Open daily, sunrise to sunset
(609) 924-4141 Website Woodfield Trail Map
Gravitas: Hiking: Proximity:
Updated April 2020, including the trail map. First time visitors should use the Great Rd West parking lot/trail head
The Woodfield Reservation is an off-the-beaten track preserve in north-western Princeton. It provides just under two miles of woodland hiking trails, with the greatest elevation change you’ll find within the town limits (about 100 feet), and two geologic features that kids love. The trails are laid out in two intersecting loops that cross a series of small brooks which flow during the wet season, adding charm to what is a lovely trail at any time. Note that the trails do get muddy in places, especially in the spring, and because they get relatively little use, can be narrow and brushy. Recent investment by the Princeton parks department means that they are now well-marked with colored blazes, and that wood planks cover the wettest bits. That, and strategic re-routing of the trails in other places means the park is much more user-friendly than it used to be.
The two geologic features are called Council Rock and Tent rock (and are marked on the trail map). Council Rock is the leaf covered dark rock in the bottom center of the image above. It’s a little hard to see (easier if you click to enlarge the image), but it provides a flat platform that juts out from a ledge, overlooking (by perhaps 20 feet) a natural amphitheater. Local, oral tradition holds that Lenni-Lenape Indian councils would assemble here, with speakers using this rock as a stage. I have no idea whether this is true (though kids seem to find the story fascinating and completely credible), but I did once spy a fox trotting across this plain, its bushy red tail streaming behind.
Tent Rock is shown in the image to the right. It’s about 10 feet high, and the multiple layers and cracks provide wonderful hand and footholds for climbing. When my son was growing up, this was one of his favorite places, especially if we brought a friend so they could climb tent rock together. [Note, during the COVID emergency, it’s probably not a good idea to let your kids climb on the rock, for the same reason playgrounds are closed}
I find myself returning to Woodfield Reservation as an adult because of its convenience. If I’m in Princeton, say for a late-afternoon meeting, I can sneak in a 45 minute walk before heading home. Along with Witherspoon Woods, it’s one of the nicest trails in Princeton. Note that if you’re on an ambitious Princeton hiking jag, you can connect this hike to Witherspoon Woods via the PDS and Stuart Trails which are marked on the map, and cross only one paved road. You’re then in the Mountain Lakes complex, with several additional miles of trails, all of which are suited to Beginner to Intermediate hikers.
As mentioned above, the trails get relatively little use and do become overgrown, especially in late Spring and early Summer. You’ll want to wear long pants. Signage is much better than it used to be with colored plastic blazes on the main routes. Still, kids seem to enjoy the adventure of the rarely-trod paths.