beech trees

On the Beech (Carson Road Woods)

Carson Road Woods, 18 Carson Rd, Lawrenceville, NJ

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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, an awe-inspiring stand of beech.

Most woodland parks in Central NJ run along uplands with thin soil. Carson Road Woods is rich “bottom land”, and the density of the forest cover is impressive: at several points during the walk I half expected Tarzan to swing out of the trees. The mixed habitat (woods, fields, and in-between, all little-disturbed) makes for exceptional bird habitat. I’m not much of a birder, but I noticed many more songbirds around than I’m used to, even in the deep woods. Keep in mind that the paths through the open fields offer little if any shade. So on a sunny day you’ll want a wide brim hat and sun protection. If it’s hot, you may want to pick another day.

Carson Rd Woods panorama

While the footing is fairly easy (though roots are sometimes treacherous) and the terrain is nearly dead flat, I can’t recommend Carson Woods for beginners unless you don’t mind getting lost (the park isn’t huge, so you should be able to find your way out without too much trouble). The problem is that the trails are inconsistently marked (many not at all), and the trail map is incomplete and not very useful. For example, you can’t tell from the map which areas are wooded and which are open, so it’s hard to orient yourself, especially as you pass trails that aren’t marked. I found myself frequently unsure of my location (despite paying careful attention to the map), and I actually got lost trying to get out of the park (though only for a few minutes).

That aside, everyone who loves the outdoors should experience Carson Road Woods at least once.

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