Baldpate’s Switchback and NW Loop Trails Reopen

View of tornado damage from NW Loop Trail, just reopened.

(December 13, 2021) Two more trails at Baldpate have now reopened. Only the Pleasant Valley Trail remains closed. Since it runs right through the center of the devastation pictured above, it’s no wonder. As you can see in the photo, while the tree trunks remain standing, most of the branches were stripped off by the tornado that touched down on July 29, 2021.

Good news is that the yellow-blazed Switchback Trail, by contrast, appears almost completely intact. This has long been one of my favorites in the park, ascending 425 vertical feet in around 6/10 of a mile, the highest vertical gain of any single trail in Mercer County. With an average gradient of around 13%, it’s also one of the steepest.

If you’re up to it physically, walking up the Switchback trail, connecting via the white-blazed Ridge Trail, then returning via the NW Loop (counterclockwise), is a compelling and challenging hike. The NW Loop adds about 200 vertical feet, and the Ridge Trail another 40 feet, combining (with the Switchback) for 665 vertical feet in 3.1 miles.

While it’s small compensation for the damage, there are now much more open views from the NW Loop looking through the woods to the main Sourlands Ridge that starts (in NJ) with Goat Hill, and continues to the Sourland Mountain Preserve in Somerset County.

Keep in mind it’s now firearms hunting season. Baldpate is open Sunday through Tuesday, and closed Wednesday through Saturday from now until mid-February.

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