Plainsboro Township, NJ 08536
Overview of Selected Trail
Plainsboro Preserve is an expansive 631 acres of open space tucked between Route 1 and Route 130 in the township of Plainsboro. The Plainsboro Preserve came about from a partnership among the Jeffers family, the County of Middlesex, the township of Plainsboro, and the New Jersey Audubon Society. The result is one of the region’s most significant ecological treasures within minutes of the busy Route 1 corridor. Visit Plainsboro Preserve.
There are over five miles of trails to explore through mature beech woods, wet meadows and the shoreline of 50-acre McCormack Lake. The Blue Trail is the longest, a 2.5 mile loop.
Red and Yellow: One Hour; Blue Trail: Three hours depending on pace.
Red, yellow, white and blue trail markers
Flat terrain throughout
Easy to Moderate.
Red and Yellow Trails are pleasant walks with children and/or for a lunchtime walk.
White Trail after the long dirt road is a longer walk, but offers very flat terrain.
Blue Trail is the longest trail.
Parking lot holds 50 cars. Visit: Plainsboro Preserve.
The trails are open until 8:00 PM during the Summer, but access to the preserve generally closes about one hour before dusk, seven days a week (as posted). The Red, Yellow Trails and much of the Blue Trail are in densely wooded areas, therefore the prudent hiker should be out in the open or back to the parking area well before dusk.
No pets or horses, no fishing or hunting, no bicycles or motorized vehicles beyond parking area, no swimming, no boating, no picnicking or alcoholic beverages, no walking in areas marked as agricultural easements.
The education center is a great resources for bird books, children’s items, t-shirts, etc. The center is open 9-5 Tuesday-Saturday; and 12-5pm on Sundays; closed on Monday and Holidays.
Phyiscal Address: 80 Scotts Corner Road, Cranbury, NJ 08512.
Follow US Route 1 North or South to the Scudders Mill Road exit in Plainsboro. Exit on Scudder’s Mill Road and follow to the traffic light at the intersection with Dey Road(County Road 614). Make a left onto Dey Road and follow to the first traffic light which is Scotts Corner Road. Turn left onto Scotts Corner Road. Plainsboro Preserve is one mile up on the left. Turn left and follow to the parking lot.
From NJ Turnpike: Exit at 8A and pass through toll booth. Once through the toll follow sign for South 535 to West 32, Route 130 and Cranbury. At the traffic light, following the sign with the same information, make a left onto South 535 (Cranbury-South River Rd.). After 0.2 of a mile, bear to the right at the intersection (the first light)to get onto 32 West over Route 130 so you will need to be in the straight only lane. Cross over Route 130 and you are now on Friendship Road. Go 3.7 miles and come to an intersection with a large open space sign in front of you. Bear to the right at this intersection. The Preserve is 0.4 of a mile on the right side of the road. If you pass Community Park, you have gone too far.
All trails begin next to the parking lot and education center. Follow the wide dirt road to explore Plainsboro Preserve. Along the way keep an eye out for interpretive plaques that explain some of the features you will be walking past. As you start off you will be on the white trail. Turn left after the field to get on the Yellow and Red Trails, an easy stroll with children or for a lunchtime walk. The Yellow and Red Trails are entirely within a beautiful beech woods that offer a pleasant relief on even the hottest summer days. The Red Trail is a separate loop off the Yellow Trail. The wooded trails are lined with cut saplings and are easy to see. In the spring you will see oyster scale and turkey scale on fallen logs. Check your footing for occasional depressions and sink holes on the trails. There are also sweet gum trees along the Red Trail and in the fall you will see the sweet gum balls on the forest floor.
For a longer hike with spectacular views of McCormack Lake follow the White Trail on the dirt road straight back and turn right at some run-down sheds. Follow the trail again after a right turn, to see McCormack Lake. You will see a 50-acre lake brimming with waterfowl, such as Canada Geese, Snow Geese, and Mergansers. On a crisp spring morning, one may also glimpse Bufflehead Ducks or even Loons swimming among the geese. The White Trail is sandy and strewn with lichen in all shades of green.
The Blue Trail requires the most time to explore. The trail travels into the northern corner of the preserve and may fool one into thinking the route is shorter than it really is. Also be advised that due to the wet nature of the forested areas along this trail the mosquitoes can be quite aggressive any time of day. Plan accordingly! Access the trail at the end of the road from the parking lot, at the sheds mentioned above. The less-experienced hiker is advised to turn left at the sheds and follow the old roadway past abandoned industrial relics, carefully watching for occasional blue marks painted on various trees and wooden stakes. The complete loop is around 2.5 miles and offers a combination of forests, wetlands, vernal ponds and meadows. There is trail that dissects the loop, but goes through vernal ponds and is quite wet in the spring, depending on the amount of rainfall. The Blue Trail is quite flat most of its length, especially along the Amtrak Railroad tracks. Eventually, you will pass from the woods into an open brush and scrub area. You will see a cultivated field on your left and McCormack Lake. This is NOT the field you saw entering from the parking lot. Look for an entry back into the woods, with the lake on your left. After a delightful passage through the woods, you will see the sheds again on your right, and the roadway and White Trail back the parking lot on your left.
The trails should be visited in all seasons due the tremendous diversity found there. The Blue Trail offers the hiker a walk along the floodplain of Devil’s Brook in search of a wide variety of birds and amphibians. In August, September, and October wildflowers such as orchids and ladies tresses can be seen along the white trail and pretty much throughout the Preserve. Remember there is no picking, removing, or harming any plants or animals. According to naturalists there are ten threatened/ endangered plant species throughout the Preserve, including rare bladderworts, orchids, and soapwort gentian.
The trails should be visited in all seasons due the tremendous diversity found there. The Red and Yellow Trails are entirely within a Beech Forest that offers shade even on the hottest days. The Blue Trail offers the hiker a walk along the floodplain of Devil’s Brook in search of a wide variety of birds and amphibians. In August, September, and October wildflowers such as orchids and ladies tresses can be seen along the white trail and pretty much throughout the Preserve. Remember there is no picking, removing, or harming any plants or animals. According to naturalists there are ten threatened/ endangered plant species throughout the Preserve, including rare bladderworts, orchids, and soapwort gentian.
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Plainsboro Preserve is an expansive 1,000 acres closeby the Route One corridor in the township of Plainsboro. The Plainsboro Preserve came about from a partnership among the Jeffers family, the County of Middlesex, the township of Plainsboro, and the New Jersey Audubon Society. The result is one of the region’s most significant ecological treasures within minutes of the busy Route 1 corridor.
Do you have information about this trail?
Click Here to contribute.