The Millstone Valley Scenic Byway received national and state designation for its scenic beauty, historic importance, and environmental integrity. Located in the beautiful Millstone Valley of central 

Millstone Valley Scenic Byway Driving Tour

The Millstone River Valley is a historically significant area in Somerset County that offers some of the most scenic drives anywhere in New Jersey. The valley is home to a 27-mile travel loop, the Millstone Valley National Scenic Byway, one of six byways in New Jersey recognized by the US Department of Transportation. On your trip through the valley, drive slowly and take time to stop at the Byway Visitor Center in Griggstown, where canoes and kayaks are available for rental. Take a walk along the canal towpath, ride your bicycle through the Six Mile Run Reservoir area, or stop for a picnic near the canal. Allow at least an hour—ideally two or three—for your tour of the Millstone Valley. We’re confident you’ll remember your visit to the Millstone Valley for years to come.

Driving Tour Map

  • The Byway takes visitors through the beautiful Millstone River Valley with two lovely waterways. To the west is River Road, winding alongside the Millstone River, and to the east Canal Road follows the banks of the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
  • The Byway is located largely in Somerset County, New Jersey, but also in small portions of Mercer and Middlesex Counties.  
  • Start at Millstone Borough Hall, 1353 Main St (County Route 533) in Millstone Borough (mailing address "Hillsborough"). The Borough Hall is located in a one-room schoolhouse, built 1860-1861.

TURN-BY-TURN DIRECTIONS

The tour is meant for use by a passenger, not the operator of a vehicle.
It is recommended that the directions be read once before driving - sites go by fast at some locations.
Please consider having a paper copy with you - cell service is inconsistent in some locations. Please click here for a PDF copy.
Please drive safely.

1353 Main St

START: 1353 Main Street (Route 533/ Millstone River Road)

Start the tour in the parking lot at the 1860 School House, now Millstone Borough Hall. As you leave, heading south, notice the field across the street where the British Army under General Charles Cornwallis camped in June 1777, erecting fortifications and occupying Somerset Courthouse. As Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, General William Howe’s strategy was to draw Washington’s army from the Watchung Mountains, with the aim of dealing the American Army a decisive blow. That strategy failed. Unable to lure Washington from his strong defenses at Middlebrook and harassed in skirmishes with the local militia, the British evacuated to Perth Amboy.

Next to this field Rutgers held classes in a private home, when the British captured New Brunswick and the school was forced into exile.

Route 533

TURN LEFT: South on Main Street (Route 533/Millstone River Road)

Crossing the Amwell Road Bypass (Rte. 514), you pass through the Borough of Millstone, once called Somerset Courthouse. The borough was the county seat of Somerset County from 1738 to 1784, when Somerville became the county seat.

On October 26, 1779, Colonel John Graves Simcoe led a force of 80 Tory Queen's Rangers into Somerset County from Perth Amboy. After a raid at Finderne, they continued on to Somerset Courthouse, where they destroyed Continental Army supplies, took some American officers prisoner, freed Loyalist prisoners, burned the courthouse, and several adjacent houses, and damaged the two churches.

As you leave Millstone Borough, passing the historic Hillsborough Dutch Reformed Church, note the Lenape mortar in front of the church. A Lenape village was South of the church. 

Millstone River Rd

DRIVE: Continue South on Millstone River Road

South of the church on your right, near Yorktown Rd, several thousand French Troops were encamped in August, 1781. Continental Army troops also passed through the village. The joint French and Continental Armies under Generals Washington and Rochambeau were marching toward the final victory of the American Revolution in Yorktown, VA. You are following in their footsteps for about half of today’s tour.

On the curve, notice the privately owned Van Doren house (#1488 on the right), where George Washington stayed on January 3, 1777, after victory at the Battle of Princeton. Across the street, the French encamped in September 1782 on their return from the victory at Yorktown.

The route has now been designated the Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail, part of the National Park Service. Many farms and homes along the way have been here over two centuries. 

Griggstown Causeway

TURN LEFT: East on the Griggstown Causeway

The Griggstown crossing of the Millstone River was used many times during the Revolutionary War, including after the Battle of Princeton in January 1777 and on the march to Yorktown in 1781.

Visitor Center

STOP: Millstone Valley National Scenic Byway Visitor Center 

If you like, stop along the Griggstown Causeway to look around. Once the pandemic is over, stop at the Visitor Center to see us on weekend afternoons, April to October. View the Byway video and chat with the guides. Brochures are available.

You are now surrounded by landmarks from Central Jersey’s canal era, which lasted nearly a century from the Delaware and Raritan Canal’s opening in 1834 until it closed in 1932.

The D&R Canal was constructed between the years 1831–1834. Much of the hard labor of digging the ditch and removing trees was done by immigrant workers who were primarily of Irish descent. This work force was supplemented by local laborers and skilled craftsmen.

The main canal is 44 miles long and stretches from the Delaware River at Bulls Island to the Raritan River in New Brunswick. It is 75 feet wide and eight feet deep. It was built primarily to move coal from eastern Pennsylvania to New York City. Canal boats also carried locally grown produce and manufactured goods between Philadelphia and New York, eliminating the hazardous 100-mile route along the Atlantic Coast.

A series of culverts were built during its construction to allow the natural course of local streams to continue their uninterrupted flow beneath the canal, thereby eliminating damage to the canal infrastructure. You can see an example of a culvert behind the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center was once the home of the Griggstown Bridgetender. The Bridgetender spent much of the workday in the station, the small building across from the house. When a boat approached, he would stop the road traffic and swing the A-frame bridge open to let the vessel pass. Across the canal from the Visitor’s Center you can see the stone foundation of the Griggstown grist mill. Across from the mill is a building that was probably used to house mill employees and store supplies for the mill. Several mills were located on the Millstone River; mills ground the wheat and corn from the Valley’s many farms. Due to the abundance of its crops, the Valley was called the bread basket of the American Revolution.

The Delaware & Raritan Canal is now the centerpiece of the D&R Canal State Park with existing buildings and locks. Take a walk on the historic towpath once used by mules to pull canal boats. The Griggstown lock—Lock #9—is located ¾ of a mile South of the causeway.

Rent a canoe or kayak behind the Visitor Center and enjoy time on the canal. 

Canal Rd

TURN RIGHT: South on Canal Road

As you drive parallel to the canal, admire the private homes on the opposite side, including the historic Black Horse Tavern (#1101), once visited by the Marquis de Chastellux of Rochambeau’s Army, Beekman House (# 1121), the Red Horse Tavern (#1135), and the Abraham Van Doren house (#1153) that stood as the Continental Army passed through on multiple occasions.

Route 518

TURN RIGHT: West on Washington Street (Route 518)

You will cross a bridge over the D&R Canal, and a second bridge over the Millstone River as you enter the historic Borough of Rocky Hill where all the lines of troops marching to Yorktown converged. Park on the street and take a stroll through this charming village.

Most of the homes on Washington Street are part of a Historic Preservation District as are all of the homes on Crescent Avenue, Grove Street, Park Avenue, Montgomery Avenue, and Reeve Road. Note the historic church on the corner of Reeve Road.

Crescent Av

TURN LEFT: South on Reeve Road and then TURN LEFT: East on Crescent Avenue

You will cross Princeton Avenue, the route taken to Princeton by troops headed to Yorktown.

River Rd

BEAR RIGHT: East onto Kingston Avenue / River Road

For the next several miles you will be following the Millstone River toward Kingston Village. The view to your left has changed little over the centuries.

Route 27

TURN LEFT: (North) Onto Route 27

The Kingston Mill District features a large 1893 Victorian-style mill, now a private home. Notice the historic 1798 stone quadruple arch bridge next to the mill. Originally a wooden bridge was present on the site. As the Continental troops moved north after the Battle of Princeton, they tore up the planks of the bridge to delay pursuit by the British. In retaliation, the British purportedly burned the original mill on the site; its replacement burned in 1888 and was replaced with the current structure a few years later. The wooden bridge was repaired and used heavily in the 18th century, eventually being replaced by the current stone bridge.

After crossing the Millstone River, consider parking so you can further explore the D&R Canal State Park and the Kingston Lock area. Follow the towpath south for spectacular views of Carnegie Lake, where Princeton University rowers compete. This man-made lake was a gift to Princeton University from Andrew Carnegie, 19th-century Industrialist.

Kingston Village

DRIVE: Up the Hill into Kingston Village

Notice the cemetery on the left where Washington and his generals held the famous “Conference on Horseback” on January 3, 1777, to decide where to go following victory at Princeton. They could push on to New Brunswick and try to capture much needed British supplies including the Army payroll, or travel to a winter encampment in Morristown. They chose to march the troops, exhausted from fighting in Trenton and Princeton, north through the Millstone Valley to the encampment at Morristown.

Shops and restaurants are available for a lunch or coffee in Kingston.

Route 603

TURN LEFT: North onto Laurel Avenue (Route 603)

This intersection is roughly at the mid-point of the historic King’s Highway between New York and Philadelphia. In the 18th century as many as 100 stagecoaches stopped here every day.

Kingston Rocky Hill Rd

BEAR LEFT: To stay on Route 603 (Kingston-Rocky Hill Road)

Immediately on the left you’ll see Rockingham, the farmhouse where George Washington made his final wartime headquarters at the end of the Revolutionary War as the Continental Congress met in nearby Princeton. Here he wrote his “Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States.” Park in the lot and explore the landscape. The house is closed due to the pandemic but come back and visit when it can once again receive visitors inside.

Canal Rd

DRIVE: Continue North (across Route 518) onto Canal Road

You’ve traveled this leg already, but now take time to notice on the right the remains of a terra cotta plant that manufactured tiles for the Woolworth Building in New York, among others. The remaining building is now a private home (#1532).

The Woolworth Building was selected by JK Rowling to be site of the Magical Congress of the United States in the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

After several miles you’ll see Copper Mine Road on the right. This area was the site of a copper mine worked during the Revolutionary War. Both Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were visitors here. The mine was staffed by Welsh miners whose loyalty Washington suspected, so they were sent back to England in exchange for American prisoners of war.

Continuing straight, you’ll pass the Griggstown Causeway, after which you are covering new ground.

Notice the Griggstown Reformed Church on the right. There is a restored one-room schoolhouse behind it. It is also the site of the church cemetery, where you will find the grave of Daniel Blaney, a Griggstown Bridgetender who fought in the Civil War with the Union Army. Also buried there are eleven unknown canal laborers, possibly of Irish descent, who worked on the canal’s construction and died during the 1832 cholera outbreak. Their graves are lovingly marked with Irish flags.

As you continue north, you’ll pass by farms, many of which date back to the original Dutch settlers.

The private home across from the junction of Bunker Hill Road and Canal Road was the home of John Honeyman, believed to have been a Revolutionary War spy who worked for General Washington.

A short distance up Bunker Hill Road is the Griggstown Farm Market. Griggstown Farm produces much of the poultry used in fine area restaurants as well as many in Manhattan.

Water Treatment Plant

TURN LEFT: Continue on Canal Rd. by turning left after the Water Treatment Plant

Once again, you’ll find yourself parallel to the canal. Eventually you’ll come to the Six Mile Run Reservoir Site, managed by the D&R State Park. The site is popular with walkers and mountain bicyclists.  Enjoy the park, but don’t look for the reservoir since it was never built. At the intersection, notice the gardens near the Blackwells Mills Canal House and Bridge Tender’s station.

Consider parking and walking along the towpath beyond the wooden bridge.

DRIVE: Continue North (across Blackwells Mills Road) on Canal Road. The narrow road takes you along the canal, headed toward historic East Millstone, a section of Franklin Township.

Market St

TURN LEFT: Onto Market Street

As you enter the village, notice the interesting historic houses, shops and the tiny post office in the old fire house. There is a deli where food is available for purchase.

Amwell Rd

TURN LEFT: West on to Route 514 (Amwell Road)

As you make the turn, you’ll see on the right the Franklin Inn, which dates back to 1756 when it was built by Cornelius Van Liew as a farmhouse. It was raided by British General Cornwallis in December 1776 and June 1777. It is reputed to have been used briefly as his headquarters in 1777. A Revolutionary-era French map has the house labeled “Pont Caffe,” suggesting it provided sustenance to French troops allied with the Americans on the Washington-Rochambeau march to victory at Yorktown in 1781.

In 1835 a second floor was added, and the home converted into a tavern to serve the canal trade. The tavern was closed in 1916 due to Prohibition. Local efforts are underway to restore and reopen the inn. See the Historic Franklin Inn on Facebook.

Nearby is the East Millstone Bridgetender’s house and station, followed by the D&R Canal and Millstone River bridges. This entry to the towpath has a site for kayak launching.

North River St

TURN RIGHT: Just before the traffic light, Turn Right Onto North River Street (one way)

This last leg of the trip passes the Millstone Forge, the earliest blacksmith shop still standing in New Jersey. In normal years, the forge is open on Sunday afternoons, 1-4, April to June and September to November.

Millstone River Rd

TURN RIGHT: North on Route 533 (Main Street/ Millstone River Road)

You have now returned to Millstone Borough Hall, where you began your trip.

End of the Tour

We hope you have enjoyed your tour of the Millstone Valley National Scenic Byway.

Please visit us again when our historic sites are open. Meanwhile enjoy our local dining and recreation sites!

Millstone Valley History

The history of the Millstone Valley goes back thousands of years, when it was home to the Lenape Native Americans. Early in the Revolutionary War it provided the escape route for General George Washington and the Continental Army immediately after the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777. Toward the end of the War, in 1783, it was one of the main routes taken by Washington and the French General Comte de Rochambeau as they journeyed from New England to Yorktown, Virginia for the final victory.

For a century beginning in the 1830s, the Millstone Valley was the location of the busy Delaware & Raritan Canal, which played a vital role in transporting coal and agriculture and industrial products to the booming New York metropolis. Today, the D&R Canal State Park has become the second most visited park in New Jersey and provides some of the best outdoor recreation in our region. Interpretive signs will help you understand the engineering behind this great American canal. 

Sights on the Drive

Millstone River Valley Map

Millstone River Valley Map

Old Schoolhouse

Millstone Borough Hall,
built in 1860 as as
schoolhouse

Bridge Tenders House

The Bridge Tenders
House at Griggstown

Grist Mill

Grist Mill and Carnegie Lake from Kingston

Dutch Barn

Historic Barn at
Blackwells Mills

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