Another must-hit running location is the D and R Canal. Part of the NJ State Park System, this facility is simply “An easy place to love” as said to us by one canal runner. The 70-mile (yes, we said 70) stretch meanders throughout Central NJ. Built in the 1830’s, mainly by Irish immigrants, the canal was purposed to transport goods between Philly and New York in a pre-FedEx world.
The canal park begins in Milford, just north of Frenchtown (a cool get-a-way, BTW). It follows the Delaware River south to our state capital, where it heads northeast towards New Brunswick.
We spoke to runners in several spots along the path and got the sense that folks tend to love their own little section; they may not be aware how long the park really is. Regardless of where they run it, everyone agrees that this place is special. Mark Kraft, a teacher in South Brunswick may have put it best, “It’s so peaceful, you can forget you are running.” Mark, like many of the canal’s regulars, appreciates the naturalness of it. “It’s a real trail. It has mud, rocks, puddles and debris. You deal with all the elements here. That’s one of the things that makes it so great.”
The path provides a serene setting that is ideal for running. It’s a distance runner’s paradise as the flat, soft surface is a perfect place to chip away those miles. Although some sections are within an ear shot of a road, most of the path is quiet, serving as a convenient escape from the concrete jungles. Your feet will be pounding a very forgiving surface on your canal run. The surface which varies slightly from dirt paths, to crushed stone also has some small bridges to cross. In addition, there is enough real estate to prevent overcrowding. The canal helps prove our theory that running near water provides us with unexplainable extra energy (a story for another day).
- It’s easy to zone out.
- You’ll see some cool wildlife, for example this giant snake we saw in May.
- Quiet, serene and peaceful.
- Easy to get to, particularly if you are in Princeton, Franklin, Montgomery or along the Delaware.
- There are a few well positioned bathrooms along the way.
- During the fall, the path exhibits a multitude of colors.
- It can get “buggy” at times.
- Crossing the occasional street can sometimes slow you down.
- Mountain bikers can be annoying, but most we’ve come across are cool.
- Some sections near Trenton can seem a little sketchy. Use your discretion and stay safe.
- If you aren’t paying attention, it’s easy to forget where you parked. It may sound dumb, but one of us literally lost our bearings (and car for a while).
Near Princeton University, you can (illegally) sneak onto the golf course and there is a water jug right there. Water is also available at Bulls Island, which is located between Frenchtown and Stockton. (Thanks Frederick Slapa Jr.)
If you are an NJ history buff, check out some of the information plaques and displays. There is some cool info to learn that will make you sound smarter at your next cocktail party.
Running the whole thing (not at once) is a nice thing to put on your Running Bucket List.