To get to Washington Crossing State Park, we did not cross an icy Delaware River in the middle of a winter night during a sleety, nor'easter like General George Washington and his troops did - as the famous painting by German-born artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, depicts.
We rode our mountain bikes back into the Revolutionary War era from the D&R Canal State Park Feeder Trail trailhead in Lambertville, NJ. Our 15 mile mountain bike ride took us along historic canal trails in both New Jersey and Pennyslvania; and through Washington Crossing State Park and Washington Crossing Historic Park, a U.S. National Historic Landmark area.
It was a scorching, hot (95 degrees in the shade), cloudless summer day. We said, "VICTORY OR DEATH" and passed through the trailhead gate. Of course we were well prepared with plenty of water laced with electrolytes, snacks and sunscreen . . . and we were able to replenish our water and supplies at the Washington Crossing State Park Visitors Center and Museum at the bike tour midpoint ... but still it was a battle with the heat.
See Delaware Canals Washington Crossing Bike Tour for the full bike tour loop.
Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey is located along the Delaware River, just eight miles north of Trenton, NJ. It, together with it's sister park, Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania, comprises the Washington's Crossing National Historic Landmark. This was the staging area for one of the most pivotal events of the American Revolution. It preserves the architecture and commemorates the area where General George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River in 1776 to begin their renowned march to rout the British and Hessian forces entrenched in Trenton, NJ.
Bicycling is one of the best ways to experience these two well-known historic destinations. These two parks are connected by the picturesque, rehabilitated 117 year old Washington Crossing Bridge. A narrow pedestrian walkway allows visitors on foot or bicycle (hike your bike) to explore the parks and Delaware Canal Trails on both sides of the Delaware River.
Washington Crossing State Park, originally just 100 acres, was created to preserve the Johnson’s Ferry crossing site. The Johnson farm was owned by Garrett Johnson, who inherited the property from his father, an early Dutch settler. See points of interest below.
Washington Crossing State Park has since grown to over 3,126 acres with a unique combination of natural, historic, cultural and recreational resources. There are now 15 miles of trails for hiking, biking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Bicycles and horses are not permitted on hiking trails.
There is a 2.5-mile designated horseback riding trail. Although the hiking and horse trails are off limits to mountain bikes, the Phillips Farm Day Use Area Trails offer over 5 miles of trails for mountain biking.
Bicycling the paved park roads is also great way to experience the park, and historic points of interests, especially if you are biking with kids.
Picnic areas, restrooms, 140-acre Natural Area with Nature Center located in the remote northern section of the park and a Visitors Center and Museum. An 800-seat open air theater, situated on a terraced hillside, is used for concerts and theatrical performances.
Group campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, and portable loos.
Washington Crossing State Park Mountain Bike Trails
Phillips Farm Day Use Area Mountain Bike Trails
There are over 5 miles of multi-use trails for hiking and mountain biking in the Phillips Farm Day Use Area in the far northeast section of the park. Although parking near the trails is available off Bear Tavern Road (RT 579) it is best to park at the centrally located Visitor Center, allowing you to take advantage of the entire park.
Access to the multi-use trails are possible at several spots to the right of Brick Yard Road. The mountain bike trails traverse the area over a over a variety of terrain and trail surfaces from flat to rolling dirt singletrack through woods to grassy double track around open fields.
The hard-packed, singletrack woods trails are short but sweet. For a longer ride and a varied mountain biking experience, combine the woodsy singletrack with a perimeter ride around the Phillips Farm area on grassy doubletrack, then take a ride on the Revolutionary side and hit the paved Park Loop Road for a circuit of the Washington Crossing State Park Historical Farm.
Washington Crossing State Park Trail Connections
Washington Crossing Bridge
This beautful, historic bridge, built in 1904 and restored in 1955, was not around in 1776 to ease the Delaware River crossing for American Revolutionary War troops. Today, this 877 foot long, 6 span, double-intersection Warren through truss bridge connects Washington Crossing State Park (NJ) and Washington Crossing Historic Park (PA). This makes it easy for cars, hikers and bicyclists to appreciate Delaware river views and explore the parks and access . . . the D&R Canal State Park Feeder Trail on the New Jersey side and the D&R Canal State Park Trail on the Pennsylvania side.
Trail Highlights & Nearby Points of Interest
Revolutionary War Bike Trails
Washington Crossing State Park Loop Road
The park's main loop road will take you to all the Revolutionary War era historic sites, including the Visitor Center Museum, Johnson Ferry House and Stone Barn, Nelson Ferry House, Washington Crossing Overlook (marked by large sign) of the exact crossing site and the Knox Grove Picnic Area. The path also takes you alongside Continental Lane, remnants of the road over which Washington’s troops marched to battle in Trenton.
If you've got time, complete your bike ride through this episode in American history and hike your bike across the Delaware River via the Washington Crossing Bridge into colonial Taylorsville and Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania to visit the site where Washington and his troops embarked from. There are great views of the Nelson Ferry House and the river from the bridge.
Washington Crossing State Park Visitor Center Museum
Highlights the “Ten Crucial Days” of the Revolution from December 25- January 3, 1776. The events of these 10 days, including the Crossing of the Delaware and Battles of Trenton and Princeton were turning points of the American Revolution.
The museum features films, exhibits and over 700 original objects used by the soldiers of both sides. It really gives you a great picture of what life was like for the officers and soldiers at the time.
You can also find restrooms, a water fountain, get maps, and park information.
The Johnson Ferry House
Circa 18th century farmhouse and tavern with colonial Dutch gambrel roof was owned by Garrett Johnson who operated a 490-acre colonial plantation. It includes the present early 18th century farmhouse, a barn, stables, fruit orchard, fields, timberland and a stone shop.
He also operated a tavern and a ferry service in the 1700's. Although, the farm was sold before 1766, it was still called "Johnsons Ferry" at the time of Washington's crossing. It was said have been occupied by Washington and his staff after crossing the river and used to finalize plans for the attack on British and Hessian troops in Trenton, NJ.
The garden and furniture are typical of a colonial ferry keeper’s family farm. Park employees will answer any questions you may have and often feature living history demonstrations and events on weekends.
While we were there, the park staff was busy canning cucumbers they had picked from the garden and pickled. They tasted so good and were perfect for replenishing lost electrolytes on this 95 degree in the shade day.
The Nelson Ferry House
Surviving section of the 18th century Johnson Ferry House located near the banks of the Delaware River. A large stone and bronze marker on the bank of the Delaware just north of the Washington Crossing Bridge commemorates this area.
John W. H. Simpson ObservatoryIn Washington Crossing State Park along the same road as the Interpretive Center, the John W. H. Simpson observatory is operated by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton, Inc.
Things To Do
County Fairs, Festivals, Special Events
Washington Crossing Reenactment
There are two parts to this fun event - both take place annually on Christmas Day, weather and river conditions permitting. The spirit of the American Revolution is recreated every year on Christmas Day when the reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware takes place. Both adults and children of all ages will enjoy the chance to experience these historic events as they unfold. It's exciting and theatrical.
Along with the crossing, interpretive talks, activities, and demonstrations take place throughout both historic parks.
Ferry To Ferry Hike
Follow the path the Continental Army took on it's march to the battle of Trenton. This historic tour / hike begins at the McKonkey Ferry Tavern in PA and takes you on a guided tour of Washington Crossing State Park historical village. End your hike just in time to witness the river crossing reenactment.
Phone: (609) 737-2515 - Washington Crossing State Park for winter events information.
Delaware River Crossing Reenactment
At Washington Crossing Historical Park across the river in PA, the Continental army, led by General George Washington comes alive. In period military dress, they cross the river in replica Durham boats (weather and river conditions permitting) and land at the Washington Crossing State Park landing.
Annual Washington Crossing Brewfest
Annual event, usually held the first weekend in May, features a sampling of 130 beers from more than 60 national and regional breweries, live music, and multiple food vendors.
Location: Washington Crossing Historic Park (PA) - just across the river. Tickets can be purchased at the park Visitors Center or online. Call for additional details.
Phone: (215) 493-4076
Six months after the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution was all but lost. The British had taken New York City and were relentessly pursuing General Washington and his troops across New Jersey. Bold action was clearly needed.
On Christmas eve of December 25, 1776, in the midst of a howling nor'easter, the demoralized American main force under the command of General George Washington, crossed the Delaware River at McConkey’s Ferry landing in Bucks County, PA. The army made it across in sturdy, draft Durham boats. The artlillery and horses were transported across on flat-bottomed ferries.
The troops formed a sentry line around the landing area in New Jersey, with strict instructions that no one was to pass through without the password, "Victory or Death". Washington and his staff sought shelter, about 10 miles downstream in the Johnsons Ferry farmhouse and finalized strategy for the attack on Trenton while the rest of the troops made the Delaware River crossing and regrouped.
After regrouping, the cold and ragged army marched ten miles over icy roads through hail and sleet to the Hessian Garrison in Trenton. Washington suspected that the enemy would not be expecting an attack on Christmas day, and at 4 AM, they took the Hessian and British troops by surprise. They caught them with their proverbial "pants down" as most historians say.
This was the Continental Army's first major victory of the American Revolution. This renewed morale and turned the tides of the war.
From I-95 (Trenton): Take Route 29 north. Follow signs to park.
From Lambertville: Take Route 29 south (Main St.) about 7 miles to Washington Crossing-Pennington Rd. (Rt.546) Turn left and follow signs to park.
From the D&R Canal Trail: At Washington Crossing-Pennington Rd. turn left, cross over the canal and take the ramp to your left over River Rd. into the park.
For More Information
Washington Crossing State Park
Phone: (609) 737-0623