Road Trip: Millstone Valley

Hiking, biking, historic farms and delicious pancakes await you on this 27.5-mile trip that winds through the rustic, rural sections of Hunterdon County.

Cruise on past classic vistas of rural New Jersey.
Cruise on past classic vistas of rural New Jersey.
Photo by Daria Amato

If you’re going to drive the Millstone Valley Scenic Byway, you might want to bring your bike or hiking boots (or both). There are multiple trails to hop out and explore along this peaceful route, which follows the Delaware and Raritan Canal north, crosses the canal and heads south in a loop to your starting point.

The 27.5-mile trip—designated a state scenic byway in 2001—passes through Franklin Township, Hillsborough, Montgomery Township, Rocky Hill, Millstone Borough and a bit of Princeton. It begins and ends in the historic Middlesex County town of Kingston, which is worth further exploration.

Before hitting the road, fuel up at the new PJ’s Pancake House & Bakery (4581 Route 27, Kingston). Make a left out of the parking lot onto Laurel Avenue (Route 603). You’ll pass through a pleasant neighborhood before you reach the Rockingham Historic Site (84 Laurel Avenue, Franklin Township), which in 1783 served as George Washington’s final headquarters of the Revolutionary War. Guided tours are available Wednesday through Sunday. Call ahead to confirm hours.

Get back on the road, which changes to Kingston-Rocky Hill Road, then Canal Road. You’re following the path Washington and his army took from Princeton to Morristown in 1777. As you drive north, you’ll see walkers, joggers and cyclists moving along the old canal tow path through Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. The colors of the vibrant trees are reflected in the canal. Stop at Griggstown Lock and walk onto the wooden bridge to see the water rushing through the lock. (There were originally 14 locks on the canal, used in the 1800s to transport coal from Pennsylvania to New York, then to transport Union troops and cargo during the Civil War.)

Back in the car, you’ll pass Griggstown Canoe and Kayak Rental (1076 Canal Road, Princeton) at the old bridge tender’s house. If it’s the weekend and you’re so inclined, get out onto the water for a while. Another area destination is Griggstown Farm (484 Bunker Hill Road), where you can shop fresh goodies like chicken pot pie, quail eggs, boysenberry jam and pumpkin fudge.

After returning to Canal Road, you’ll pass the Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve (part of the Ten Mile Run Greenway), an area of open fields and woodland that serves as a habitat for numerous species of birds. There are trails here, too.

Cross the one-lane bridge, then turn left onto Suydam Road, which feeds back into Canal Road. Here, the speed limit drops, the road thins and there is no center line—so slow down.

Next, you’ll come upon the parking lot for the Six Mile Run Reservoir site, an expanse of farmland, woods and fields (but no reservoir; the state planned one there, then found alternative water sources). It’s another spot to stretch your legs and hike (or bike) the trail. Seasonal hunting and horseback riding are permitted.

Back on Canal Road, you’ll reach the picturesque Blackwells Mills Canal House (598 Canal Road, Somerset), an 1830s home and garden that housed several generations of bridge tenders and now hosts community events.

The canal veers in and out of view, peeping through the trees. There aren’t many houses, so it’s just you, the road and the seasonally colorful woods.

Turn left onto Market Street in East Millstone, then make another left on Amwell Road (Route 514) to cross the Millstone Causeway over the canal. You’ll pass through the charming villages of Millstone and East Millstone, with their many 18th- and 19th-century buildings. For a historical detour, go right on North River Street to the Old Millstone Forge, said to be the longest operating blacksmith shop in America (open Sundays).

Back on Amwell Road, go left onto Main Street (Route 533), which becomes Millstone River Road and then River Road, and head south. The Millstone Workshop (1393 Millstone River Road, Hillsborough), an antique store housed in a historic building, is open weekends.

Next, you’ll pass through the River Road Historic Rural District, site of several Revolutionary War campsites and skirmishes. Go straight on River Road for another 500 feet, then take a left onto Route 206. Make a quick left onto Montgomery Road to stay on the byway—or if you’re ready for a sweet treat, stay on Route 206 and make a left into the Montgomery Shopping Center and indulge yourself at Thomas Sweet Café (1325 Route 206, Skillman).

Once you’re on Montgomery Road, stay straight as it turns into Reeve Road, then go left onto Crescent Avenue in the village of Rocky Hill. Hungry? Detour up Princeton Avenue to the Rocky Hill Inn (137 Washington Street), a popular gastropub. Otherwise, stay on Crescent and bear right onto Kingston Road (Route 605), which becomes River Road, heading back into Kingston. Turn left onto Route 27 (King’s Highway), the oldest highway in the country—and bear right into the parking lot at Kingston Lock, officially the endpoint of the byway.

Stroll around; you can see the locktender’s house, walk along the water into Cook Natural Area, or head through the tunnel under Route 27 to walk the towpath on the other side—ending your drive on foot.

Click here to leave a comment
Click to enlarge images
Read more Outdoors articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.