Biking Along the Columbia Trail in New Jersey

“Nothing lasts and yet nothing passes either, and nothing passes just because nothing lasts.”

― Philip Roth, The Human Stain

Following a long winter, the weather has improved enough for some biking in New Jersey. Of course, there’s the variable spring weather that has us see all four seasons within a matter of days, but there are enough pleasant days for bike rides.

columbia trail

A couple weeks ago I joined a meetup group for a bike ride through a part of New Jersey I’ve never visited. It might be hard to imagine, but there’s a lot of my home state that I still haven’t seen.

dahon eco 6 bike
My folding commuter bike

I joined this meetup group because it wasn’t far from home and started late enough in the morning that I could easily get there. It also said that the trail was mostly flat — as I only have my folding Dahon eco 6, a flat ride is important. I was a bit more concerned that the Columbia Trail is not a paved bike path and the route was supposed to be 11 miles each way.

Long Valley church
Old Stone Church in Long Valley

I managed to find the group at the parking lot in Long Valley before the trail — we had to wait for everyone to arrive, and it was a big group. I got into town a little early and walked around — it’s a small, historic town with some beautiful old buildings. There’s also the remains of a church that was built just prior to the Revolutionary War. There’s also a small history museum, but it’s only open for a few hours on Sundays.

columbia trail

We headed west along the Columbia Trail — it runs another four miles to the east, but we skipped that section.

junk yard
We passed this used car lot

The first 7 miles wasn’t much to write about — a tree-lined dirt trail with a lot of people. When we came to a crossing along a road, it got more interesting. Off to the side is a Clydesdale horse farm, but we didn’t stop there. We peddled on through the park across the street and back to the trail.

columbia trail

As we rode along, we passed colonial-era houses and farms that were obscured by the trees. There were also some really nice modern houses — I would’ve taken photos but I was trying to keep up with the group and didn’t want to lag behind.

columbia trail dinosaurs
Someone had some fun along the trail

Towards the end of the Columbia Trail to High Bridge, we turned off onto the road that runs through Lockwood Gorge. The road through the gorge is next to the Raritan River, whereas the Columbia Trail runs along higher ground.

Califon train station
Califon Train Station, about 7 miles into the ride

Along the Raritan River, we saw a lot of people fly fishing. The views with and without the people were beautiful. If I had been on a leisurely ride on my own, I probably would have stopped here for a while to enjoy it more.

lockwood gorge
Raritan River along the trail through Lockwood Gorge

Along the Lockwood Gorge trail, I got separated from the group. I ran into a few of them as we reached the road again. We rode out to High Bridge, but didn’t see anyone from the group. We had taken a wrong turn at some point, which added a couple extra miles to the ride. The hill that led back to the Columbia trail was so steep that we walked our bikes up and found the rest of the group waiting for us.

columbia trail sign
Favorite sign along the trail

We rode back to Long Valley without the detour through the gorge. The view wasn’t as great, but it was still pleasant. Of course, halfway back my body decided it didn’t want to keep going. I had no choice but to continue.

Finally, we made it back to where we started. Most of the group headed straight home, but others went to the Long Valley Brewpub, which was where I decided to go as well. It was after 3 pm and I hadn’t had lunch (part of why I had such a difficult time with the last 5 miles or so).

Long valley brewery
Inside Long Valley Brewpub

The outdoor seating area was a little busy, so service was also slow. Inside was almost empty. I’m glad I checked out the inside because the building is really cool — it’s a converted colonial farmhouse, which you can’t really see from outside.

long valley brewery

I ordered a flight of their beer to sample everything available and a venison reuben because why not. Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with the beer — the session IPA was good and the pale ale was more like a hazy IPA. The Long Valley porter was alright, but nothing special. The amber, Lazy Dog IPA and light beer were all disappointing. The venison reuben was delicious, but it could’ve been that I was starving. A little more Russian dressing on the sandwich would’ve made it even better.

venison reuben

The ride was worthwhile and the trail itself was nothing to worry about — the packed dirt trail was fine for my bike, though I was the only one in the group with a folding bike. It would definitely be more comfortable with a mountain bike. And as there isn’t much to do in the town, I’m glad the group chose to end the day at the brewpub. This is a bike trip I’d be willing to take again.

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