Open year round, dawn to dusk
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Gravitas: Hiking: Proximity:
(Revised June 2015) Note: This review deals with the maintained trails on the park, which provide an easy, family walk. A second review describes some of the bushwhacking opportunities on Goat Hill)
Goat Hill towers 400 feet above the Delaware River, and provides spectacular views of New Hope, Lambertville, and Bucks/Hunterdon counties. I first went on a rainy October afternoon and the views were still astonishing. On clear days, they are other worldly.
Local legend has it that Washington visited the site with the Marquis de Lafayette and dined on an outcropping, known today as “dining rock” in honor of the event. This version of the story is certainly not true, since Lafayette didn’t arrive in the US until June of 1777 and the critical events of Washington’s crossing took place in December of 1776. Nevertheless, the thought that Washington (and the Continental Army) used Goat Hill to scout the crossing is entirely plausible when you visit the site. (Click on the image of dining rock below to enlarge). It’s possible Washington and Lafayette did dine on the rock in 1781, on their march to end the war at Yorktown.
The area was closed to the general public for years, until it was finally acquired by the State of NJ in late 2009. It is being managed as a satellite of Washington Crossing State Park, which is just down the road. No doubt the result of the State’s budget crisis, the park is almost completely undeveloped. From 1988-2009, the site was owned by a company that wanted to use it as a quarry, and later hatched a plan to develop river-view houses. Fortunately, neither scheme was approved by the West Amwell planning board. Previously, from 1964 to 1988, the site was owned by the Boy Scouts, who operated the “George Washington Scout Reservation”.
Today, you can visit the observation points easily as you can drive to a parking lot less than half a mile (and 75 vertical feet) from the main observation points (click on the image to enlarge). From Trenton, it’s about a 20 minute drive: head north up Rt. 29 until you come to Valley Rd (you’ll see signs for “Howell Living Farm”). Make the right onto Valley Road, and then, about 6/10 of a mile on, the first left onto Goat Hill Rd. Access to the park is from George Washington Rd, a little over a mile north of the turn, and the second left.
The park’s entrance isn’t very well marked. George Washington Road makes a sharp right turn after about 2/10 of a mile, but to enter the park, you want to continue straight through the open wooden gates. There are state forest signs on the gates themselves (but if they’re open, they’re hard to see). There are no other signs. The parking area is a few hundred yards up on the left, and is obvious.
From the parking lot, it’s half a mile and 75 vertical feet to the observation rock, making it accessible to even young children or healthy, sedentary adults. Dining Rock is even closer: as the road makes a sharp bend, you’ll see a “use path” heading towards the bluff. If you walk straight, you’ll come right to the rock. A word of caution: the bluffs here are VERY steep and there are no guard rails. If you’re visiting with children, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them. Currently, there are no facilities for disabled visitors.
Currently the hiking potential of this area is under-developed: check out the link our review of the bushwhacking opportunities. In the meantime, the easy access and incredible views make the observation platform worth visiting by itself.