Mt. Rose Preserve

Mt. Rose Preserve

New Jersey Conservation Foundation
355 Carter Rd, Princeton, NJ 08540
Dawn to Dusk. The preserve is closed M-Sa for the entirety of Hunting Season, mid-Sep to late-Feb.
908-234-1225   Website    Google Maps     Trail Map GeoPDF

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The well marked trails run through a diverse woodland that alternates between thick brush and open stands of mature hardwoods.

No Less, No More Either

Mt. Rose Preserve provides nothing less than a pleasant, 2 mile walk in the woods, but not much more (excepting a pleasant, much shorter walk in a meadow).

The preserve’s trail “system” is simplicity itself. It supports two hiking routes: a forest loop of just over two miles (including the spur from the parking lot), and a meadow loop of about 4/10. Birders may enjoy the meadow, most hikers – except when the wildflowers are in bloom – will gravitate to the forest loop.

That’s the good and the bad. The good is that you can’t get lost. The bad is that once committed, you need either to complete the 2 mile loop or turn-around to retrace your steps. There are no cross-routes or intersecting trails that enable variations or shortening of your walk.

In late October, when I visited, the preserve had been closed 6-days/week for over a month of hunting season. These lightly used trails were overgrown. Although they were well blazed, and generally easy to follow, I dislike overgrown trails because they’re a tick hazard. Sigh.

The trails themselves are well laid out on gently undulating land that gains and loses around 60′ of elevation. You cross two tributaries of Honey Branch. These are tiny streams which add a little interest to your route, and you cross on well constructed wooden bridges.

Unfortunately, the preserve’s boundary falls short of the Mt. Rose summit by about 350 yards, and barely touches the Jurassic diabase ridge that reaches an elevation of over 400′. This is all in the far northeastern corner of the preserve, nowhere near the hiking loop, on the far side of Carter Road. For me, as someone who’s recently become interested in local geology and its impact on hiking, this is a disappointment.

Also, be prepared for a bizarre entrance experience. This parcel used to be a corporate campus, and while the buildings have been torn down, the parking lot survives. You enter via a paved drive incongruously lined with street-lights, and park — often a solitary vehicle — on a section of degraded tarmac that could accommodate 100. It’s ugly and jarring, not what you expect from a trailhead parking lot. Of course, once you’re in the woods, and get past the deer fence surrounding the forest restoration area (about 1/10 of the mile), you’re simply in the woods.

So why walk Mt. Rose preserve?

Open stands of mature trees.

If you like to combine hiking and birding, the light traffic on the trail works in your favor. I found myself experiencing a higher density of songbirds than usual, perhaps because no prior hiker had spooked them before I arrived. The preserve supports a diversity of habitat with meadows, long borders between meadows and woods, and a diversity of tree species and tree density that should encourage a diversity of bird species.

If you just like to walk in the woods, there are some stands of gorgeous, mature trees that are lovely to experience. I walked for an hour, ran into no other soul, and enjoyed the sights. While I may not run back any time soon, I felt richer for the experience.

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