Ted Stiles Preserve at Baldpate Mountain
Hopewell Township, NJ 08525
Overview of Selected Trail
The Ted Stiles preserve stretches across almost 1800 acres of a ridge running roughly east-west, between Fiddlers Creek Road to the south and Pleasant Valley Road to the north. Most of the land was preserved as open space in 1998 by a consortium of Mercer County, the State of New Jersey, Hopewell Township, and the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. Other acquisitions of land and easements have expanded the preserve, which is managed by Mercer County. In 2007, the preserve’s original name of Baldpate Preserve was changed to honor the life of Edmund “Ted” Stiles, one of New Jersey’s most accomplished and tireless activists for protection of natural lands, who passed away that year.
Total of about 11 miles of trail.
Allow at least an hour for shorter walks, and up to 3-4 hours for a long hike.
Trails are marked with square plastic blazes on trees (blue, white, red, orange, yellow, brown, or turquoise). At trail entrances, intersections, and places where there are no trees and the trail might be unclear, there are brown posts with trail markers in the same colors. Arrows on the posts, and sometimes on tree blazes, are used to emphasize direction at sharp turns.
Walking/Hiking, Horseback riding, Dogs permitted on leash
Rugged. From the lowest point of the preserve to the highest is about a 400-foot climb, and some trails are quite steep. Walking the Ridge Trail, however, involves only moderate ups and downs.
Most trails involve climbing or descending, sometimes steeply. Some sections of trail may be wet and muddy. Some trails include steep stone steps, which require a moderate degree of balance and caution. None of the trails are paved.
Entrance to the Baldpate trail network can be gained at six places. There is formal parking at three of these locations, and limited parking in two other places:
1. Honey Hollow Entrance from Church Road: There is a parking area at the Brick Road entrance to Washington Crossing State Park, off Church Road just opposite Fiddler’s Creek Road, with space for 8-10 cars along the edges of Brick Road.
2. Fiddler’s Creek Road Parking Lot: The entrance to the parking lot is approximately 0.3 mile east of Route 29 on Fiddler’s Creek Road. The entrance to the parking lot is a few hundred feet east of the driveway that leads up to the Baldpate visitor center. This lot is large enough to accommodate dozens of cars. Horse trailers are not allowed here. (Note: From the western end of this parking lot you can walk over to the old Baldpate driveway, go down to its lower end, cross Fiddler’s Creek Road, and enter the Fiddler’s Creek Preserve (see Fiddler’s Creek Preserve trail info.)
3. Pleasant Valley Road Parking Lot: The well-marked entrance driveway is on the south side of Pleasant Valley Road, 1.2 miles west of Bear Tavern Road. This large lot can accommodate cars and horse trailers. This point allows access to the east end of the Ridge Trail, the Copper Hill Trail, and the Kuser Trail.
4. Fiddler’s Creek Bridge Roadside Parking: On Fiddler’s Creek Road, .5 mile from Church Road, and 1.1 miles from Route 29, it is possible to pull off on the grassy shoulder on the north side of Fiddler’s Creek Road, where the Creek Spur trail begins. A wooden post with a brown trail blaze marks the spot.
5. From Howell Living History Farm: There is also access to the Baldpate trail network off Pleasant Valley Road, about 100 yards east of Valley Road, just opposite Hunter Road (closed to vehicle traffic). From here, there is access to the Pleasant Valley Trail. However, there is no formally designated parking at this location. Users interested in entering the preserve here can park at the Howell Living History Farm and walk down Hunter Road to Pleasant Valley Road. Be sure not to leave your car past the Farm’s closing hours, which are posted, since the parking lot gate is then closed.
6. From Route 29: Half a mile north of Fiddler’s Creek Road, there is visitor parking off Route 29, at the bottom of the Switchback Trail (yellow).
Deer hunting, organized by Mercer County to limit the deer population and the damage it does to the forest, takes place on Baldpate Mountain each year from some time in December through early or mid-February. During this season, hunting occurs four or five days per week, and on hunting days there is no public access except for hunters registered with Mercer County. There is no hunting on Sundays and one or two other days in the week. To confirm the hunting days, check Mercer County’s website or the signs that are posted at all preserve entrances during hunting season.
There are public restrooms in the old lodge just west of the main visitor center near the top of the mountain.
Take Exit 1 onto Route 29 north. Go 4.7 miles and turn right on Fiddlers Creek Road. Go about three-tenths of a mile to the parking lot entrance. For the Church Road entrance, continue another 1.4 miles up Fiddlers Creek Road to the intersection with Church Road; continue straight across Church Road into the Brick Road entrance to Washington Crossing State Park, where there is ample parking room along the margins of the gravel road. Alternatively, go 1.4 miles further north on Route 29, beyond Fiddler’s Creek Road, and turn right on Pleasant Valley Road. Make a left turn onto Valley Road at about 2.75 miles up Pleasant Valley Road, and then go right (almost straight ahead) on Wooden’s Lane to the Howell Living History Farm and its parking. For access to the Ridge Trail, continue up Pleasant Valley Road 4.5 miles from Route 29, to the entrance to a large parking lot on the right.
Go west on Delaware Avenue (from Route 31 at the light at the Pennington Market). Continue for 3.0 miles, first straight, then through several twisting sections. At the stop sign on Bear Tavern Road (Route 579), turn right. For the Church Road entrance, take the first left after .4 mile onto Church Road. For access to the Honey Hollow area, turn hard left into Brick Road about .75 mile in on Church Road, just opposite the intersection of Church Road with Fiddler’s Creek Road. From that point you can turn right and follow Fiddler’s Creek Road 1.3 miles to the parking lot entrance on your right. For the Pleasant Valley Road entrances, continue a total of 1.5 miles north on Route 579, and turn left on Pleasant Valley Road. Access to the Ridge Trail parking lot is on the left at 1.2 miles from Route 579. For access to the Pleasant Valley Trail, turn right on Valley Road about 2.9 miles from Route 579, and then right on Wooden’s Lane and park at Howell Living History Farm (during its operating hours–see Howell Living History Farm)
Baldpate Mountain offers some of the most extensive and rugged walking in Mercer County. An extensive network of trails, some old logging roads and some specially built trails, lace the southern and northern flanks of the ridge, and a 2-mile trail runs along its spine. There are great views of the Delaware River to the south, historic farmland to the north, and on clear days the Philadelphia skyline to the southwest. Ruins of a 19th century settlement and scattered farms can be found on or near some of the Baldpate trails. There are five entrance points to the preserve—two from Fiddlers Creek Road, two from Pleasant Valley Road, and one from Church Road.
Baldpate Mountain is a long ridge, with trails descending on the south toward Fiddler’s Creek Road, and on the north towards Pleasant Valley Road. Visitors can combine segments of the Ridge Trail with these trails on the north and south sides to create interesting circuit walks. With two cars and one parked at the destination, walkers can enjoy long one-way hikes.
The Ridge Trail (white blazes) runs from Pleasant Valley Road at the eastern end of Baldpate about two miles to an open meadow near the western end (picnic tables there), and then about .2 mile further, curving down to the driveway below the former Kuser Estate house, now renovated as a visitor center. This wide trail follows an old wood road, which has in most places narrowed to a footpath, and has the gentlest grades of all the trails, with moderate ups and downs. There are wonderful views from the open meadow of the Delaware River to the south, and of the Philadelphia skyline when the air is clear. At about midpoint along the Ridge Trail, the route passes a complex of old farm buildings with a pond nestled below the house. This is a charming spot for a rest, a snack, and listening to the breeze in the trees.
The Summit Trail (blue blazes) begins at the parking lot on Fiddler’s Creek Road, and climbs steeply to the meadow at the top near the western end of Baldpate. The trail begins with a gentle rise through oaks, tulip poplars, and hickory for about a quarter mile, then slices up diagonally across a steep rocky slope, with increasingly airy views of the forest floor below. At about .5 mile, the trail ascends a stone staircase built by volunteers through a boulder field. A few hundred yards further, it turns right onto the trace of an old logging road, and in about 50 yards turns sharp left into the woods. After passing several cottage-size boulders edged with moss, the path crosses, at about .8 mile trail, the driveway from Fiddler’s Creek Road above the old Kuser Estate House. The trail continues straight across the driveway, and after about 100 yards turns right through a gap in an old rail fence, up into the aging apple orchard, winds left, passes through another fence opening beside a dogwood in the upper corner of the orchard, and emerges into the mountain-top meadow near its eastern margin. At that point, near the picnic tables, the trail ends at a junction with the white-blazed Ridge Trail, which runs to the center of the meadow, angles back towards the western edge of the meadow, into the woods, and turns sharp left down to meet the driveway below the lodge (1.3 miles total).
The Northwest Loop Trail (red blazes) begins near the western-most end of the Ridge Trail, descends steeply to the north for .4 mile, runs east, gradually climbing and sometimes muddy in certain stretches, for .6 mile to an intersection where the Pleasant Valley Trail (turquoise) heads north, and there climbs very steeply to the right for .2 mile to rejoin the Ridge Trail (total 1.2 miles). From here, turning east (left) along the Ridge Trail brings you to the small farmhouse and pond, and turning west (right) brings you back to the mountain-top meadow.
The Pleasant Valley Trail (turquoise blazes) runs a total of about 1.0 mile from the Northwest Loop trail down to Pleasant Valley Road, ending across from Hunter Road. From its intersection with the Northwest Loop, the trail first descends gradually through woods for about .2 mile, then contours north and then west, passing the ruined foundation of what appears to have been a barn or house—or both together. It drops down near a brook, then curves north, until it intersects a power line corridor after another .2 mile. There the path turns left (northwest) to follow the sometimes muddy downs and ups of the utility line, at .8 mile crossing the same brook, whose banks can also be muddy. Just a short distance further, the walkers’ route leaves the powerline to the right, becoming the Grist Mill Trail (not named on NJTRails map), heads into the trees, then bends again to the northwest, perched on the slope above Moore’s Creek. This short Grist Mill Trail down to Pleasant Valley Road provides dramatic views of the creek, and of maple sugaring lines maintained by the Howell Living History Farm (do not disturb them!).
NOTE: The trail segment along the steep hill above Moore’s Creek is on a delicate slope, and should be used only by walkers. Horseback riders and cyclists should continue along the powerline further west, to a second right turn that leads down along the Pleasant Valley Riders Trail to Pleasant Valley Road.
The Switchback Trail (yellow blazes), connects the westernmost end of the Ridge Trail to Route 29 down by the Delaware River, tracing a very steep route of just .7 mile and sharp switchbacks. This can be a quick aerobic session going uphill! Parking is available at the bottom of this trail, off Route 29.
The Copper Hill Trail (orange blazes), is so named because of supposed (but undocumented) early mining activity by Native Americans. The trail begins at the south end of the Pleasant Valley Road parking lot (from which the Ridge Trail heads west). The Copper Hill Trail heads south. It descends gently, and then quite steeply, bending west and leveling off briefly. At about .4 mile it passes the Kuser Trail Connector (green) on the left. At .6 mile, the blue-blazed Creek Spur leaves straight downhill to the south towards Fiddler’s Creek Road. As the Copper Hill Trail curves north again, it climbs steeply, sometimes through small areas prone to wetness, before rejoining the Ridge Trail (total 1 mile). At roughly its southwestern “corner,” the trail passes the ruins of an old house, with chimney still standing. (Do not disturb these remains.)
The Creek Spur Trail (brown blazes) runs about .4 mile from Fiddler’s Creek Road roughly north to join the Copper Hill Trail. The narrow path winds through second-growth forest, at a few spots crossing poorly drained spots sometimes rutted by mountain bikes. At .3 mile, the trail turns sharply left, following an old wood road another .1 mile before reaching a T intersection with the orange-blazed Copper Hill Trail.
The Kuser Trail, named for the former owners of this land, (green blazes) is the main route, about .75 mile, from Church Road, across Fiddler’s Creek, and uphill to the power line and then to the parking area off Pleasant Valley Road. The trail begins on Church Road opposite the grassy meadow of Washington Crossing State Park and Niederer’s Pond. It curves at first to avoid a poorly drained area, then runs north through scrubby woods for a few hundred yards, and then turns sharp right down to an aging wooden bridge across Fiddler’s Creek. Across the stream, the route bends to the right, heading upstream along the creek bank, then curving north to follow the small Honey Hollow Brook, which flows into the larger Fiddler’s Creek. The trail leaves the brook, skirts a hillside, bends left and then right, passing the Kuser Connector which runs over to the Copper Hill Trail. The main Kuser Trail continues north to the power line, and turns west to follow the power line to the parking area entered from Pleasant Valley Road. Parts of the trail north of the Kuser Connector may be muddy in wet periods.
Baldpate Mountain is part of the largest continuously forested area in central New Jersey, the Sourlands Region, stretching across Mercer, Somerset, and Hunterdon Counties. Its mature woodlands, wetlands, and open meadows harbor a rich variety of native trees and shrubs and a diverse bird population. The forests abound with American Beech with their steely-gray bark, Tulip Poplars like tall, straight sentinels, oaks, birches, hickory, cherries and many other species. In spring, the forest floor is brightened by mayflower, columbine, black snakeroot, spring beauties, bunchberry, trout lilies, and numerous other wildflowers. The fringes of the forest and orchard areas offer wild raspberries in early summer, and those who know where to look and what to pick safely can enrich their dinners with a variety of wild mushrooms.
The birdlife of Baldpate attracts amateur birdwatchers and scientists. Its population, too diverse to list here, includes a variety of warblers, wild turkeys, barn swallows, pileated and downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, wood thrushes, and many more.
The animal population on Baldpate includes the expected small residents such as chipmunks, voles, bats, groundhogs, and squirrels, foxes and coyotes, and representatives of the area’s deer population. Black bears have been sighted on occasion as well. The pond and brooks harbor invertebrates, amphibians, and small fish. The rocky outcrops provide cover for various harmless snakes, but naturalists have also found the rarely seen copperhead snake, whose bite can be harmful. Do not reach or step blindly into the rocks in warm weather.
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Signs of past habitation on Baldpate Mountain are obvious, but clear information about who lived there and when is hard to come by. Local old-timers in the 1930s, speaking to Henry Charlton Beck, author of Fare to Midlands, (E.P. Dutton and Company, 1939), described a community of farmers dating back to the Revolution. A local musician who lived on the edge of what is now Washington Crossing State Park passed on scraps of legend about the succession of residents in Honey Hollow. After the earliest pioneers, he reported, came a settlement of African Americans, sometimes as many as 50 families, some from the south and some of more local origin, who farmed as long as they could. Beck and his fellow explorers tramped through the woods in the 1930s, and came upon old millstones, several still standing chimneys, evidence of a spring house, and the foundations of houses still visible today. On his explorations along Honey Hollow Road descending from Church Road, he crossed Fiddler’s Creek on a bridge – soon to be succeeded by a footbridge for walkers.
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