Goat Hill Preserve: Family Hike

Goat Hill Preserve: Family Hike

Washington Crossing State Park
George Washington Rd, West Amwell, NJ
Open year round, dawn to dusk
(609) 737-0609   Website    Google Maps     Trail Map GeoPDF

Gravitas:   Challenge:      Proximity:

Special notes for parents
Kids love the panoramic views of the Delaware from both “Goat Hill Overlook” and, especially “Dining Rock” (which appears to be more exposed than it really is, though parents should be vigilant). In recent years a reasonable trail system has been developed. If you stick to the “Quarry Trail,” Intermediate-level kids will have no trouble visiting all of them.
The view as you approach Dining Rock

A Revolutionary Observation

(Revised September 2021) Note: This review deals with the best-maintained trails in the park, which provide an easy, family walk.  A second review describes some of the exploration 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 1778, around the time of the Battle of Monmouth, or in 1781 on their march to end the war at Yorktown.

Click to enlarge

The area was closed to the general public for years, until it was finally acquired by the State of NJ in late 2009.  For many years, until the 1970s, it had been a Boy Scout camp. Today It is being managed as a satellite of Washington Crossing State Park, which is just down the road. 

The Preserve’s entrance isn’t 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).  The parking area is a few hundred yards up on the left, and is obvious.

From the parking lot, continuing on the gravel road you drove in on, it’s half a mile and 75 vertical feet to the “Goat Hill Overlook”, making it accessible to even very young children or healthy, sedentary adults.  Dining Rock (aka “Washington Overlook” is even closer:  as the road makes a sharp bend, you’ll see a well worn, red-blazed 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.

Beginner hikers can continue along the white blazed Quarry trail as far as the Old Mill Overlook, then return the same way. Intermediate or advanced hikers can explore the rest of the trail system (and some interesting unmarked trails) further south. These are described here.

4 Responses

  1. Steve
    | Reply

    Fantastic views of the Delaware from both the Outlook and Dining Rock. Very easy hike – just need more trails!

  2. Michael
    | Reply

    I am acquiring the property adjacent to this park (1872 River Rd) and would be interested in working with any interested parties to create trails and improve the area.

  3. David Dondero
    | Reply

    From a publication by Cunningham many years ago: Washington dined on a rock near a farm house with a well. The only property that has all those requirements is several hundred feet away from the park entrance on Goat Hill Road. He did not dine with Lafayette but with a number of the local militia officers including members of the Coryell family. George Coryell later became one of Washington’s pallbearers.

    • Marcia Waxler
      | Reply

      I have read quite a bit about Goat Hill, but, I have found no info. about why it is called, “Goat Hill”. If anyone reading this knows, I would appreciate the answer…….thank you.

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