About this Itinerary
The 27-mile Paulinskill Valley Trail passes through a stunning rural landscape full of wildlife and peaceful tranquility, but in some sections it can be a rough and tumble ride that includes navigating areas that are not much wider than a bike tire due to overgrown vegetation, missing bridges, and poor signage. For those up for the challenge however, the route offers a spectacular biking experience in a quiet corner of New Jersey that feels very remote, yet the eastern end of the trail is only about an hour drive from Manhattan.
This ballast and dirt surfaced trail takes riders from Columbia, near the Delaware Water Gap, through a heavily forested area and rolling farmland in northwest New Jersey before ending near the town of Sparta in Sussex County. A portion of the route follows the Paulinskill River, a Delaware River tributary, which provides the perfect opportunity for a quick cool down on hot summer days. The only significant town the trail passes is Blairstown, around mile marker 8. This is one of the few places where food, drinks, and restroom facilities are located. As noted, sections of the trail can be a little rough and there is a slight grade to the trail (you will be traveling uphill heading east). Given the length and conditions of the route, our itinerary divides this trail in to two days of riding to allow for a more leisurely pace. Enthusiasts may opt to bike the entire route in one day.
Near the southern end of the trail, stay at The RoseMary Inn B&B. Located in Columbia, the inn is situated on 17 acres of scenic land complete with nature trails and a charming pond, and is close to numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation including additional biking and hiking trails, kayaking, rafting, and tubing. The inn features five rooms each with a private bath, WiFi, comfortable common spaces, a three-course gourmet breakfast, and afternoon refreshments. The property is tranquil and provides the ideal setting to return to at the end of your ride.
Bike rentals can be found at Craft Cycle. Offering two locations, one in Long Valley and one in Andover, each are about a half hour away. The two stores have slightly different rental options;full-suspension mountain bikes and fat tire bikes are available in Andover and hybrid bikes are available in Long Valley. Call ahead for reservations. Bike repair services are also available, if that is needed.
Today’s itinerary covers half of the Paulinskill Valley Trail and is a distance of about 14 miles of trail riding each way. The trail is located about 2 miles away from the RoseMary Inn; to reach the trail by bike: head southwest on Hainesburg River Road to Stark Road. After about 1 mile, turn left on to NJ-94N and, after 0.7 miles, turn right on to Brugler Road; look for the trailhead on your left after crossing over the river. There is a steep hill at the beginning (you will be going downhill on the way to the trailhead). To reach the trail by car, follow the same directions and park off the road at the trailhead.
The first mile of the Paulinskill Valley Trail can be tough going. Especially after bad weather, the trail can be mucky and it is usually overgrown with vegetation. For those who like adventure this can be a fun ride, but if this is not your cup of tea or if the weather has been bad prior to your excursion, you may opt to bike or drive to a trailhead slightly further along the route. The Station Road trailhead is located about 1 mile farther north on NJ-94 and can be reach by continuing past the turn for Brugler Road and taking a right onto Station Road. Look for the trailhead and parking lot on your left. Starting at this point will take 1.5 miles off the mileage for the day but may be worth it to avoid tough conditions.
The corridor that the Paulinskill Valley Trail follows was built in 1886 as the route of the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway. The rail line was used until 1962 at which point the tracks were then removed. In 1986, plans were in place to establish the current rail-trail. Along the route are relics from its railway past in the form of bridges, stations, mile markers, and telegraph poles, with helpful signage explaining the history of the railroad and the artifacts.
Once on the trail, after about a mile from the Brugler Road trailhead, you will pass under the Paulinskill Viaduct, which was built by the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad in 1910. It has seven arches reaching 115 feet high and stretching 1,100 feet wide, and was the world’slargest reinforced concrete structure when it was built. After passing the viaduct, trail conditions should generally improve and the route is more of a traditional crushed-stone trail.
Around mile marker 5, you will come to Blairstown Airport. Located here is the Runway Cafe, the perfect spot to pick up a snack, cold drink, or to use the facilities. Watch planes take off and land or take to the air yourself. The airport is home to Yards Creek Soaring, which offers glider rides that will give you a truly unique view of this stunning rural landscape. Travel with an FAA-certified pilot aboard a sailplane and experience the magic of sailing through the sky.
The trail continues along the far side of the airport and for a short stretch runs along Lambert Road before heading back in to a wooded corridor. About 2 miles farther, you will approach the only town on the route, Blairstown. In Footbridge Park, follow the footbridge across the river to reach the downtown area and stop for lunch.
Blairstown is charming little town with a historical district that is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a grist mill that was originally built in 1825. The town is also well known as the home of Blair Academy, a private boarding school serving grades 9-12. Stop by Alpine Meats and Deli for a fresh, homemade wurst or cold-cut sandwich. This is not a stop for vegetarians, but for those who enjoy fresh German-style meats this is a unique find. To reach, turn left on NJ-94 after crossing the footbridge and head to number 57. For lighter fare, another lunch option is Gourmet Gallery Cafe, located just two blocks over at 31 Main Street. This inviting space offers a range of paninis, homemade soups, wraps, and salads. Dine outside on the large front porch to take in views of the quaint downtown.
Back on the trail continue for another several miles before stopping at the intersection with Cedar Ridge Road. This is almost exactly the halfway mark of the trail and the trailhead from which we will begin the second part of the ride tomorrow. Retrace your route back to the RoseMary Inn.
Today, ride the remaining 13 miles of the trail (26 miles round-trip). Drive about 15 miles to reach the Cedar Ridge Road trailhead. From the RoseMary Inn, turn right on to Hainsburg River Road and left on to NJ-94N. After 10 miles, take a slight left on to Lincoln Laurel Road. Continue on Fredon Marksboro Road and turn left onto Dixon Road. Continue onto Cedar Ridge Road and look for the trailhead on your left.
We recommend packing a lunch for today as there are no trailside options to pick something up. As you travel north on NJ-94, a branch of the grocery store chain A&P is located on your left in Blairstown. Stop here to pick up lunch fixings, or travel a little farther to Blairstown and stop by Alpine Meats & Deli for a sandwich to go. Slightly further along NJ-94, also find Marksboro Deli. This small shop is located on NJ-94 immediately before you veer off for Lincoln Laurel Road and is open from 6:00 a.m.
While the trail surface will be much improved in this section from where you started yesterday, today’s challenge is navigating around two missing bridges. The first you will encounter shortly after starting out and the second will come along about two miles farther. In both instances, you will need to go down a side path to cross the street and back up the other side to reach the railroad grade. Both of these bridges are slated to be repaired, so if you are lucky, this will be the case once you are riding the trail. Along this section, you will ride through the Paulinskill Wildlife Management Area; keep your eyes open for deer, turkey, beaver, mink, muskrat, otter, and numerous bird species.
In Lafayette, immediately after the intersection with Warbasse Junction Road/Route 633, the Paulinskill Valley Trail intersects with the Sussex Branch Trail. This 18-mile route travels from Branchville (north of the intersection) to Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Consider riding this rail-trail during your stay for another spectacular ride through a slightly different section of this northwest region of the state. At the trailhead parking lot, there is a restroom, if needed.
The trail ends shortly afterward, but the last half mile or so can be extremely rough going. The trail crosses several streams over narrow bridges and it is not uncommon to find fallen trees blocking the path or overgrown vegetation taking over. After the trailhead with the Sussex Branch Trail intersection, there is no additional public road access and the trail ends abruptly. You may opt to skip this small section of the route and retrace your path after crossing Warbasse Junction.
On the return, take a diversion at the intersection with NJ-94 and visit Angry Erik Brewing. Turn right on to 94 and look for the brewery at the corner of Millpond Drive (second left). This micro-brewery has an extensive selection of beers including the aptly named Paulinskill Ale. Note that Angry Erik Brewing does not serve food, although you are welcome to bring your own. Stop in for a quick pint and enjoy your packed lunch before resuming your ride back.
For dinner, try Ellias Restaurant near the RoseMary Inn. Featuring an inviting, rustic country ambiance and serving new American cuisine, this spot is a go-to for fine dining in the area. Enjoy such savory dishes as pork chop stuffed with cheese and spinach, peanut-crusted sole, or pan roast maple leaf duck. Relax with a glass of wine from their extensive list as you linger over dinner in either the charming indoor dining room or on the outdoor patio.
After an exhausting day out on the trail, kick back with a stein of beer and a brat at the Jagerstein Biergarten. Located in nearby Delaware Township, this German-American casual dining restaurant serves such favorites as wiener schnitzel, German pot roast, Black Forest smoked ham, and, of course, brats. Featuring more than 50 beers, daily specials, and live German music, this is the place to go to enjoy a fun night out in a lively pub-style spot.
Cross the Delaware River and head to Deer Head Inn in Pennsylvania’s Delaware Water Gap, to dine and listen to music at the oldest continuously running jazz club in the country, and the home of jazz in the Poconos. This inn and restaurant, located only 6 miles away miles from Columbia, serves dinner Thursday through Sunday. Try the pecan-encrusted chicken, mushroom pot pie, or New York strip steak as you enjoy live jazz music at this historical property.
Located in Columbia, is one of the region’s several wineries. Stop by the family-run Brook Hollow Winery to taste one of their varietals and relax on the porch with stunning views of the surrounding vineyards. If you are in the area on Friday evenings, come by for a glass of wine, light appetizers, and live music. Also be sure to check their website for additional events hosted at this beautiful property.
Wolves may not be the first thing you think of when you think of New Jersey, but here in the northwest region of the state is the private Lakota Wolf Preserve. Tours are led by the owners, who have raised and cared for all the animals at the preserve. Learn about the social structure of wolf packs, their eating habits, their interaction with man, and other details. In the observation area, watch the wolves play and interact. Call to make a reservation for a weekday tour and, on the weekend, be sure to arrive promptly for the scheduled tours.
Explore some of the nearly 70,000 acres that comprise the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Hike more than 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail which runs through the area, drive more than 100 miles of scenic roadways, visit historical villages and structures from the colonial era, see dramatic waterfalls and stunning river views, and immerse yourself in the beauty of rhododendron ravines and hemlock forests. There are several entry points and visitor centers for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, so check out the website before planning your trip to see what the best entry point will be based on your specific interests.
Spend some time on the Delaware River whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, or tubing. Kittatinny Canoes is one of the premier outfitters in the area and offers a range of water adventures to fit every interest and comfort level. Note that depending on which activity you choose to participate in there are different departure points (some in New Jersey and some in Pennsylvania). Call ahead to reserve an excursion and be sure to know where to meet your group before setting out.