Gravitas: RDB: MTB: Proximity:
It still says “The Garden State” on our license plates, but in most parts of NJ it would really be more appropriate to say, “Suburban Sprawl State”. However, if you follow this ride, you may feel you’ve ridden through a time warp. While there is some recent development along the way, for the most part it looks like it did in 1960. And these roads touch on some of the most beautiful farmland and scenery you can imagine for Central NJ.
This ride, by itself, is 15.5 miles. We re-routed it recently, based on a reader’s suggestions to get rid of one of the more heavily traveled stretches. Still, a few cautions are in order. 1) This ride is quite hilly. 2) Long stretches of this route travel over gravel roads. While it’s possible to ride it on a road bike, you’d be better off on a hybrid or mountain bike with road tires. 3) There are short stretches along heavily traveled roads: Bear Tavern Road and 518 will carry a fair amount of traffic at peak times, even on weekends. However, the vast majority of this ride is along roads that are gorgeous and see very little traffic at any time.
The ride starts on River Drive in Titusville. This is a little traveled street that parallels Rt. 29, but runs along the river, west of the D&R feeder canal. It’s about a 15 minute drive by car (with bicycle rack) from downtown Trenton. Alternatively, a nice feature of this ride is you can combine it with a ride along the canal from downtown Trenton (See Canal Cycling Jaunt). That’s about 16 miles of basically flat riding along towpaths up to Titusville and back…combine it with this loop, and it becomes a reasonably challenging 30+ mile jaunt.
Titusville itself is a small town that looks like it materialized from a Norman Rockwell painting. Once you pass through town, River Drive turns into a dirt road. At the end, you’ll hop onto Rt. 29 for a few hundred yards until you make the right onto Fiddler’s Creek Road. This climbs steadily from the valley and passes some lovely stone farmhouses, and entrances to the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain, one of the nicest parks in NJ. Continue straightish (bearing left, as Andrew points out) onto Church Rd, and then left on Bear Tavern. This road can be busy, but has a good shoulder, and passes some pretty horse farms. You won’t be on it for very long.
Your first left is Pleasant Valley Road, and it climbs pretty steeply. Once you crest the hill you’ll then have an exciting downhill. The pavement is good, and there are no really steep turns, so feel free to pick up a lot of speed.
Watch for Barry Rd, which is the second right. You’re still going down hill as you approach this turn, so you’ll need to brake pretty sharply. Barry Rd. starts paved, and turns into hardpack gravel. It’s basically all uphill.
Left onto 518 when you get there (busy but very brief), and then your first real left onto Hunter Rd.
Don’t let the signs on Hunter Rd., which say “No Outlet” worry you. There’s an old bridge close to Pleasant Valley Rd. which is closed to auto traffic, but you can easily walk your bike across it.
Hunter Rd. descends steeply at first, with some pretty tight curves, and is loose packed gravel. If you’re on a road bike, you’ll want to be VERY careful here. Then it climbs steeply, and crosses over some of the prettiest views of the Delaware Valley you’ll find anywhere. Then down again, and over the bridge. You’re back to Pleasant Valley Rd., but just for a few yards, make the first right turn onto Valley Rd (thanks to Rich for suggesting this important improvement to the route).
Take Valley Rd. to the end. When you hit 29, walk your bikes across, and descend the ramp down to the Delaware and Raritan tow path. This allows you to avoid an extremely busy and unpleasant stretch of 29 that has lots of speeding cars and NO shoulder for most of the way. Follow the tow path back to Titusville and your car.
By the way, if you’re hungry, think about stopping at “It’s Nutts” for a sandwich or tomato pie.