Here’s a list of our favorite walks for experienced hikers. Click on the excerpt title to read the full review and gain access to driving directions and trail maps. Or click here to review them all.
|Belle Mountain (A Mercer County Property)
In this era of global warming, it seems crazy that Mercer County could have leased a mountain to a ski resort operator until 1997 at this site. Now the place is pretty much ignored, which is a pity, because this is truly a fun hike with the some of the BEST visual payoffs in Mercer County. Trails aren't maintained (and can be quite brushy), aren't blazed or signposted. Footing can be tricky. Accessing "The Ledge" requires traversing a narrow path with steep drops on both sides. (Driving time is about 25 minutes from downtown Trenton. Rated for experienced hikers only! )
|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.
|Mt. Tammany Hike at the Delaware Water Gap
The Water Gap is one of the geologic wonders of the area, and the Mt. Tammany hike takes you to an awesome, panoramic view of it. Rising more than 1,000 vertical feet from the trailhead, it's one of the steeper and more challenging hikes you'll find anywhere in NJ. Accordingly, we rate it for Experienced hikers, though the major challenge is fitness. Fit individuals of any experience level may welcome the opportunity to take it on, though beginners will find the footing challenging in places. Kids will love the scramble, the views, and the sense of accomplishment of climbing a "real" mountain. (Driving time just squeaks in around 90 minutes; rated Experienced for elevation gain and footing)
|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)
|Point Mountain Preserve
The Point Mountain Preserve is one of the nicest hikes in NJ. Yes, it's over an hour from Trenton, but it's well worth the trip. Why? It's a bit more challenging, and frankly fun, than most NJ hikes, and takes you through diverse habitat including corn fields, woods, a trout stream, and an ancient rock fall. Kids will love the scrambling and the views. (Driving time is about 75 minutes, Rated for Intermediate to Experienced hikers depending on the trail selected)
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)
|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)