There are no specific hours for this county-owned property which is not managed as a park
(609) 989-6559 Website Google Maps Belle Mountain Trail Map
Gravitas: Hiking: Proximity:
In this era of global warming, it seems crazy that Mercer County could have leased a mountain to a ski resort operator. But a ski facility did operate here between 1965 and 1997. Now the place is pretty much ignored, which is a pity, because it’s truly beautiful and provides highly entertaining hiking to experienced, adventurous types. If you’re comfortable walking on paths that aren’t maintained and aren’t blazed, you can discover some of the most exciting hiking and best views to be found anywhere in the immediate area. And it’s only 25 minutes from downtown!
Warning: While this land is open to the public, the trails described in this review are NOT maintained by the Mercer County Parks Commission. You’ll be walking along a mix of paths worn by other hikers, old maintenance roads, and old ski trails which are reverting to fields and are irregularly mowed. The path to “The Ledge” is steep and narrow in parts, and takes you within a foot or two of sheer drops that could be fatal (and, for a few yards, with steep drop-offs on BOTH sides). It is also above the firing range used by County police and corrections officers. If you are even slightly acrophobic, or suffer from vertigo, this is NOT the trail for you. Avoid this area during prime tick season, as you will need to walk through heavy brush in places. Wear long pants and good hiking boots. Use of a hiking staff is recommended. Needless to say, you will be walking at your own risk.
All the caveats aside, this is truly a fun hike with some of the BEST visual payoffs in Mercer County. You’ll see great views of the Delaware from “The Ledge” at the end of the Ridge Trail, and fabulous vistas of the Baldpate Ridge to the east from the summit and trails on the eastern side of the mountain. While the vertical climb is only 190 feet or so to the summit, the gradient is fairly steep. Along the Ridge Trail, the terrain undulates nicely, and is seriously steep in places, making the “wood-scapes” interesting (scroll down for image of trail map). Note, however, that this is a fairly short walk. If you’re fit, and don’t get lost, walking all of the “trails” won’t take more than about 45 minutes. You’re a very close drive to Goat Hill and Baldpate Mountain, however, so if you want a longer walk, you can easily combine an exploration of Belle Mountain with these other parks.
BTW, the ledge is the remnant of a quarrying operation by the “Mercer County Workhouse” which is now the “Correction Center”. On 29, just before you get to Valley Rd, you’ll pass a building that looks like a barn on concrete stilts. This was the old sorting operation, where crushed stone was separated into different size gravel. Just past this building, you can catch a quick view of the nearly vertical stone wall of the “Ledge” as you drive by.
It’s clear that some people have been enjoying these walks, “under the radar”, for many years. While it obviously doesn’t get a LOT of foot traffic, it’s enough to keep the paths visible (if you’re experienced enough to recognize them). I suggest parking at the gravel lot on Valley Road, and entering at the gate closest to the pond. Then walk along the far bank of the pond until you see a path heading up the hill. The path is pretty much straight up the fall-line, until you near the summit and run into what were probably service roads for the ski area. The “game trail” we’ve labeled the “Ridge Trail” is pretty easy to spot heading south from the summit, and I had no difficulty following it (ignoring faint trails that appeared to descend back towards Rt. 29 in places).
Definitely not for the faint of heart, this hiking gave me an adrenaline rush. How many places in Mercer County can do that?