Walk back towards Main Street the way you drove in and cross Main Street. You will be on a paved, gated path crossing several side streets through town before the trail becomes crushed stone at the Columbia Trail sign and information board. This former rail line that once transported iron ore from mines in Morris County now passes through a residential area briefly before becoming more...
Walk back towards Main Street the way you drove in and cross Main Street. You will be on a paved, gated path crossing several side streets through town before the trail becomes crushed stone at the Columbia Trail sign and information board. This former rail line that once transported iron ore from mines in Morris County now passes through a residential area briefly before becoming more remote as it enters Ken Lockwood Gorge.
Turn right at the Taylor Steelworkers Historical Greenway entrance .4 mile into the hike. A few steps ahead the trail forks with a yellow trail descending to the right. This 7-mile greenway leads to Lake Solitude and Lake Solitude Dam as well as to several historic sites. For this hike, turn left at the fork and take the short red-blazed trail that leads to benches at an overlook of Solitude Dam. Retrace your steps back and continue on the Columbia Trail deeper into the gorge.
At 1.3 miles, before crossing a bridge, take a side trail to the left that descends to Cokesbury Road. Turn right on Cokesbury Road and proceed a short distance ahead towards the bridge over the South Branch of the Raritan River. After crossing the bridge, turn left on River Road. This paved road follows along the river for the next half mile but the only traffic will be residents of the few homes along this stretch and those driving to the Ken Lockwood Gorge parking lot about half a mile ahead.
Two miles into the hike, walk beyond the gate that prevents cars from continuing along River Road. This scenic multi-use section closely follows the river through the gorge. In the winter you can clearly see the Columbia Trail, the return route for this hike, running along the other side of the river, at a higher level. In about three-quarters of a mile, cross over an old stone bridge, pass another gate then a parking lot and accessible fishing deck. Only the hardiest of vehicles will be able to reach this lot as erosion has pretty much eaten up the portion of River Road that lies ahead and you may need to pick your way over a bed of large rocks.
At 2.9 miles River Road leads under the Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge, a metal bridge constructed in 1891 to replace the original wooden bridge that collapsed in 1885 under the weight of a 46-car train carrying iron ore. The Columbia Trail crosses over on this bridge.
3.5 miles into the hike, River Road once again becomes paved and leads through a residential area. At the intersection turn right on Hoffman’s Crossing Road, follow this road briefly, then turn right on the Columbia Trail at the bicycle crossing sign. You will notice the teal diamond blazes of the Highlands Trail as it follows the same route as the Columbia Trail through this section. For reference, when you come to the 3½ mile post, you are 4 miles into the hike. Look at the other side of the post to see how much farther you have back to the parking lot. Mileage posts are located every quarter of a mile on the Columbia Trail, ascending in the direction you are headed, descending in the opposite direction.
Continue following the Columbia Trail as it winds through the gorge providing a higher up view of the river, a different perspective from that experienced down along the banks.
At 4.9 miles cross the river on the Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge that you previously walked under. An interpretive marker tells the story of the bridge collapse and train wreck of 1885. Shortly after crossing the bridge, the teal-blazed Highlands Trail leaves the Columbia Trail to the right where it switchbacks up out of the gorge and reaches Voorhees State Park in just under 2 miles. Continue along the Columbia Trail crossing the bridge over Cokesbury Road at 6.3 miles. Reaching the side trail on the right that leads down to Cokesbury Road closes the loop of this lollipop hike as the rest is a retrace of the beginning of the hike. In .4 mile cross a residential road then in another .4 mile pass the Taylor Steelworkers Historical Greenway entrance on the left. The last .4-mile stretch brings you through town and back to your car in The Commons parking lot.
Turn By Turn Description:
[0.00] Exit the parking lot entrance, cross straight over Main Street and continue on paved trail
[0.40] Turn right at Taylor Steelworkers Historical Greenway; left on red at fork to overlook of Lake Solitude; retrace then continue right on Columbia Trail
[0.90] Cross residential road
[1.30] Left at fork before bridge on side trail down to Cokesbury Road; right on Cokesbury Road and cross bridge over river
[1.40] Left on paved River Road just the other side of the bridge
[1.70] River Road crosses power cut
[1.85] River Road turns to gravel after last house on right
[1.95] Parking lots and accessible deck for Ken Lockwood Gorge on left
[2.05] Continue beyond barrier
[2.80] Continue beyond barrier after crossing old stone bridge; parking lot and accessible deck beyond gate
[2.90] Continue on River Road under Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge/Columbia Trail
[3.50] Pass through gate; River Road becomes paved and passes through residential area
[3.90] Turn right on paved Hoffman’s Crossing Road
[3.95] Turn right on Columbia Trail/teal-blazed Highlands Trail at bike crossing sign
[4.90] Cross over Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge
[5.05] Keep straight on Columbia Trail when teal-blazed Highlands Trail leaves uphill to the right
[5.95] Columbia Trail crosses power cut
[6.30] Cross bridge over Cokesbury Road; continue on Columbia Trail when side trail from beginning of hike leaves to the right
[6.70] Columbia Trail crosses residential road
[7.10] Continue on Columbia Trail at Taylor Steelworkers Historical Greenway entrance on the left
[7.35] Columbia Trail becomes paved and crosses roads through town
[7.50] Back at parking lot
From the quaint town of High Bridge, hike into the scenic Ken Lockwood Gorge along the bank of the South Branch of the Raritan River and return a level up on the Columbia Trail.
Whether you are going for a day hike or backpacking overnight, it is good practice to carry what we call The Hiking Essentials. These essentials will help you enjoy your outing more and will provide basic safety gear if needed. There may also be more essentials, depending on the season and your needs.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Water - Two quarts per person is recommended in every season. Keep in mind that fluid loss is heightened in winter as well as summer. Don't put yourself in the position of having to end your hike early because you have run out of water.
Map - Know where you are and where you are going. Many of our hiking areas feature interconnecting network of trails. Use a waterproof/tear-resistant Tyvek Trail Conference map if available or enclose your map in a Ziplock plastic bag. If you have a mobile device, download Avenza’s free PDF Maps app and grab some GPS-enhanced Trail Conference maps (a backup Tyvek or paper version of the map is good to have just in case your batteries die or you don't have service). Check out some map-reading basics here.
Food - Snacks/lunch will keep you going as you burn energy walking or climbing. Nuts, seeds, and chocolate are favorites on the trail.
Sunscreen and insect repellent
Rain Gear and Extra Clothing - Rain happens. So does cold. Be prepared for changing weather. Avoid cotton--it traps water against your skin and is slow to dry. If you are wearing wet cotton and must return to your starting point, you risk getting chills that may lead to a dangerous hypothermia. Choose synthetic shirts, sweaters and/or vests and dress in layers for easy on and off.
Compass - A simple compass is all you need to orient you and your map to magnetic north.
Light - A flashlight or small, lightweight headlamp will be welcome gear if you find yourself still on the trail when darkness falls. Check the batteries before you start out and have extras in your pack.
First Aid Kit - Keep it simple, compact, and weatherproof. Know how to use the basic components.
Firestarter and Matches - In an emergency, you may need to keep yourself or someone else warm until help arrives. A firestarter (this could be as simple as leftover birthday candles that are kept inside a waterproof container) and matches (again, make sure to keep them in a waterproof container) could save a life.
Knife or Multi-tool - You may need to cut a piece of moleskin to put over a blister, repair a piece of broken equipment, or solve some other unexpected problem.
Emergency Numbers - Know the emergency numbers for the area you're going to and realize that in many locations--especially mountainous ones, your phone will not get reception.
Common Sense - Pay attention to your environment, your energy, and the condition of your companions. Has the weather turned rainy? Is daylight fading? Did you drink all your water? Did your companion fail to bring rain gear? Are you getting tired? Keep in mind that until you turn around you are (typically) only half-way to completing your hike--you must still get back to where you started from! (Exceptions are loop hikes.)
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Know the rules and regulations of the area.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
- Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
The Trail Conference is a 2015 Leave No Trace partner.
(c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.