The Sussex Branch Trail got its start in the late 1840s as the narrow-gauge, mule-drawn Sussex Mine Railroad, whose primary purpose was hauling iron ore from the mines in Andover to Waterloo Village on the Morris Canal. The railroad was eventually upgraded and expanded before being merged into the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad in the mid-1940s. Though the railroad was out of service several decades later, the state of New Jerseywhich owns much of the area parklandpreserved the right-of-way for trail use.
The trail begins on the outskirts of Branchville at a parking area along Augusta Hill Road. (The trail extends about 1 mile north from this location, but limited access and parking make this the best jumping-off point.) The Sussex Branch Trail is generally oriented north-south, while the Paulinskill Valley Trail
, which it intersects at Warbasse Junction, is generally oriented east-west.
The trail hugs the banks of the Paulinskill River, and a series of bridges cross the stream. After crossing County Route 565 the trail runs parallel with NJ Route 15 into the historic village of Lafayette. Antique shops and the Olde Lafayette Village outlet shops line Route 15.
From here the Sussex Branch Trail travels through fairly dense forest until Warbasse Junction, where it meets the Paulinskill Valley Trail. Only 300 feet west along the Paulinskill Valley Trail from the intersection is a trailhead with parking and restrooms.
A break in the trail corridor requires on-road travel for 1.1 miles. A large sign just north of Newton directs trail users to Route 663/ Hicks Avenue. This tree-lined, two-lane road has limited narrow shoulders that require extra caution. The trail resumes on the south side of Hicks Avenue near the intersection with Sparta Avenue.
Kittatinny Valley State Park is a highlight of this trail. The park's maples, hickories and tulip poplars contribute to a riot of fall color. In spring, wildflowers flourish and flowering trees and shrubs brighten the park's glacially formed valleys and limestone ridges. Birders flock to the park to view some of the 200 bird species spotted in the area, and hikers and mountain-bikers seek their thrill on a network of trails throughout the park.
The town of Andover, with eateries and shops, lies on the south side of the state park, beyond US 206. The parking area at the intersection of Smith Street and Railroad Avenue is a good point to end your trip. The trail is 13.3 miles long to this point. The remaining 5 miles of corridor to Waterloo Road becomes difficult to follow, as it passes through residential areas, alongside US 206 and around Cranberry Lake before entering Allamuchy Mountain State Park. The remaining corridor to Waterloo Road becomes difficult to follow, as it passes through residential areas, alongside US 206 and around Cranberry Lake before entering Allamuchy Mountain State Park. The trail ends at Waterloo Road/SR 604.
From Branchville, proceed south on US 206. Turn right onto Augusta Hill Road. The trailhead will be on your right.
To reach Andover from I-80, take US 206 north. In Andover, turn left onto Brighton Avenue. Turn right onto Railroad Avenue. Parking is at the intersection of Smith Street and Railroad Avenue.
To reach Kittatinny Valley State Park in Andover from Route 80, take Route 206 north about 8 miles through Andover Borough. Turn right onto Goodale Road and follow it about 1 mile to the park entrance on the right.