Thursday, December 20, 2012

Greater Mountain Lakes Open Space Area and Woodfield Reservation, Princeton, NJ

Community Park North - Princeton Township
Mountain Lakes - Friends of Princeton Open Space
Woodfield Reservation - Friends of Woodfield Reservation
Woodfield Reservation - Princeton Township

GPS Coordinates 40.358016, -74.670472

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Parking lot on Mountain Avenue

Greater Mountain Lakes Open Space Area Trails - New Jersey Trails Association
The kiosks in the parking lot contain maps showing where trails were closed when work was being done on the lake in 2010 - that must no longer apply since I did not see any closed trails.
Trail Map of Woodfield Reservation - Friends of Woodfield Reservation
PDS Trail - Princeton Day School

HIKE DISTANCE:  8.2 miles

This hike goes through a cluster of interconnected parks with a surprisingly remote feeling. 
  • Community Park North
  • Mountain Lakes
  • Mountain Lakes North
  • John Witherspoon Woods
  • Princeton Day School Trail
  • Woodfield Reservation
Starting off on the paved path from the parking lot into Community Park North.
Pond in Community Park North
Dirt path on the other side of the pond.
A mourning dove near the pond.
After crossing the bridge at the end of the pond there is an intersection.  I had intended to turn right here but there were so many  leaners from Hurricane Sandy groaning in the wind that I turned left instead and avoided that area.
Lots and lots of birds in the woods.
Not quite sure what that post is (a vent?) but it makes for a recognizable intersection at the end of the hike.
Palmer Lake dam in Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve
Trail along Palmer Lake.
Second Palmer Lake Dam
Old stone bridge at the end of Palmer Lake
Most intersections have signs, some with trail names but there are no trail names on the map so it is sometimes hard to know which trail the signs refer to.
Trails do not seem to be consistently blazed but blue seems to be the trails in Mountain Lakes Preserve and yellow is John Witherspoon Woods.  The trail is marked yellow and blue heading into John Witherspoon Preserve.
Rock hop over a pretty creek going into John Witherspoon Woods.
Foot paths through John Witherspoon Woods.
Crossing through a boulder field.
The lower loop in John Witherspoon Woods goes over short boardwalks through a pine forest...
... then a log covered path.

Large flat stones make for an easy creek crossing.
The white-blazed Stuart Trail running between a creek and Coventry Farms through Mountain Lakes North. 
Come up on Great Road...
... where a few steps to the left leads to a crosswalk with a traffic light at the entrance of Princeton Day School.
Turn right after crossing Great Road and take the PDS Trail to Woodfield Reservation.  This trail skirts the perimeter of Princeton Day School...
... and is blazed with blue pawprints.  (school mascot = panther, school color = blue)
A tremendous amount of storm debris has been cleared along the way.
The trail continues between two ponds...
... into Woodfield Reservation.
In Woodfield Reservation there is the South Loop and Scout Loop, both blazed in white.  There is another trail not on the map that starts to the right at the intersection after the ponds but don't take that one.  There are faded white blazes, trail is somewhat overgrown and blowdowns have not been cleared so apparently this trail is no longer used.
Signs at intersections help keep track of where you are on the map.
This is supposed to be a no hunting park but I found hunting notices for 2008/2009 and 2010/2011 - nothing for 2012/2013 so maybe it is every other year.  Might be a good idea to check before heading out.
Council Rock - the drop is much deeper than how it appears in the picture.
Tent Rock
Woodfield Reservation parking lot at Stuart Road.
A short walk up quiet Stuart Road...
To pick up the PDS Trail from earlier just through the yellow gates and around the front side of the stop sign.
The multi-use path along Great Road with Coventry Farm on the left.
You can cross Great Road for some trails at Farmview Fields but it's not really a view of farm fields as the name might lead you to believe, rather paved paths around athletic fields.  It does get you away from the traffic on Great Road for a bit.
The paved path leads to a crosswalk at the other end of Farmview Fields to cross over Great Road and continue to a break in the fence at the end of Coventry Farm.
Here starts the J. Seward Johnson, Sr. Trail which begins ...
... as a footpath that leads to ...
... the boardwalk heading back to Mountain Lakes.
Turkey vultures over Coventry Farm.
Stepping stones over a creek lead to ...
... that intersection with the post from earlier in the hike.  A right turn here leads back to ...
... the opposite end of the parking lot from where the hike began.

[  0.00]  With your back to Mountain Avenue, turn right and take the paved trail next to the kiosk; keep  left at fork
[  0.05]  Keep left at second fork
[  0.10]  Stay to the right of the pond on paved path when a trail also goes left
[  0.25]  At the end of the pond when the paved trail continues straight, turn left, cross inlet of pond and continue left on dirt path with pond on your left
[  0.40]  Back at the other end of the pond with a trail and bridge on the left, turn right and cross bridge a little farther along the trail
[  0.45]  At the intersection just after the bridge, turn left
[  0.60]  Cross over a paved trail (road to Mountain Lakes House) staying in a wide grassy woods road
[  0.65]  At intersection with lamppost looking vent and two manhole covers, turn right on elevated path
[  0.75]  Keep straight at intersection towards Mountain Lake House, blue trail markers start
[  0.85]  Keep straight along lake when trail not on map forks right before Mountain Lakes House
[  0.95]  When trail ends with Mountain Lakes House on the right, keep straight across grass and trail will pick up again
[  1.05]  Cross stone bridge, turn left on gravel path at intersection (trail straight ahead not on map is service road that ends)
[  1.20]  Turn left and cross long wooden bridge with blue trail blaze on end
[  1.25]  Turn right at intersection at chain link fence
[  1.35]  When Coventry View Trail goes straight up steps, turn right towards Mountain Lakes North and JW Woods; keep left at fork
[  1.40]  Cross gas pipeline cut, trail still blazed with blue markers but also yellow
[  1.45]  Keep right at intersection and cross creek on stepping stones; trail now blazed with yellow markers only
[  1.75]  Turn left at Loop Trail (all trails marked in yellow throughout JW Woods)
[  1.95]  At beginning of boulder field, keep right on yellow Loop Trail when yellow also goes left
[  2.05]  Keep right on yellow when yellow also goes left to parking
[  2.40]  Keep left at the fork towards Mountain Lake House, cross gas pipeline, reenter woods, still blazed yellow
[  2.55]  At intersection turn right towards JW Woods/Lower Loop
[  2.60]  At T-intersection at creek, turn right towards JW Woods (trail to the left not on map)
[  2.70]  Cross gas pipeline
[  2.75]  Turn left at intersection, descend stone steps and cross creek
[  2.85]  Turn left at intersection (this completes JW Woods loops and heads back to blue trails)
[  3.15]  Cross creek and keep right, continue to Stuart's Trail blazed white but also some blue markers
[  3.25]  Keep left at fork (not on map)
[  3.45]  At Great Road turn left a few steps, cross at crosswalk, the turn right and look for trail sign on the left; continue on PDS Trail blazed with blue paw prints
[  3.75]  Cross paved PDS driveway at yellow gates on right
[  3.85]  At next paved road with yellow gates on right, veer left crossing road to pick up trail between two rocks
[  4.15]  Rock hop creek with short but steep ascent right after creek
[  4.20]  Ponds on right at Pond View
[  4.25]  Turn right at intersection
[  4.30]  Turn right on earthen dam between two ponds
[  4.35]  At intersection turn left towards South Loop, Tent Rock
[  4.70]  Left at fork to Tent Rock (huge boulder); retrace back to interesection
[  4.75]  Back at intersection turn left
[  4.85]  Keep right towards Council Rock
[  5.05]  Council Rock (rock outcrop); retrace
[  5.30]  Turn left at intersection
[  5.45]  Turn right towards South Loop at intersection where Drake's Road is to the left
[  5.50]  Trail rerouted to right around blowdown when white blazes go left
[  5.65]  Turn left at intersection on Scout Loop
[  5.70]  Cross creek on board; post with "7" on left
[  5.90]  Keep right at fork (not on map)
[  6.05]  Keep straight at intersection
[  6.30]  Turn left at intersection and cross bridge then a short boardwalk
[  6.40]  Proceed through Woodfield Reservation parking lot and turn right on paved road with Tenacre on left
[  6.50]  Turn right at Princeton Day School sign through yellow gates then left just in front of the stop sign to pick up blue paw print blazed PDS Trail
[  6.65]  Cross paved PDS driveway
[  6.80]  At Princeton Day School entrance, turn left and cross Great Road at pedestrian crossing, turn right and walk on paved multi-use trail parallel to Great Road
[  7.45]  At the end of Coventry Farm on the left, turn left through opening in fence on J. Seward Johnson Sr. Trail
[  7.55]  Trail becomes boardwalk
[  7.70]  End of boardwalk
[  7.75]  Keep right at intersection
[  7.85]  Turn right at intersection and cross creek on stepping stones
[  7.90]  At intersection turn left on wide woods road approaching the intersection with the lamppost looking vent
[  8.00]  At the lamppost intersection, turn right on raised trail
[  8.10]  Keep left at fork
[  8.15]  Cross paved road (road to Mountain Lake House)
[  8.20]  Back at parking lot


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  2. I don't know where you find them, Daniela, but once again you've provided a last-minute hike for us today (Sunday) at Greater Mtn. Excellent descriptions, details and good distance. Lunched at Council Rock, btw. Now, the Bethel hike you recently did may provide a really good stretch of the Holiday-Overeating-Legs on Christmas Day. Looking forward to the hike summary. I just hope all but the more blood-thirsty hunters will stow their bows & arrows for Christmas Day. Thanks again. Keep throwing more hiking fodder our way. Christmas cookies = the need for more calories burned and hiking is the best way to do that in my book. :)

    1. Oh yikes, must get summary up ASAP! I'll try to get it done now while I have a few minutes.


  3. Hi Daniela,

    First, thank you so much for all of your photos and descriptions. Also, the vent that you pointed out is an old air raid siren.

    Happy hiking!

    1. Oh, how interesting! I saw another one recently but can't remember where. Now I will know what it is the next time I see one. Thanks!


    2. Your first guess was correct, they are vents. They also occur in the Institute Woods behind Princeton Battlefield. They always reminded me of the lamp-post in the woods from Chronicles of Narnia.