Peaceful Hiking in Central Jersey at Plainsboro Preserve

Overcast sky overlooking lake through trees

Just 30 minutes outside Princeton, NJ lies 1,000 acres of dense forests, wide fields, and lakeside views the Plainsboro Preserve. The Plainsboro Preserve is owned and operated by NJ Audubon and is free and open to public from dawn to dusk.

The Preserve boasts 5 miles of trails including a geocache route, a nature discovery trail, and my favorite a short, narrow pathway that ushers particularly persistent hikers out past scraggly trees and beaver habitats into the center of a beautiful lake.


Your experience at the Plainsboro Preserve in New Jersey will probably begin at the Environmental Education Center located near the entrance to the property. Inside you’ll find a play-place for the kids, animal exhibits, a birding library, a gift shop, trail maps, binoculars for spotting wildlife, and an expansive back deck with a gorgeous lake view.


The lake, the centerpiece of the preserve, is Lake McCormack, a former mining operation in the late 1960s that was filled with water when a spring was hit at the site. Now, this once-industrial area is home to turtles, fish, frogs, otters, beavers, and many other animals. The rolling hills along the lake are a side-effect of dredging by the former mining operation, leaving a landscape that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen an amazing combination of natural beauty and human-made features.


Of course, a big attraction at the Preserve is birding. Over 200 types of birds have been spotted at the preserve (you can check a running list in the education center to see recent spots!). Walking the trails in the Preserve will transport you to a paradise of greenery and animal life. I started my walk on the Blue Trail, which leads through a dense beech and pine forest alongside a lush pastoral field.


Where To Go

Once I exited the woods, I followed the wide, gravel-lined White Trail along the lakeside, and then Maggie’s Trail, a short stretch that extends along a skinny peninsula jutting into Lake McCormack. The view from the end of Maggie’s Trail is beautiful isolated, expansive, and scenic.

The Plainsboro Preserve is a great destination in New Jersey for family outings, solo casual hiking, and relaxing in the forest all easily accessible just outside the suburbs.

Have you been to the Plainsboro Preserve? Let us know in the comments!

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