Just across the Delaware River from Milford, sits an old rail bed, formerly used by the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. Today, it is a multi use trail, used primarily by hikers and cyclists. The Sussex Branch Trail, travels from Branchville to Byrum Township, approximately 20 miles of primarily flat, gravel, dirt, grass and cinder. It crosses lakes, swamps and the Paulinskill River. It intersects with the Paulinskill Valley Trail at Warbasse Junction. The Paulinskill, formerly used by the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway, is also gravel, dirt, grass and cinder. It goes upward from Warbasse at a 1-2% grade, making the return trip extremely fast.
I hooked up with Eric at 7:30am at the Branchville Fire Department parking lot. At about 28 degrees, we were in for a chilly start. As we shoved off, we missed the trail head and pedaled in circles for 3 miles before hopping into the woods. Immediately, I knew we were on a pretty cool piece of real estate.
The Sussex Branch Trail is 4 feet wide with trees overhanging the six inch rut that serves as the best line to roll through. Wooden bridges cross the wet land that separate the many farms that dominate this beautiful county, tucked away in northern New Jersey.
We took a coffee and nature break at Warbasse Junction, and stayed on the Sussex for a few more miles. When we turned around, a few cyclists on fat Bikes came motoring by. In fact, we passed more than a few hikers, people walking their dogs and a group of women that were out running their way to warmth.
When we reached Warbasse Junction again, we hung a left onto the Paulinskill. Although, the Sussex Branch Trail is beautiful, quiet and rustic, it is not as well groomed as the Paulinskill, which is wider with and even surface from left to right. We pedaled up for a few miles, until we reached an area that was saturated from the recent rains, with water overflowing from a pond, right across the trail. This seemed a good place to turn around and head back to Branchville. As I previously stated, the Paulinskill has a slight grade and after the turn around, we really picked up some speed as we made our way back to the Sussex Branch Trail. We followed the trail all the way back into town, realizing where we missed the turn at the start.
Either of these two trails can be covered on a cyclocross bike, mountain bike or even a hybrid bike. They both travel through a few small towns with ample opportunities to refill fluids and stock up on food supplies. Now go out and ride!
What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Steve Windwood – When You See a Chance