Road Trip: Hackettstown to Frenchtown

An uncluttered rural landscape of rolling hills awaits you on the scenic and splendid Warren Heritage Scenic Byway.

A loose caboose spotted in Port Murray.
A loose caboose spotted in Port Murray.
Photo by Joe Polillio

The warren heritage Scenic Byway will fool you. It starts in suburbia, but quickly reveals an uncluttered rural landscape of rolling hills that combust in fall with flame-colored trees.

The 19-mile scenic drive follows Route 57—originally laid out in the 19th century as the Morris Turnpike—and stretches southwest from Hackettstown in Warren County to Greenwich Township. You can then drive south on Route 519, reaching the Delaware River in Milford, and continue on Route 619 along the river to Frenchtown—an additional 16 miles.

To get to the scenic byway, take Route 46 west to Mountain Avenue, skirting downtown Hackettstown. You’ll roll past Mansfield, where the Mansfield Commons mall coexists with the historic district of Beattystown; a sign marks the site of a Revolutionary War march and encampment. Then the view opens up to hills and trees.

It’s time for your first detour. Turn right on Port Murray Road (which becomes Main Street, then Mt. Bethel Road) to Well-Sweep Herb Farm (205 Mt. Bethel Road, Port Murray). The farm carries nearly 2,000 varieties of plants, from herbs to little-known native plants. Its lovely display gardens make it a fine first stop.

Returning to Route 57, note the Point Mountain Reservation to your left. In downtown Washington, check out Get a Grip & More (37 E. Washington Avenue), where you’ll find vintage tools, baseball cards and oddities like a NASA suit. If you need gas, and even if you don’t, look out for Guy’s Washington Filling Station (237 W. Washington Avenue, Washington), a roadside gem from the 1920s with its original, ornate Ionic columns still intact.

Driving through Franklin Township, you might pass a tractor on the road. Some of the best car’s-eye views are here, with expansive landscapes all around you. For a late breakfast, check out Candy’s Country Café (2423 Route 57, Stewartsville). The homey little restaurant serves old fashioned biscuits with your eggs and hash browns; in October, every inch of the interior is Halloween themed.

For more scenery, go right on Montana Road, left onto Richline Road and left onto Merrill Creek Road to reach the Merrill Creek Reservoir (34 Merrill Creek Road, Washington). An enviromental preserve with hiking trails surrounds the 650-acre reservoir, which helps maintain water levels in the Delaware River. Grab your camera and watch for hawks at Scott’s Mountain during migration season, September through November.

Return to the scenic byway and head through Stewartsville. Watch for the marker for the Concrete Mile; this was the site of the first concrete highway in New Jersey and one of the first in the country. In 1912, Thomas Edison used cement from his nearby New Village plant as an experimental road surface. The experiment was a success, though the mile has since been paved. On the left is Bread Lock Park (2627 Route 57, Stewartsville), where you can see remains of the 1800s-era Morris Canal system; the lock was so named because of the nearby store that sold bread to the boatmen. Watch closely for the sign—it’s easy to miss. You can walk on part of the canal’s tow path and see the remains of the buried lock, or just admire the view of hills and farmland rising above the Pohatcong Creek.

The scenic byway ends in Greenwich Township, but your drive continues south on Route 519. It gets confusing as you cross strip-malled Route 22; go left on eastbound Route 122 and right onto 3rd Avenue to stay on 519 (Springtown Road). You’ll want to detour up Snyders Road to Winters Road for two reasons: the stunning hilltop views, and to visit the greenhouse and fields of mums at Cierechs Pohatcong Growers (23 Winters Road, Phillipsburg). Back on 519, make a slight right on Riegelsville Warren Glen Road through Holland Township; you’re now in Hunterdon County. Drive alongside the Hakihokake Creek as the road climbs up among the trees. Go left on Milford Warren Glen Road, which becomes Water Street. This takes you into tiny downtown Milford on the Delaware.

It’s probably too early to eat at the Zagat-rated Milford House (92 Water Street), but keep it in mind for dinner. If you’re ready for lunch, try the fish and chips at the pub-style Ship Inn (61 Bridge Street), the state’s first post-Prohibition brewpub. Before leaving Milford, pop into Allen’s Antiques (49 Bridge Street) and comb through the overstuffed store to find porcelain dolls, paperbacks or a 1940s-era scrapbook.

From Milford, take Route 619 toward Frenchtown. For a delicious detour, make a left on Stamets Road to Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse (369 Stamets Road, Milford). The farm, which prides itself on its grass-fed cattle, also offers artisanal cheeses and breads made from heirloom wheats.

Route 619, or Frenchtown Road, becomes Harrison Street, which intersects with Bridge Street in the center of casually chic Frenchtown. Alchemy (17 Bridge Street) offers funky clothes and accessories from brands including Margaret Winters and Bryn Walker. The Book Garden (28 Bridge Street) carries an eclectic selection of new and used books.

Still haven’t eaten? The stately, 19th-century Frenchtown Inn (7 Bridge Street) offers everything from a Mediterranean flatbread with arugula and goat cheese to grilled black Angus steak.

Before you leave Frenchtown, walk to the center of the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge to view the Delaware River and the fall-foliage show along its banks.

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