So Close, Yet So Far (Baldpate Mountain Preserve)
Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain, Fiddler’s Creek Road, Titusville, NJ (609) 989-6559
(Directions) (Mercer County Website) (Baldpate Hiking Map) (NJTrails Website) Open daily dawn to dusk from mid-February to December and Sundays, Mondays, & Tuesdays year round. Closed for deer hunting generally Wed-Sa from December to mid February. See closings below.
2013/14 Winter Closings: December 4-6, 11-14, 18-21, 26-28; January 2-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29-31; February 1, 5-8
Note: We love Baldpate Mountain so much, we’ve written four reviews about different aspects of the park: 1) Overview, 2) Switchback Trail, 3) Eastern Trails, 4)Pine Grove Hike. In addition, the new Fiddler’s Creek Preserve has been added on the other side of Fiddler’s Creek Road.
Utterly beautiful. 12 miles of hiking trails with up to a 400 foot elevation gain. 20 minutes from downtown Trenton. Need I say more?
Baldpate has become my favorite place to walk. It is one of the newest parks in the Mercer County system, and until recently was largely undeveloped. Most of the land was acquired in 1996 and was originally owned by the Kusar family, one of Trenton’s oldest families. Walking around, it’s easy to understand why they purchased the land. We can only be grateful it was sold it to the public. With additions, the park now totals some 1,800 acres, but until recently the trail system was poorly maintained, parking was non-existent, and entrances weren’t really marked.
The county completed a major development with Green Acres grants from the State, and participation from Hopewell Township and the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space*. New parking lots have been constructed, and some of the incredible farm buildings on the land are being preserved. Critically, the 12 miles of hiking trails are now clearly marked throughout the park, and those on the western end of the park beautifully upgraded with stone steps carved out of the scrambly bits. Hidden Trenton has created its own trail map, based in part of the county’s map, and supplemented by our own GPS measurements. Download it here.
If you like to walk, check out the Summit Trail, and those that connect to it. This is on the western side of the park near the new main parking area (which is the second entrance as you drive up Fiddler’s Creek Road from Rt. 29). This end of the park is by far the most beautiful, with mature maple, oak, and birch trees, and stunning views of meadows and the Delaware Valley from the summit. Also, check out the Switchback Trail, opened in the Summer of 2010, which delivers 425 vertical feet in only 6/10 of a mile. We were so excited by this, we wrote a separate review for it: The Most Aerobic Walk in Mercer County.
There are additional hiking trails towards the eastern end, some with nice elevation gains and beautiful terrain. See: Go East, Go East.
A few of the trails, e.g. the Summit Trail, are purpose built hiking trails, though most are converted woods/farm roads. The Summit Trail is officially closed to mountain bikes (and horses) which only competition-class bike riders will regret – however, there is no signage to this effect, and you will sometimes run into bikers attempting the trail. Cyclists should take the main park drive instead, which is paved, and will get you to the top much more easily anyway (though it’s still a beast of a hill). Once on the ridge, most of the other trails are well suited to mountain biking as well as Beginner to Intermediate walking. Note that there is parking near the Nature Center for walkers or bikers wishing to skip the climb from Fiddler’s Creek Road.
Note that the Summit Trail is rated for Intermediate hikers, and the Switchback Trail (yellow blazed) for Experienced hikers due to elevation gain. Beginners can drive up and park near the Nature Center, entering from the Fiddler’s Creek entrance. This allows them to miss most of the climb, and enjoy meadows and the white blazed ridge trail which offers easy footing and modest elevations changes.
As of the date of this review, the County’s operating budget is restricted, and the Nature Center as yet is open only intermittently. The toilet facilities are also often locked. There are volunteer guided walks during the spring and summer months – announcements are posted on the bulletin boards near the nature center and the main trailhead parking lots. The park closes from December to mid-February, except Sundays, which roughly corresponds to deer hunting season in NJ (no hunting is allowed on Sundays). There are numerous hunting blinds scattered through the park, so it wouldn’t be good time to go wandering about during that time anyway, though cross country skiing after a big snow fall might otherwise be wonderful. Just hope for big snow falls on Saturday nights.
*Note: This review was edited after the comment (below) from Patricia Sziber, Executive Director of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space.