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 1876, 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), pulling 45 cars plummeted off a 60' 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 1990's, 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 In the course of its seven miles, the Columbia Trail travels through both deciduous and evergreen forests. The diversity of wildlife along the trail is abundant and provides a natural corridor for the wildlife to move about. The trail's natural surface is an excellent source to observe footprints of the wildlife inhabitants from the surrounding area. Some of the prints that can be found include deer, raccoon, coyote and fox.

Herptiles have also been found throughout the trail. Paralleling the South Branch of the Raritan River, the trail provides a refuge and breeding habitat for the herptiles. Herptiles that have been observed include the Northern Water Snake and Eastern Spadefoot.

The Columbia Line offers an excellent view of Lake Solitude located at the northern boundary of High Bridge. As the lake's name implies, it provides a sanctuary for various waterfowl including Common and Hooded Mergansers. Another bird seen in the area is the allusive Pileated Woodpecker. While you may not see this bird, you can find evidence of its actions.

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


Location: The trail is located in portions of High Bridge and Califon Boroughs, Clinton and Lebanon Townships. The trailhead is in High Bridge with the terminus located on Valley Brook Road. No restrooms facilities are available.

Directions from the Clinton Area: Directions from the Junction of Route 78 and Route 31 in Clinton: Proceed north on Route 31 for 1.7 miles to Route 513 north. Turn right and follow Route 513 into High Bridge. After approximately 1 mile and passing under the train tracks, turn left into the center of High Bridge. Just before the Boro Hall, turn left onto Van Syckles Street. Public parking is available in the municipal parking lot.

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Recreational OpportunitiesThe relatively flat trail curves along the mountainside above the South Branch of the Raritan River for 7 miles from High Bridge north to the county line. Two bridges carry the trail over Cokesbury Road and the South Branch of the Raritan River. The latter bridge is elevated approximately 80 feet and spans a length of 260 feet over the river bottom. This bridge is located near the Ken Lockwood Gorge. Several roads bisect the park making for easy access. Benches located along the trail provide areas to rest and enjoy the scenery.

The trail's natural surface allows visitors to enjoy the park in a couple of 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.

While the County Parks & Recreation Division only maintains the Columbia Trail within the county, the trail continues into Morris County where it ends at Bartley. The Columbia Trail forms part of the Highlands Trail which will eventually span between Hunterdon and Passaic Counties.

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Trail Guides are set up as foldable brochures. Please print and fold in half vertically to view in proper order. Additionally, you may have to rearrange pages. Maps should be printed on Legal Size 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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