Hunterdon County, NJ | Department of Planning, Economic Development and Land Use | COLUMBIA TRAIL















79 Main Street, High Bridge, NJ 08829

40 Vernoy Road, Califon, NJ 07830

Phone: 908-782-1158 * Fax: 908-806-4057

The Columbia Trail part of the South Branch Reservation Guide and Trail Map - photo courtesy of Bob Pennisi
photo courtesy of Bob Pennisi


Completed in 1875, This former rail line was established by the Central Railroad of New Jersey as the High Bridge Branch. The line ran
from High Bridge to Port Oram, currently known as Wharton, in Morris County. The line accommodated passengers, but was highly
regarded for its shipments of iron ore from the mines in Morris County. The most spectacular wreck occurred on April 18, 1885 when Engine #112 (known as The Columbia), was pulling 45 cars and plummeted off a 60-foot wooden trestle into the South Branch of the Raritan River.

The wooden trestle was replaced by steel piers in 1930 and is now known as the Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge. The last passenger excursion occurred in 1935 and the last freight train ran on April 1, 1976. In the mid 1990s, the Columbia Gas Company of West Virginia constructed a gas line under the rail bed. The surface rights were then transferred to the Hunterdon County Division of Parks and Recreation for use as a recreational trail. Today the trail spans seven miles from High Bridge to the Morris County line. It provides passive recreation to the surrounding communities through hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.

Wildlife and Habitat at the Columbia TrailWILDLIFE AND HABITAT The Columbia Trail travels through both deciduous and evergreen forests, providing a natural corridor for wildlife such as deer, raccoon, coyote, and fox. Reptiles and amphibians have also been found
throughout the trail. Paralleling the South Branch of the Raritan River, the trail provides a refuge and breeding habitat for these animals.

Herptiles that have been observed include the Northern Water Snake and Eastern Spadefoot.

The Columbia Line offers an excellent view of Lake Solitude, which provides a sanctuary for various waterfowl including Common and Hooded Mergansers and Great Blue Herons. Pileated Woodpeckers also inhabit this area.

Recreational OpportunitiesRECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES The relatively flat trail curves along the mountainside above the South Branch of the Raritan River for seven miles between High Bridge and the Morris County line. Two bridges carry the trail over Cokesbury Road and the South Branch of the Raritan River. The second bridge is elevated approximately 80 feet and spans a length of 260 feet over the river. Several roads bisect the park making for easy pedestrian access.

The trail’s natural surface allows visitors to enjoy the park in several ways. Hiking is probably the most popular. The trail is wide enough to provide a great opportunity for biking as well as cross-country skiing in the winter.

With the exception of park properties with reservable facilities, all properties are “carry in / carry out” and trash/recycling receptacles are not provided.  Please plan accordingly and do not leave any trash/recyclables behind. 

Acreage 108
Meeting Room NO
Mountain Biking YES
Campsites NO
Canoe Access NO
Cross County Skiing YES
Fishing YES
Fitness Trail NO
Gardens NO
Hiking/Nature Trails YES
Horseshoe Court NO
Horse Trails YES
Hunting NO
Information Boards YES
Nature Study YES
Picnic Pavilions NO
Picnic Sites NO
Playground NO
Restrooms NO
Scenic Vistas YES
Sledding Area NO
Soccer & Baseball/Softball Fields NO
Visitor Center NO
Gazebo NO
Parking YES
Reservable Facility NO

The Hunterdon County Parks and Recreation Division is dedicated to preserving open space and natural resources, providing safe parks and facilities, and offering educational and recreational opportunities, all contributing to an enhanced quality of life for present and future generations.

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The trail is located in portions of High Bridge and Califon Boroughs, Clinton, Lebanon, and Tewksbury Townships. The trailhead is located across from the High Bridge Commons parking lot at 79 Main Street, High Bridge 08829. The terminus is located at 362 West Valley Brook Road, Califon 07830, at the County border with Morris County.

HIGH BRIDGE BOROUGH'S COMMONS PARK 79 Main Street, High Bridge, NJ 08829

Directions from Clinton to Parking in High Bridge Boro: Proceed nor th on Route 31 for 1.7 miles to Route 513 North. Turn right and follow Route 513 into High Bridge. Go about 1 mile, pass under the train tracks, and turn left into the center of High Bridge. One block beyond the church, turn left into the municipal parking lot, marked by a “The Commons” sign. Direction from Clinton to Parking at West Valley Brook Road: Proceed as above to High Bridge. Stay on Route 513 and proceed through Califon. Vernoy Road is on the right about 1 mile north of Califon. Turn onto Vernoy Road and travel another mile. After the river, continue straight on Valley Brook Road, and the parking area is on the right.

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It is the policy of the County to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities upon advance notice of need. Persons  requiring accommodations should make a request at least two weeks prior to program attendance.

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Several other trails connect to the Columbia Trail. The Taylor-Wharton Steelworkers Historic Greenway splits off to the southeast about 1/3 mile from High Bridge. This 7-mile trail was created by the Union Forge Heritage Association to showcase several historically significant properties in High Bridge. To learn more, visit

At about 2 1/2 miles, the Highlands Trail branches off to the west of the Columbia Trail. The Highlands Trail extends 150 miles from
Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River in New York south to Riegelsville on the Delaware River in New Jersey. Visit the New York - New
Jersey Trail Conference’s website,

The Columbia Trail continues over eight miles into Morris County, and is managed by Morris County Parks Commission. Contact them at 973-326-7600 or

Trail Guides are set up with the brochure on one side, and the map on the other.  The brochure should be printed on legal size page, and the map can be printed on standard 8 ½ x 11” paper. 

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PHYSICAL ADDRESS: Hunterdon County Arboretum, 1020 Highway 31, Lebanon, NJ 08833       MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 2900, Flemington, NJ 08822
PHONE: 908-782-1158       EMAIL:

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