Sussex Branch Trail

New Jersey

39 Reviews

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Sussex Branch Trail Facts

States: New Jersey
Counties: Sussex
Length: 21.2 miles
Trail end points: 27 Mill Ln (Branchville) and Waterloo Rd & Continental Dr (Byram Township)
Trail surfaces: Cinder, Dirt, Grass
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6032069

Sussex Branch Trail Description


The Sussex Branch Trail is a 21.2-mile trail that runs between Branchville and Byram in northern New Jersey. Following a former railroad corridor, the surface of the unpaved trail is a mix of dirt, grass, and cinder. The rail-trail is great for mountain biking and horseback riding. 

About the Route

The north end of the trail starts just south of downtown Branchville due to a couple of missing railroad bridges. The rustic trail moves southeast, paralleling Dry Brook before emerging into classic Garden State farmland. This stretch is sometimes overgrown with weeds—and bears have been spotted in the adjacent woods—so trail users should exercise caution. Just before Augusta Hill Road, the trail crosses the Great Valley Trail, an unpaved 3.5-mile route that heads southwest.

Bridges provide dry passage approaching Lafayette, which offers several food, drink, and antiques shopping options not far from the trail. South of Lafayette, the path travels through dense and quiet woodlands. There is an intersection with the Paulinskill Valley Trail and a subsequent road crossing. The peaceful wooded route soon resumes, though, traveling to the outskirts of Newton.

The town of Newton completed an extension of the trail in the fall of 2021, allowing trail users to continue along the corridor into the charming town. This helps to replace a previous on-road detour along Hicks Avenue that was not very hospitable to cyclists and pedestrians. There is still a gap in the trail within Newton, local officials are working on extending the trail to fill in the gap. In the interim, trail users can utilize Diller Avenue and Sparta Avenue to head south for about two-thirds of a mile, where a grassy section of the trail picks up again at Hicks Avenue.

Back on the former rail corridor, the trail is enveloped by trees and a cut through bedrock is spectacular. Soon there is access to campgrounds and Lake Aeroflex in Kittatinny Valley State Park.

Entering Andover, another short on-road detour on low-stress Railroad Avenue is required. The trail resumes adjacent to Main Street, where low-hanging branches, tree roots, and a narrowed width may prove to be a challenge. At Whitehall Hill Road, trail users may find that vegetation has completely consumed the trail, so another short on-road detour may be desired. (Note that while Whitehall Hill Road is not a busy road, it is hilly.)

Trail users are rewarded for their determination upon reaching scenic Cranberry Lake, whose eastern shore the trail closely follows. Pause to watch boaters enjoying the crystal-clear water. The path widens considerably after the lake and the surface improves, so encountering many more trail users along this final stretch is likely. After passing Jefferson Lake, the trail’s southern end is at a large trailhead and parking lot on Waterloo Road. Those hoping to visit Stanhope or Netcong—the closest towns to the trail’s southern end—can continue south via a side path along Continental Drive.


In Augusta, just west of Augusta Hill Road, the trail crosses the Great Valley Trail, an unpaved 3.5-mile route that heads southwest.

In Lafayette, the trail intersects with the Paulinskill Valley Trail just northeast of Warbasse Junction Road.

Trail History

The corridor now home to the Sussex Branch Trail was originally the narrow-gauge, mule-drawn Sussex Mine Railroad, which opened in 1851 to haul iron ore from mines in Andover to the Morris Canal. After several upgrades and expansions, the line eventually merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. That railroad’s merger with the Erie Railroad to form the Erie Lackawanna Railroad in 1960 marked the beginning of the end of the Sussex Branch, and the final train ran on the line in 1966. Fortunately, the State of New Jersey subsequently purchased the right-of-way for trail use and now administers the Sussex Branch Trail as part of Kittatinny Valley State Park.

Parking and Trail Access

The Sussex Branch Trail runs between 27 Mill Ln (Branchville) and the intersection of Waterloo Rd & Continental Dr (Byram Township). 

Access the northern end of the trail at 27 Mill Lane in Branchville, but the trailhead parking is slightly further down the trail (206 US-206, Branchville). The southern trailhead is located by the intersection of Waterloo Road & Continental Drive in Byram Township, where there are restrooms and parking. Additional parking is available at a number of locations along the trail, including:

  • Lafayette Pond Park (Lafayette), where there are restrooms.
  • Kittatinny Valley State Park (199 Goodale Rd, Newton), where are restrooms.

Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions. 

Sussex Branch Trail Reviews

plenty of resources

Great trail very picturesque plenty of eateries along the way , deli by 206 you can detour a bit into Kittantinny park take a nice ride through and come out by Andover airport & lake Andover watch the planes . Also some eateries in Andover overall nice ride but in May they were doing some work on a portion that is near Andover .

love this trail

A week or two ago my husband and I went on this trail at the Lafayette end of the trail. We had a great time. Him pushing me in my wheelchair then I would get out and walk some. It was amazing!!!!!!

Allamuchy state park

The Sussex branch trail is just one part. There are many trails in the area, an overlook, and you can walk around Waterloo village. This is just one trail, the entire area has multiple sites and things to see.

Flooding at the southern end.

To add to the previous review, on 11/3 the trail was completely flooded at Jefferson Lake, just north of the Waterloo Road parking area.



For background, my wife and I are older, recreational riders. We're reasonably fit and enjoy riding around NYC, along the Hudson from Weehawken to Liberty State Park and, of course, the Saddle River County Path, near our home.

We understood from the description of the Sussex Branch Trail, and from the reviews here, that it is not paved and is certainly not a typical rail trail. We started from the Waterloo Rd. parking area in Stanhope and only made it as far as Cranberry Lake before deciding to turn around. While the scenery in the woods was very pretty, the trail, as noted, is not well maintained. In addition to gravel, the surface was small stone/larger rocks in places, and it was just not comfortable riding for us. There were some very muddy spots, with several areas of standing water on the trail that we had to pick our way around. Finally, as we got near Cranberry Lake, we followed a Sussex Trail marker which led us to a dead end.

I understand how some people will find this trail enjoyable, and I'm sorry we didn't get to see more of it, but, given that it was a 45-minute drive from home, we were disappointed.


Someone is placing man-made objects to cause flat tires on the part of the trail between Newton and Lafayette. Have a spare tube on you just in case. Had to cut my ride short because of a flat caused by a plastic spiked ball placed right in the middle of the trail. Good trail for a mountain bike or a hybrid though. Will come back to complete it.

nice easy ride, mostly in woods

Rode from the trail parking lot in Andover to Lafayette. IPhone said 8 miles each way. My husband rode a commuter bike which did fine on this stretch. We saw two bow hunters from the trail - we had not realized that deer season had just started - and were happy we had worn vivid colored shirts, albeit to be visible to cars. We stopped for brunch at the Millside cafe in Lafayette, which is visible from the trail. I recommend it as a tasty destination!

nice trail

Completed the trail started at 3pm got to the end by 5:30 pm. Headed back 12 miles could not continue . I was out of snacks my son picked me up on 206 S ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ definitely going back to complete the 36 miles .

nice trail!

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.

nice shaded trail

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 love this trail

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.

Middle is best part

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.

the southern half sucks

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 .

A nice ride

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.

Pumpkins Galore

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.

From 206 to 616

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.

Northern 5 miles

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.

osborn 2 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.

Been two years but always like this trail.

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).

Great Views and a challenging ride...

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..

New rail trail opened

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 a Different section

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.

Trail looking good

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.

Trail much improved - second trip end to end

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.

8/2010 Sussex Branch Trail, N.J.

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.

Trail really goes from South End of Allamuchy to Branchville

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!

Some good changes

"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."

holy cow

"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:)"

Better as you go east

"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."

Good Trail Conditions

"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."

Stickle Pond-Newton to Rt. 663

"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!

Thanks, Paul"

Nov 8th.

"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).


"No bridges, no problem!"

"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! "

Between Ross Corner and Branchville

"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).


Varied Trail Surfaces and Conditions

"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."

Bridges up and bridges down!

" 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!


Worth visiting

"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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