Watershed Reserve

Watershed Reserve

The Watershed Institute
31 Titus Mill Rd, Pennington, NJ
Reserve open daily, dawn to dusk; Center open M-F, 9 AM to 5 PM; Sa, 10 AM - 4 PM
(609) 737-3735   Website    Google Maps     Trail Map GeoPDF

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Special notes for parents
As a place for hiking, the hiking area near the reserve is best suited to very young kids or beginners. Trails are pretty much dead flat, which can be boring for older, more experienced kids. However, the mix of meadows and forest makes it an outstanding area for birding. After a big snow fall, it’s one of the better places for beginner XC skiers. Throughout the year, the Center sponsors events for kids ranging from tots to teens, and spanning the arts and sciences. Especially if your kid has an interest in sustainability or ecology, there is a lot they can learn here. Also, check out the Mt. Rose Ridge which we love, and review separately.
Hiking trails along the headwaters of Stony Brook.

Formerly the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Reserve, the Watershed Reserve is a 930 acre site in Pennington, about 20 minutes from Princeton and half an hour from Trenton. It provides 10 miles of hiking trails, is home to Honey Brook Organic Farms, and supports one of largest and most active Nature Centers in NJ. All of this is organized by the Watershed Institute, which claims to be the oldest environmental group in Central NJ, founded in 1949.

The Center, located at the trailhead, supports a comprehensive program of events and education programs for adults, families, and kids. The Center partners with the Arts Council of Princeton to provide nature-focused art instruction. There’s also a permanent “geocaching” treasure hunt, where you can use a GPS to find hidden objects within the preserve.

As a hiking destination, the site near the Institute is suited principally for beginners. The land is almost entirely flat. Judging from the large number of boardwalks built along the trails, in wet season, many will be muddy. The site is a mix of meadows and forest cover: some old, some relatively recent, mostly deciduous.  After a snow fall, the reserve is open for XC skiing, and the forest cover, relatively wide winding trails, and flatness makes it an ideal site for beginner skiers.

If you do decide to traverse the local trail system, the Stony Brook itself makes a nice destination. Near the river, you’ll pass the “Hobbit Tree”, a dramatic old beech tree that’s pretty spectacular. There’s a small clearing, and seats for parents to rest up while the kids fantasize about Mordor (or perhaps it’s the other way around).

But the real distinction here is the Nature Center and the programs they run. Definitely worth checking out.

Also of note is the Mt. Rose Ridge trail, more than 2 miles north of the Institute parking lot. We think it’s a wonderful little hike, though not necessarily in combination with the rest of the Watershed hiking system.

The Hobbit Tree.

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