"This will be slightly long but very detailed, so please read it all. I did the whole thing.
I grew up in Northwest Jersey and this trail is a testament to the region, especially small-town life. Most of this trail is used by bikers and horses and i counted over 50 horses in a few hours, so please be courteous and shout out ahead as the trail sucks you in and creates a vacuum of quietness.
The trailhead is located off Route 94 in Sparta as you come off of Route 15 going north. Once on 94 make your first left on Warbasse Junction Road where there will be lot on your right. A map with pictures is there as well as a solar-powered bathroom. Just behind you is the Sussex County Branch of the trail that intersects the Paulinskill and goes south to Andover.
As soon as i was ready, 2 people on horse came out and got them ready for the road and we pet them. A nice experience.
The trip started out very nicely and there are a lot of trails coaxing you towards them, but don't go!!! It's easy to be tempted.
There are nice footbridges and the trail is ballast and cinder and gravel with a steep grade. I'm a road biker so this trail makes you work a little. There is a ruin of an old station house on your left in a clearing as you set out. Just ahead is a section where there are gigantic shale rocks on either side, no doubt blasted through years ago to make room for the right-of-way.
There are plenty of mile markers, including the original ones which are mini-obelisks with the number on it (distance from Jersey City). It starts at i believe mile marker 66 and ends at 88, but the trail does go to about 93-96.
There are countless little white arrows pointing to the next station/depot ahead with how many miles as well as from where you came.
One disappointment on this trail is there are no historical markers anywhere!!! I've ridden on railtrails in CT and NY and they have plenty of them, even if there aren't standing depots, the signs still tell of what was there previously.
When you are about to cross a road there will be a red access gate showing you this but sometimes there aren't and that's a problem. You can see and hear cars but a heads up would be nice.
Your first crossing will be a small road and the trail goes downhill near a red barnhouse. The second crossing is Route 206 and there's a deli nearby so pick up something to nibble on.
You will see a ruin of an old creamery on your right many miles in, just before the Stillwater Station sign as well as an old telegraph station on your left. Just after you pass the sign for Stillwater Station a yellow road sign says, ""Bridge Out"" and there's a fence. If you go up to it and further you will see an old stone part of the bridge across the road.
Instead go back and down an embankment to the main road with a dam under construction on the right. This is South Shore Terrace. Go ahead and make a left on West End Drive and a quick right on Kolhbocker Road. You can opt to climb a 30-foot embankment to the trail or take the road until it becomes an access lot and gate.
You will traverse many wooden bridges, especially the one in the photo section here, the 1925 steel trestle which is pretty. Rapids of water will run through alongside the trail further down.
There will be another Bridge Out sign later on near Route 94 so keep your eyes peeled.
I first saw this trail in the quarterly publication of Rails to Trails and they did a feature on it. The author said to go to the small town of Stillwater of 3,500 people. Follow signs to Stillwater and ride on Sussex County Route 610 West (Fredon Road) 1.5 miles to the center. There's the Stillwater Inn and Restaurant from 1820, antique stores, grist mills, old bridges, a liquor store, bank and a mechanic, but most nostalgic is the general store with a red Texaco old filler pump out front. Just across the way is an Esso pump from back in the day. Support those small towns folks and buy something.
Back to the trail and i come into Footbridge Park in Blairstown. It's named Footbridge because of one made of iron from 1893 that
stretches from the lot a few hundred feet to the main roadway, aka Route 94. There's a picnic pavilion and playground in the park.
There's a triple mileage marker there that shows the intersection of 3 railroads: 1) The current one, The New York Susquehanna and Western RR, 2) Lehigh New England RR (1880-1962) and 3) Blairstown Railroad (1877-1880). There's a small ruin of a cement platform to the left.
Back on the trail and 1.8 miles from the park it brings you onto a road. You can either take the road or a small snaky path on the left following very well placed arrows. It enters the Blairstown Airport (small) and becomes paved!!! Follow it past the administration buildings and it becomes the runway. From here, there's no access gate!!! You have to guess and it's to the left of the runway at the very end.
Again it will spit you out on a road near a business and across the way are houses and a ""Private Property"" sign and some corn fields. Confusing. I asked some neighbors and they also filled up my Camelback. The entrance is across the way to the right of the white building.
The trail has a lot of road apples, aka horse poop but it's cool temperatures and the Paulinskill River follow you for most of the way, in some cases showing rapids. The river does turn to swampy marsh as well.
You will then hear rushing water and a lot will be up ahead. To the left before the lot is a small trail going uphill and up top will be a lake and a grist mill converted to a house with water going over the small dam. Fishermen in waders were present as were trout which are stocked in the lake as well as carp.
The road eventually drops you off in Columbia on Station Road where there is a huge mammoth of a stone arch bridge some 200 feet above you and you have to arch your neck to look up at it. It looks futuristic (hard to believe) and it's covered in spray paint. I don't know if traffic goes over it though. On the left is a small trail leading you under the bridge and to the water's edge. Off station road and past that trail is the access gate.
You will come to a fork and there's a sign for the Lehigh New England RR pointing to the right. There's also a ruin of a depot and the trail goes 500 feet and is very overgrown and stops. Go back and take the left trail which is the right one. The sign is tricky.
Watch out for lots of mud and puddles here. You will see scraps of railwood along the whole trail on the sides, but here they will be laid out many in a row.
This is where the access signs and gates disappear and it's not well maintained from here on in. Don't panic. Start the trip around 12pm.
The trail spits you out on (a) Station Road (the same one?) and you will see a giant brown sign letting you know it's the Paulinskill area. There's a white arrow next to it and it says it's the ""Columbia Lake Detour"" and i think it's pointing to the road but can't tell. I opt for the small trail next to it which is very overgrown. It lets me out on a road and eventually turns into a white gravelstone access road along a body of water. I can hear cars on an expressway and it's Route 80. The road turns left and you go through an old giant pipe/tunnel and it turns right and you follow it some more. You know you are close to civilization but you aren't sure. I found a fishing family and they told me i was right. Just ahead down the lake a few hundred feet is Lake Columbia and a lakehouse on the right with a dam at the end. The road turns right and ends but becomes a trail in the woods again. Instead of going straight to a dead end, turn left down a small rocky hill. You may have to dismount a few times because there are fallen trees that stand up diagonally.
You will come out in the backyard of a house and then will hear cars and exit his driveway onto Route 46. It's very sudden. Out to the right is the on ramp to Route 80 East/West with the official entrance to Lake Columbia just before the ramp on the right. Go left and you will find a gas station for directions with a sign saying ""Delaware, 2 miles.""
You are in Columbia, a town in Knowlton Township. The Delaware is just ahead of you from the terminus and it's behind the neighbor's houses.
The trail is done and it's about 30 miles, but if you want to have someone pick you up, this part is the directions for the footbridge over the Delaware or the T.A. Truck Stop.
With the trail behind you, cross the busy roadway, over the median and ride on the shoulder for a few hundred feet, and until you pass the busy cars and ramps. This is Washington Street. Just ahead on the left is the footbridge that spans the Delaware and goes to the other side in Pennsylvania. Up the river on the left is north and you can see the famous Delware Water Gap. If you stay on Washington Street, it will curve to the right and come to a stop. Turn left on Decatur Street and go over the overpass, turning left and a quick right into the T.A. truck stop.
What an adventure.
Positives: Well maintained, great mileage markers and beautiful.
Negatives: Not enough access gates, esp at critical junctures where bridges are out and some people don't know to use common sense. You just need to have that exploratory feeling. Also, there aren't any historical markers!!! A bad negative.
Did i forget to mention the animals? I saw 6 white-spotted deer, a small fox who got scared by me and 2 bunny rabbits.
I called the Kittatinny State Park Office the other day for information and a lady told me the trail ended at the Stone Arch Bridge. At the map at the trailhead in Sparta it shows it going to the Delaware Water Gap Region."