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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 Jersey—which owns much of the area parkland—preserved 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.
This was a great trail, but it gets very muddy after there has been some rain. I thought it would have more paved areas, but that is not the case. It is mostly dirt. Now that I know, I will be sure to try this trail again when it has not rained for awhile. Overall, great ride and nice scenery. We even saw two deer.
Nice trail 4+ miles from Andover to paullinskill entrance.
Took other's suggestions and started in the middle bear route 206. Went up to Andover. Round trip 6 miles. Smooth path easy to ride. Shaded most of the way. Will try the other legs another time.
I use this trail allot and ride my bicycle taking photos from my iphone. It is truly a wonderland and enjoy the small bridges over brooks.
I rode the full trail roundtrip, starting from the south. The middle portion is definitely the best, the south and north sections could easily be skipped due to poor surface (rocks, large gravel, mud, tree roots), long sections of single track and horse traffic north of Lafayette.
If doing this again, I would start at the Andover trail head and turn around at Augusta Hill Rd., which would make for a good 3-4 hour ride. The Millside Cafe in Lafayette was a good place to stop for lunch, you can see it from the trail.
The roadway section through Newton is a pain in the neck but can't be avoided. I took a wrong turn following the 'Pumpkins Galore' review below. Going from South to North you need to cross rt 616 when you come to it, the trail resumes under the billboard across the street (it isn't obvious). After about 50 yards it ends and that's where you will find the sign that says to turn right on rt 663 and continue on the road for 1.1 miles to the trail head on the left (this is obvious).
This trail is not for road bikes, recumbents or kid / pet trailers. I road a front suspension hybrid which handled the bumps ok, I would not have been happy with no suspension. The trail is all forested and shaded, with a few nice water views.
We rode this trail as a family - two adults aged 46 & 47, and two kids ages 10 & 13. We started at the southern-most part, which in hindsight was not good. The first 5 or 6 miles of the trail literally run alongside route 206 with cars going 70 mph it's noisy and the trail is relatively narrow and there is broken glass all over this part of the trail. Once you get to Andover, the trail is quite nice for the remaining length and while narrow in some sections still manageable .
I enjoyed the ride very much. However a few caveats. The trail is easy to follow and well marked, except for a 1.25 mile section that you have to ride on Rte. 663. Be careful not to miss the sign. The trail is unevenly maintained. There are a few muddy spots and rocks and roots. There are also a few minor washouts that you need to be aware as you ride. Not that they are hard to deal with, but seem to be strategically placed by mother nature at gates that can cause trouble. The trail is also very narrow in more than one spot and can cause a little discomfort sharing the trail with horses.
The trail is very scenic and canopy covered for most of the ride.
The trail is good for both mountain and hybrid, but not street. I also do not recommend this trail for children younger than eleven or anyone that is not in shape. The trail is not hard and is pretty flat, but does present its challenges.
I enjoyed the trail, but wish it was maintained a bit better.
This is a very easy trail to ride. It is flat most of the way and the trail is well marked. The only unmarked spot is at Route 616. When you come to the end of the trail at this spot, just ride north on 616 for about an eighth of a mile, then the trail picks up on the right.
I started at the Smith St. trailhead, where there is parking. If you're coming north on Route 206, it looks like Smith St. is one-way the wrong way; however, just past it is another entrance to Smith St. into which you can make a left turn.
Just after starting the ride at this trailhead is a huge pumpkin patch. It makes for nice seasonal photos. There are also a couple bodies of water with ducks and swans.
The trail also passes through the quaint town of Lafayette. There are shops and restaurants there.
I ran from the parking lot on Route 206 in Andover Twp to the parking lot on Route 616 (Newton/Sparta Rd)and back again. Approximately 6 miles in total. This section of the trail in well maintained.
We had a good ride on the northern 5 miles of the trail.
The first 3 miles went off great but there is am area of about 200 yards that contain large stones that were used to level off the trail and they can be rough on unexperienced or young riders. We also encountered a lot of muddy areas considering it hadn't rained for few days.
There are scenic bridges and ponds along the way that make it an enjoyable ride.
I will start with I just never give out 5 stars and it has to be a really bad trail for me to give out a one or two stars. I did this on my 29inch hard tail bike and I was glad as this is a rough trail with mud and water and lots of rough sections. I would not rate this as a family friendly trail as it is not a ride in the park. I did a round trip from Stanhope to Augusta for just under forty miles on a hot sunny day but with all the shade it was a very nice ride. You need to read a number of the reviews to see if this trail is for you. In closing I had a great ride on a trail that dose not get a lot of traffic.
Parked at the South end right near Waterloo village. Ride 2.5 miles through the state park, really nice. Ride by Cranberry Lake, pretty. Heading North, there is a 0.75 mile link mostly below the road grade that has potholes, mud, and ballast on it (medium size gravel). Expected it, but its gotten worse in the past two years, however at the North end, it use to be washed out, and the repair had held just fine.
From there its not a bad ride to Andover. Keep North and follow 206 (not a whole lot of markers though). Keep going to Newtown, right on Hicks (its marked), then a 1.1 ride on the road. When you see the "Mile 1" marker you almost at the left turn back on the trail.
Just after you see the Creamery on the left (obviously a building from when the train ran!), its a bit muddy and bumpy (more ballast(), but then improves. When you get to the end, go left to Milk street, make a right right after crossing the stream, and see the old Rail Road car parked at what is the very end of the rail line (Montague Tool Supply).
Stopped at the Millside Cafe for something, they've always been really nice (in Lafayette, see google maps). Looks like a nice convenient place for a lunch too!
Saw beaver cut trees on the North end of Jefferson Lake.
4.5 hours and 37 miles. This is a great trail, medium difficulty (need fat tires).
Started on Hicks street and rode North. Trail was in nice shape and had great views. Many lakes and
rivers. Trail areas are well marked, next time will jump off and try the paulinskill and head to Blairstown..
A new rail trail has opened that connects the Sussex Branch Trail to the Paulinskill Trail. It is a 13.5 mile loop. Real nice ride. My wife and I road it Sunday. We started at the Warbasse Junction. Rode the Sussex Branch to the new trail I think it is the Leigh New England Line in Augusta. This trail follows the Paulinskill River. Then to the Paulinskill Trail and back to the Warbasse Junction. It was very well marked. There is a map of the loop at Warbasse Junction.
Rode all the way from Hicks road in Newton to the end in Branchville. Gets a little harder. Definately need a mountain bike to do this leg. Very loose rock in some parts but trail is not to technical.
I have ridden the trail from the trail head at Smith Rd just off of 206 in Andover Boro all the way to Hicks Ave in Newton where it runs along Hicks Ave for 1.1 miles. I haven't gone any further yet but intend to go a little further each week. The section that I have rode is great. Relativley flat very hard packed dirt some areas of hard packed grass. Nothing to technical. All of the branches that have fallen across the path from the snow storms and hurricanes have been cleared and cut. There are plenty of places along the way to stop and get something to eat or drink if you desire. It is a little desolate going through the Kittatiny Valley State Park area but otherwise you are never to far from civilization. My goal is to ride end to end by summers end. Will update more and post pics as I do.
First rode this trail end to end last year (see earlier post). The section proceeding North from Waterloo Road is well maintained and is perfectly family friendly for the 3 miles to Cranberry Lake. From there to Andover, the trail is rough and in a few small sections its narrow, bumpy, and not family friendly. That said, yesterday I saw at least 3 couples doing proceeding South on it. In Andover you must take a road detour (albeit a lightly traveled road) before you can get back onto the North section. Everything is just fine and dandy til you pass through Lafayette Mill and cross Hampton Cross Road. From then on the trail is much less maintained with large loose ballast, huge mud puddles, and roots.
Overall this is a great day trip - it took me 5 hours to do the 40 miles up and back. Many gorgeous areas to see, and the route offers varied terrain. Also, its not flat - there is at most a 2 % grade - so you get more of a workout than you would on say the D&R canal.
As the last poster said, this is not a trail for inexperienced rider - you should have a mountain bike with fat knobby tires. That said, if you stay within the two state parks the trail is very even and perfectly for families.
I twittered my journey yesterday with photos and mile markers if interested in more details.
I feel that folks should be alerted that this is not a trail for the faint hearted. It is rough and dangerous in spots. It is not appropriate for children or inexperienced bikers.
Rode the trail from trailhead at Allamuchy to termination Branchville - approx 22 miles - will post photos later. The ride through Allamuchy is easy and well maintained (and pretty!) - in mid summer the light filters through the trees, creating a nice effect, and it was much cooler than out in the sun. At Cranbury lake, the trail gets more difficult - rocky and narrow - but is rideable. A convenience store is across 206 (light). The trail is unmarked but hugs 206, and finally brings you to Kittatinny Park, ending at CO 616. Cross the road, pick up trail again, ending at CO 663. 1.5 miles on the road and you can get back on the trail (just after mile marker 1.0). The trail from there goes un-interrupted to Branchville. This section is less maintained - some gravel, narrower single track in some areas, and a 100 yard bog that was damp with puddles in the middle of a dry spell in July. The trail apparently ends at a point where a bridge is missing - believe this was Mill Rd but not positive. From the road, cross over a bridge going North and get back onto the trail (unmarked). This bit takes you to a blocked steel bridge. Make a clockwise circle from that point to the other side and see a well preserved rail road car that's being used for storage. Had a small lunch then turned around for home. I did the round trip in a bit over 5 hours. There was an ice cream shop (Millside Cafe?) where I got more water, and I did see the Andover Diner (but it appeared closed).
I very much enjoyed this ride - mostly in the shade, lots to see, varied terrain. If its just rained the "bog" near Branchville will be impassible - I met a guy on the trail who had turned around given its current (good) condition!
"We've been biking this trail in pieces and have found much of what has been reviewed on this site to be quite accurate -- even a few years later. I just wish we'd found this site before setting out the first time! It would've saved us time fruitlessly searching for the path through Andover and navigating the impossibly boggy bit between Cranberry Lake and Andover. That said, the ride around Newton has been improved by large, clear signage pointing bikers/hikers around the detour. We emerged from the trail next to Stickles Pond Road and crossed Rte. 616/Newton-Sparta Road where we spotted the trail just below us -- before but within sight of the Welcome to Newton sign. That part of the trail went just a short way to Rte. 663/Hicks Ave. where there was a large sign proclaiming ""TRAIL"" with an arrow pointing right and another, explanatory sign directing us to proceed 1.1 miles down 663 and look for the trail continuation on the left. Sure enough, just after milepost 1 we saw the trail and crossed the road (we weren't too thrilled with riding on busy highway with narrow shoulder littered with branches and pinecones). There is parking for a few cars here. The trail access goes for about 100 yards (watch for large stones -- rocks, really, and a big bump going up to the trail proper). Here is a T-intersection with another large ""TRAIL"" sign and a right-pointing arrow and another sign explaining the ""detour"". Coming south, one encounters a sign pointing left with clear directions. This seems to serve to simplify the route through Newton and also seems to avoid ""Moors Creek"" which we never encountered. I expect that ""purists"" can still find the old route, but we, having come armed with several online suggestions for routes through Newton, and various ideas for getting around the creek, were pleased to find things much clearer than expected. Having recently returned to regular cycling after a 30-year hiatus, we were happy to have things clearly explained."
"my fiancee and i took our three nephews-11 and 12, from just beside the chatterbox to just.5 miles of the end and back-we loved it and will bike the whole length again soon:)"
"I rode the trail today from Branchville to the Newton detour. Overall, it was suprisingly dry.
From Branchville to Smith Hill Rd, the trail is in its poorest condition. It is very clearly single track, with weeds growing more than handle-bar-high at times.
A washout threatens the trail, but it is still passable by walking the bike along the edge of the stream. Hikers would have no problem. Maintenance folks have some temporary fencing up; I hope that a lasting solution can be found there. East of the washout, the trail is narrow but solid for the last half-mile to Smith Hill Rd.
After crossing that road (and the ""official"" trail-head parking area), the trail is in much better shape. Usage is clearly higher here. The trail is wide and shows more evidence of maintenance. It is very nice.
I did encounter a segment that has railroad ballast as a trail surface. This is not at all bike-friendly; the large stones made it tough for my hybrid bike's tires. I am looking forward to the time when the ground absorbs the ballast. I hope the state park folks can find something else to use in the future.
All in all, it is a nice ride, with the full spectrum of benevolent woodland creatures making appearances. I saw deer, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, countless types of birds (including a blue heron), and much more if I stopped to look, I'm sure.
Do not hesitate to ride this trail. I suggest using Warbasse Junction as a base -- just off Route 94 on Route 663. This is the point where the Paulinskill and Sussex Branch trails cross. Rides/walks of varying lengths are available in 4 directions."
"I walked the Sussex Branch Trail from the Newton Sparta Road south to Waterloo Road on Sunday, September 19, 2004, and returned the same way on the same day.
Given the storms that had just blown through on Saturday, the trail was in much better condition than I'd expected. There weren't a lot of significant blow-downs; of the maybe four that I found, I was able to clear all but one using a 6-inch Gerber pocket saw that I carry. About a mile south of the Lackawanna Cut off by Andover, there was a large tree, with the main trunk about 6"" around and under tension, that I couldn't clear by myself. Otherwise, the trail was clear and the bed in good shape. I was surprised that it was relatively dry, with some minor exeptions."
"Does anyone know where to go after reaching Sparta Avenue and you're heading toward Hicks Street (Rt. 663) in Newton?
Where do you pick up Sussex Trail north? Off of Hicks or behind the Factory?
I have run the entire trail except this spot!
"I did the whole trail today, super warm and a great day for a ride, parked on Waterloo Road near the ITC and Waterloo Village. Trail is almost the same as in the trail guide at Mr. Rutan's website linked here. (nice site BTW!) The washout right before the end of the trail in Branchville is passable, the orange sodacan fencing is in shambles so be careful but the trail goes around the washed out area. Large gravel is still there and the 500' of wet mush is still there. Water at Moor's Creek is fairly high due to the recent rains but one can portage a bike over on the logs and avoid getting wet. Other than that, the trail condition (dated 2001) on Mr. Rutan's website is accurate enough. One piece of note is that in Newton, I did the following to get on the trail and around the Strip Mall so rudely placed over the ROW, maybe to make Mr. Rutan's instructions a little more clear, at the trail end in Newton, make a left onto Hicks Ave and this will bring you to a T, which is Sparta Road (I think Mr. Rutan calls this Newton-Sparta since it heads towards Sparta, however the road sign here just says ""Sparta Road"" so this will avoid confusion with non-locals like me"" Then about a 1/4 mile (you'll pass the offending strip mall on the right) you'll get to a light with a intersection of a bunch of roads... You want to bear right onto Diller Ave. Then once on Diller, you go another 1/4 mile or less and you'll see Spring St to the left. Make the left, look for the Moose Bar/Inn/Lodge or whatever on the left about 50ft from the intersection. Another 50 ft to the right, you'll see a singletrack lane right before a small apartment complex. Take that path and you'll go a couple hundred feet til you see a road, which is Trinity St. Cross the street and you'll see a gravel opening and the trail (rocky) to which you will continue.
I got lost a little here, wound up at the intersection of Rt 94 and 206, by the courthouse, and turned around.At this point I wound up on Spring street and I saw the trail! I actually got the good directions on the way back by mental note.
There is also another short oddness in Andover where you end up by a road and you can see Rt 206 on your right but you cannot see the continuatio n. If you just dead reckon straight, you'll be on Railroad Ave, (nice name) and eventually you'll see the gate for the continuation.
Watch for glass in Lackawanna Cutover in Andover (I think that's the underpass you go through (see the pictures from this site).
"I agree with the other reviews that this is a beautiful trail, more consistent than the heartier multi-terrain Paulinskill Valley Trail, which intersects the Sussex Branch a couple miles north of Newton.
I disagree, though, that a bridge would improve the Moor's Creek crossing. This crossing is part of the low-impact challenge and fun, to balance on the few remnants and pilings and scrap wood of the former bridge, working as a team to pass our bikes across; Or just charge or wade through the cold, clear, ankle-deep 6' wide or so passage. Or do all three repeatedly! (Biking or hiking tip: If your footwear gets wet, change into dry socks and use plastic bags in wet shoes so feet stay dry and you avoid hypothermia.)
This has been the highlight of the trail with my kids, along with a rest stop in the Newton Interruption for hot chocolate and beef with noodles cooked on a hiker stove on a drizzly day. Another time we shared the trail with a family training their sled dogs- no fooling! And of course, the usual share of hikers and horseback riders.
What memories! Enjoy the trail! "
"Due to time constraints I was unable to complete this segment of my visit to the Sussex Branch Trail last week, so I returned today to find out what surface conditions and scenery exists between Route 206 in Ross Corner and the trail’s end point in Branchville.
Approximately 1,500 feet north of Route 206 the trail’s surface is lined with rather large gravel. Whether you’re on foot or on a bike, you’ll wind up with an immense headache as a result of this lapse in some maintenance worker’s judgement. Fortunately though this condition is present only for about 500 feet.
Immediately beyond the large gravel I encountered a rather muddy surface for another 500 feet. With the exception of these two bad spots, the trail surface along this four mile stretch is in such good shape that you can expect a rather fast bike ride (slightly slower though within Branchville due to a fine gravel surface).
Scenery along the route consisted mainly of adjacent farmland and some distant mountains. However, once I arrived in Branchville the views changed a bit as I had entered into a residential neighborhood; i.e., I starting seeing the backs of people’s homes.
The trail ends rather abruptly right behind a heating and cooling company. There are no trailhead markers of any kind present. You’ll know you’ve reached the end of the line when you see a blocked off railroad bridge with the ties and rails still in place.
For those who want to see this portion of the trail my suggestion would be to park somewhere in Lafayette and head north from there, or park in Branchville and head south. Parking is very limited at the Ross Corner trail access point (just enough space for two cars).
"I began my bicycle trip on this trail at the Waterloo Road trailhead in Byram Township and traveled approximately 15.5 miles north to Route 206 in Ross Corner. I then returned to Byram Township along the same course. Along this route I came upon some very pleasant scenery and some not so pleasant as well. Trail surface conditions and upkeep also varied from excellent to terrible.
The ride from Byram Township to Cranberry Lake was fabulous. Trail conditions there ranged from excellent to good, although there is a gentle climb headed north, and the scenery along this stretch was very pleasing to the eye (wetlands, wooded sections, and rock cuts). There was not a cloud in the sky on the day of my ride and Cranberry Lake was relatively free of visitors, which make it all the more breathtaking.
Trail conditions from Cranberry Lake north to the Lackawanna Cut-Off were terrible. A section of the trail here is an active streambed and there was loads of standing water as well. On my return trip I bypassed the worst section of the trail by using Whitehall Hill Road for a short distance. Once I passed the Lackawanna Cut-Off, trail surface conditions to Andover were fine.
There was one very busy street crossing in Andover and although the trail through that area was completely passable, it was obviously in need of some tender loving care. My views in Andover were typical of any rail trail passing through a small town; the backs of gas stations, diners, apartment buildings, etc. From Andover north to Newton, trail conditions and scenery were either excellent or good.
Because portions of the old railroad right-of-way in Newton have been encroached upon, an on-street detour was necessary from Hicks Avenue and Prospect Street to Trinity Street. When I returned to the trail north of Trinity Street, I encountered a very rocky surface (littered with moderate amounts of broken glass) for a few hundred feet. Just north of this point there is a washed out bridge at Moor’s Creek. Expect to get wet crossing here (I did) if you intend to continue further north.
From Moor’s Creek north to Lafayette, trail conditions and scenery again returned to either the excellent or good range. Lafayette was a very pretty town; you’ll pass right next to a nice athletic field and man-made lake. North of this point through to where I stopped at Route 206 in Ross Corner was mostly quaint farmlands.
Regardless of the standing water near Cranberry Lake, on-street detours in Newton, not so pretty views of Andover and Newton, and a somewhat challenging water crossing at Moor’s Creek, this is a fine trail that offers bicyclists and hikers a change to experience varied conditions and views along one route.
At some point in the near future I will return to this trail and see what lies north of Route 206 in Ross Corner."
" When I first hiked this trail about 6 years ago, there were five missing bridges in the northern section of the trail. A couple of years later, sturdy spans had been erected to connect all the ""dead-end sections."" There are only two significant breaks now. Approaching Newton, the trail has been gobbled up by private interests. One has to follow city streets along the arc that once was the ROW. It leaves town and heads out into a large marsh that forms the headwaters of the Paulinskill River. About 1/2 mile into the marsh, one encounters Moor's Creek, a small stream with no true bridge. At times there have shaky make-shift ""bridges"" here, but nothing substantial and definitely not permanent. I have waded through this creek (it is only 4-6 inches deep unless rain has been plentiful). Bikers would be better off taking County Rte 663 north out of Newton and picking up the trail when it runs parallel to this road (beyond the creek). This is about 3/4 miles north from Newton.
The rest of this trail is wide and well surfaced. There is a seasonally wet section just north of Cranberry Lake. There is parking at almost all road crossings, some very large. In Cranberry Lake, Andover, Newton, Lafayette, and Branchville, services are available close to the trail. Most of the terrain the trail passes through is very pretty, and it is constantly changing.
Hiking, biking and horseback riding are all very popular. The trail also provides access for anglers near the five new bridges over the Paulinskill. The grade changes often, but is always gentle.
This is one of my favorite rail trails in New Jersey. If the bridge ever gets replaced over Moor's Creek, it would be even better!
Rates an 8 out of 10!
"The Sussex Branch Trail starts on Mill Street in Branchville just east of the bridge over Dry Brook. The conditions of this trail vary from cinder smooth to rocky and rough due to tree roots and exposed ballast and rock, but it is well worth the work. I have several old 3-speed English bikes on which my wife and I have successfully navigated the entire length. The trail intersects with the Paulinskill Valley Trail and another abandoned road bed that is rideable but belongs to Tennessee Gas Pipe Line. This trail goes from two miles east of Branchville to the Walkill National Wildlife Preserve."
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