Buried Treasure and Sights Unseen (Goat Hill Park Bushwhack)

Goat Hill Park was acquired in 2009 by the State of NJ, and is managed as a satellite park of Washington Crossing. It is potentially one of the most spectacular hiking destinations in central NJ, but budget and regulatory constraints have blocked the state from developing it. It’s a pity. Of course, if you’re willing to bushwhack, you can still go exploring.


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Nocka-Rocka Scramble (Haycock Mountain at Nockamixon State Park)

Haycock Mountain is an entertaining, short hike (only about 0.75 mile from the trailhead to summit). You gain 460 vertical feet in this distance, which puts the average gradient about 12%, though the hike gets a fair bit steeper as you approach the summit. The payoff is the scramble: from roughly the midpoint of the hike to the summit, you’re picking your way through giant boulders. The short length and scrambly nature of the hike makes it particularly entertaining for experienced hiker-kids. It does require experienced hiker-adults to accompany them because the trail is poorly blazed, and appears as if it was never officially marked. (Driving time is just about an hour; rated for experienced hikers for elevation gain, scrambly nature, and poor blazing).


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Cushy It’s Not (Cushetunk Mountain Preserve)

Cushetunk offers two different hiking options. If you park at Old Mountain Road in Lebanon, it’s an intense 2.4 mile loop hike that includes a fairly strenuous scramble along a 0.9 mile ridgeline and an elevation gain of about 450 feet. If you park on Mountain Rd, in Whitehouse Station, the hike is about 7.5 miles and 1,100 cumulative vertical feet. (Driving time is about 70 min, Rated for Experienced hikers for elevation gain, rugged footing, and poor blazing)


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Variety is theā€¦ (Musconetcong Gorge Preserve)

The preserve is great fun, with a fantastic loop hike at its core, which you can extend in various ways. There’s about 600 feet of cumulative elevation gain: some of the climbs are quite steep. There are also a couple of stream crossings. Usually you can just hop over stones to cross, but in high water, you may get your feet wet. (Driving time is about 75 minutes, though the drive, mostly on Rt. 29 is beautiful and stress free; Rated for Experienced hikers because of elevation gain and steepness)


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Vertical Elevation Gain (Sourlands Preserve)

The Sourlands is one of the few hiking spots close to Trenton where you can experience reasonable elevation gain, second only to the Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain. Yes, it is about 40 minutes away (compared to Baldpate’s 20 minutes) and in the Sourlands you gain up to about 350 vertical feet on the steepest trail (compared to Baldpate’s 425). But, the Sourlands have miles of reasonably challenging forest-hiking trails to enjoy… There are trails suitable for all levels of walkers from Beginner to Advanced. Beginners can do some short loop hikes near the parking lot, while Intermediate hikers have miles of trails in the southern section with moderate grades. (Driving time is 40 min; Rated Beginner to Experienced depending on where you go)


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Most Aerobic Walk (Switchback Trail at Baldpate Mountain)

The Switchback Trail delivers 425 vertical feet by itself, and you can achieve a cumulative elevation gain of nearly 1,000 vertical feet (well, OK, 950) by combining it with other trails. There’s no other walk of which I’m aware that delivers anything like that much vertical elevation gain within an hour’s drive of Trenton. Congrats to the Mercer County Park people for doing this. (Driving time is about 20 minutes; Rated Experienced for elevation gain)


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