's Creek Preserve)

Fiddler’s Creek Preserve is a 120 acre parcel directly south of the Baldpate Preserve, on the opposite side of Fiddler’s Creek Road. It provides two miles of Beginner to Intermediate trails, none with more than 80 feet of vertical elevation change, through fields, woods, and (most interestingly) Fiddler’s Creek Ravine. Kids will enjoy the rock walls of the ravine and the historic ruins. These trails offer about 45 minutes of easy walking, and can be combined with the Summit Trail of Baldpate Mountain via a connector trail for a longer hike. (The Ravine trail and Stoneface trails are rated Intermediate, though spry Beginners should be able to handle them. All other trails are Beginner. Driving time is about 20 minutes from downtown Trenton.)


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Kids’ Kamping (Teetertown Preserve)

For young kids, there’s something about sleeping in a tent outdoors that’s truly exciting. It’s great even when it’s in the back yard. When it’s in the woods with a blazing camp fire, next to a farm, a short walk from a pond that’s stocked with trout, and adjacent to fun hiking trails, it’s an experience they’ll remember for a lifetime. (Driving time is about 75 minutes from Trenton, Walks are rated Beginner to Intermediate)


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History’s for the Birds (Jockey Hollow & Scherman Hoffman Sanctuary)

Much less well known than Valley Forge, Jockey Hollow was where Washington’s army spent the winter of 1777, following its victories in Trenton and Princeton. There’s a beautiful, Intermediate hike through some of the National Park that preserves the area, and part of the NJ Audubon Society sanctuary. It climbs a ridge, passes the camp site of the NJ Brigade, and descends into the headwaters of the Passaic River, here a small wild trout stream. (Driving time is about 1:15 from Trenton via 206/I-287; rated Intermediate for elevation change though the hike is fairly steep in spots)


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Cushy It’s Not (Cushetunk Mountain Preserve)

Cushetunk offers two different hiking options. If you park at Old Mountain Road in Lebanon, it’s an intense 2.4 mile loop hike that includes a fairly strenuous scramble along a 0.9 mile ridgeline and an elevation gain of about 450 feet. If you park on Mountain Rd, in Whitehouse Station, the hike is about 7.5 miles and 1,100 cumulative vertical feet. (Driving time is about 70 min, Rated for Experienced hikers for elevation gain, rugged footing, and poor blazing)


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Coastal Caper (Hartshorne Woods Park)

Hartshorne Woods is a magical place for walking or mountain biking (or fishing or birding), located on the highest coastal escarpment on the Atlantic seaboard south of Maine. A little over an hour from Trenton, east of Red Bank, and opposite Sandy Hook, it makes a wonderful half-day excursion in its own right, or combined with a half-day at the beach. Kids will love the lush terrain so close to the ocean, and the military anachronisms such as the WWII pillboxes (Driving time is about 75 minutes; Rated Intermediate for cumulative elevation gain)


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