About this Itinerary
Northwestern New Jersey offers visitors a spectacular rural landscape with dense forests, rolling hills, rich farmland, and quaint towns. Enjoy the stunning scenery as you bike through the heart of the countryside on the 18-mile Sussex Branch Trail. The trail stretches from Branchville in the north where it runs alongside the Paulinskill River, travels through the lush and stately Kittatinny Valley State Park, and ends in Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Visitors will experience a ride that is mostly flat, provides shade, and offers few crowds, while passing through several small towns with trail adjacent amenities.
Similar to the Paulinskill Valley Trail, which the Sussex Branch Trail intersects with on the outskirts of the town of Lafayette, this route can be a challenging ride in sections. The extreme northern and southern portions of the trail are not well maintained and can have grooves, loose rocks, and generally uneven conditions. These sections can be avoided, however, and only account for a relatively small portion of the route. We would not suggest skipping the trail because of this. In fact, the Sussex Branch Trail is a gorgeous trail that provides an ideal way to explore this region. We highly recommend a mountain bike, this is especially necessary if you are attempting to ride the entire route. If you are limiting your ride to just the better maintained sections, a hybrid bike should be sufficient. For those who focus on the middle portion of the trail, it is still possible to encounter muddy patches, narrow sections, and tree roots, but the trail is relatively flat, so pay attention and you should find it easy to navigate around any challenging parts.
Bike rentals can be found at Cycle Craft in Andover, close to the Sussex Branch Trail. This full service bike shop rents full suspension mountain bikes as well as fat-tire bikes. If you’ve ever been tempted to try out a fat-tire bike, this trail provides the optimal conditions to test ride these fun bikes. Call ahead for reservations as this is the only bike rental shop in the area. Bike repair services are also available, if that is needed.
In the town of Byram Township, stay at Tamarack’s Country Villa B&B. This historic property was originally built as a stone farmhouse at the turn of the 19th century and later incorporated into a European-style stucco building known as The Colby Mansion. The property is situated on 5 1/2 acres of gardens and woods, and features a creek and a lake. Five guest rooms with private ensuite baths are available, and there are several relaxing common spaces both inside and out. Guests will enjoy a hearty breakfast in the charming dining room, which features an open hearth, bake oven, and 12”beams cut from the property.
The Sussex Branch Trail is located 1.3 miles from Tamarack’s Country Villa B&B. To reach the trail by bike, take a right on Tamarack Road, and when the road intersects with Route 206, the trail will be immediately in front of you running alongside Cranberry Lake. You can also park here if you prefer to drive. Note that there is a hill along this route and you will be heading uphill on the return.
This entry point along the trail is 4.3 miles from the southern end of the route and largely bypasses the roughest portions of this trail. If you are happy to avoid this section, then head north on the trail. Here you will follow alongside Route 206 and some residential areas for awhile before entering a dense woody area before reaching the town of Andover. If you are determined to ride the entire length of the trail, we recommend heading south first as this may be too exhausting at the end of the ride. As noted, the route can be difficult in part because of poor surface conditions including rutted sections and large, loose rocks, mud, and tree roots, although the trail itself is flat in this area so there is no grade with which to contend. Almost the entire southern section, however, runs through Allamuchy Mountain State Park and offers dense woods, wildlife, and with no businesses or roads close by, is very peaceful.
Heading north past Andover, the trail enters Kittatinny Valley State Park, which some consider to be the highlight of the trail due to the dense woods and abundant wildlife. Over 200 bird species have been spotted in the area and it is a popular spot for those seeking to add to their bird list. Just prior to entering the park, and right past the business district of Andover, Cycle Craft is located about a half mile along Route 206. Stop here is you need any repair services.
In Newton, prepare to ride for about one mile on a two lane road with a relatively small shoulder. When the trail ends, take a right on Route 633/Hicks Ave/Warbasse Junction Road and follow this road northeast until you see the entrance to rejoin the trail, located on the left hand side of the road. The road briefly travels through a residential area, before becoming more rural. There are no businesses or houses along this section, but you should expect to see a steady stream of cars going by, although there are no intersections to navigate through. As with all on-road biking, be cautious.
From here enjoy a scenic ride through dense woods before reaching the intersection with the 27-mile Paulinskill Valley Trail at Warbasse Junction Road. This trail ends just about a mile to the east (this short section is very rough). To the south it stretches through woods, farmland and ends near the Delaware Water Gap (the last five miles are also quite rough). In the trailhead parking lot there is a restroom, if that is needed.
Farther along, arrive in the historic village of Lafayette. Stop for lunch at the trailside Millside Cafe (turn right off the trail at Route 659 and look for it on the left side of the road). This charming cafe serves sandwiches and other light lunch fare. Be sure to try a slice of the delicious homemade pie and spend time afterward wandering through the small downtown area to see a number of charming historic buildings.
The last five miles of the ride to Branchville follows the Paulinksill River through woods and rolling farmland before ending abruptly at the intersection with Mill St. There are no amenities here or businesses close-by, so plan ahead. Retrace your route and head back south.
On the return, if you still have not stopped for lunch, consider stopping at Krave Cafe. Located about a block off the trail in Newton, this upscale cafe has a lovely outdoor patio serving salads, burgers, and such innovative sandwiches as Lamb Meatloaf Grilled Cheese and Shrimp and Open Faced Tuscan Tuna. To reach the restaurant, while riding on Route 633 in Newton, continue past the entrance to the Sussex Branch Trail and turn right on Sparta Avenue where the two roads intersect. Look for the cafe on the left hand side of the road.
In Andover, another lunch option is the Andover Diner, which the trail follows immediately behind. Look for the entrance to the parking lot of this historic 1950s-era diner through a wooded area shortly after the trail crosses over Route 206 in Andover.
For dinner, enjoy delicious comfort foods in the casual gastro pub, Salt, in nearby Stanhope. The pub features such favorites as fish ‘n’ chips, bangers and mash, fish tacos, and jerked chicken, as well as offering an extensive beer and drinks menu. If you are in the area on the weekend, stop by for live music and festive atmosphere. Also in Stanhope, enjoy fine dining at the German-Continental restaurant, Black Forest Inn. Three generations of the Aichen Family have run this local favorite which features such dishes as pork schnitzel, Norwegian smoked salmon, and house-made mushroom ravioli. Also enjoy a nice selection of German, English, and Belgian beers in the restaurant’s comfortable yet elegant dining room.
In Byram, near the inn, find The Trout & The Troll. Located on Lake Lackawanna, this casual spot offers good food, live music on Wednesdays, and an extensive drink list. Featuring pizza, chicken fried steak, BLT risotto, club sandwiches, and burgers, guests can enjoy either indoor or outdoor dining, both with pleasant views of the lake. This restaurant is under the same management as Salt, but offers more casual food options.
Explore some of the nearly 70,000 acres that comprise the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Hike over 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail which runs through the area, drive more than 100 miles of scenic roadways, visit historic 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 heading out.
In nearby Columbia, visit the private Lakota Wolf Preserve. Tours are led by the owners, who have raised all of 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. The facility is not open to the public all day. Call to make a reservation for a weekday tour, or on the weekend be sure to arrive promptly for the scheduled tours.
Experience the magic of sailing through the air on a glider and get a spectacular bird’s eye view of the region’s stunning rural landscape. Located at Blairstown Airport, Yards Creek Soaring is well known as the place to go in the region for glider adventures. Travel with a FAA-certified pilot on a sailplane, and if you are daring take control of the glider yourself. On a clear day you may be able to see as far as NYC and Philadelphia. Single and double gliders are available. Call ahead for reservations.