Overview: An easy, kid-friendly stroll through a wooded area featuring a swinging bridge over a stream and the historic site of a major Revolutionary War battle.
About Institute Woods: A coalition of nonprofit organizations, with support from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres program and Princeton Township, in 1997 preserved as open space a 589-acre property owned by the Institute for Advanced Study. With the cooperation and ongoing financial contribution of the Institute, the coalition protected the Institute Woods and adjacent farmlands. These lands remain under Institute ownership and are not a public park, but the Institute graciously allows members of the public to use the Institute Lands under terms of a conservation easement signed on April 15, 1997. The conservation easement preserved the lands in perpetuity and provides public access on the pathways through the woods and fields.
Hike length: About 2.5 – 3 miles
Elevation gain: Minimal
Location: Princeton Battlefield State Park & Institute Woods, Princeton, NJ
Parking: Park in the Princeton Battlefield State Park parking lot. Address: 500 Mercer Rd, Princeton, NJ.
Kids: The trail is very kid-friendly, though it can be muddy after rain. Kids will love the swinging bridge.
Dogs: Keep on leash.
- Institute Woods guide and map – Institute for Advanced Study
- Institute Lands & Roger Refuge map – NJ Trails Association
- Institute Woods trail map – Institute for Advanced Study
- Princeton Battlefield State Park map – NJ Parks & Forests
From the parking lot, walk along the road toward the Clarke House.
To the left is a big field – the site of the Battle of Princeton – considered to be the fiercest fight of its size during the American Revolution.
Continue past the Clarke House.
Follow the mowed lawn towards the forest to enter the Institute Woods.
Once you enter the woods, you’ll see a monument recognizing the route of Washington’s March by Night From Trenton to Princeton.
The trail network wis somewhat grid-like, and you can follow whichever path you prefer (the highlighted route on this map shows a short route from the parking lot to the swinging bridge). The trails are mostly woods roads and are easy to follow but they are not that well-marked. Remember to print out a map before you go or use an app like Gaia GPS to help you navigate.
In the southeast corner of the woods is the Swinging Bridge over Stony Brook – for many, the highlight of this hike. The bridge is surprisingly sturdy, though it does sway as you walk across.
From here, you can also check out the adjacent Charles H. Rogers Wildlife Refuge.