There are many rail-trails in and near New Jersey that are great for easy hiking and biking for the whole family.
Rail-trails are paths that were created from converting former rail lines or from canal “towpaths” where mules once dragged barges down the canals.
These trails are usually tree-lined and shaded, with a mostly level surface of packed dirt or gravel – though the Henry Hudson is paved.
Many of these trails pass through towns so it’s easy to combine a nice meal (and some ice cream!) with a day of hiking or biking. Lambertville, Frenchtown and New Hope are popular spots to stop for a bite to eat.
While the focus of this site is hiking in NJ, we like to go biking when the summer gets really hot and have collected quite a bit of info over the years. Route info with trail maps, photos and videos for some of the best biking rail-trails in New Jersey (and nearby) are listed below.
Delaware Canal Towpath
The Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal towpath follows along the canal from New Brunswick, N.J to Trenton to Frenchtown, NJ. Available miles: 70
On the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, the Delaware and Lehigh (D&L) Trail can be used to create loops with the D&R path on the NJ side. A popular crossing point is Lambertville, NJ to New Hope, PA. Available miles: 168 (though not contiguous, there are closed sections. Check below for a route on the northern end in Lehigh Gorge.)
D&R Canal Resources:
- Feeder canal (NJ/PA) overview map: Delaware Canal State Park
- Feeder Canal (Trenton – Frenchtown NJ) brochure and map: D&R Canal Towpath.
- Main Canal (NJ): dandrcanal.com
- Main Canal (NJ): Towpath Guy’s Towpath Guide
- Main/Feeder – Google map of parking lots
- PDF showing GPS coordinates of the parking areas.
- Sample loop routes here: Towpath Trails
- Friends of the Delware Canal – updates, maps, history
- Download our D&R Canal GPX (GPS waypoints we have set over the years for NJ and PA for the main and feeder canals.)
D&L Canal Resources:
- D&L on the PA side (includes trail condition status): delawareandlehigh.org
- Traillink (routes, maps, reviews)
Route info for both D&R and the D&L, with photos and videos:
D&R – Main Canal (NJ):
- D&R Canal – Rocky Hill to 10 Mile Lock – Rocky Hill north to just past 10 Mile Lock
- D&R Canal – Rocky Hill South to Rt. 95 (2013) – South, through Princeton.
- D&R Canal – Rocky Hill South to Rt. 95 (2012) – South, through Princeton.
- D&R Canal – Rocky Hill North to Weston Causeway – North to Weston Causeway at Weston Canal Rd and back.
- D&R Canal – Rocky Hill North to Amwell Road – North to Amwell Road and back.
D&R – Feeder Canal (NJ):
- D&R Canal – Lambertville towards Frenchtown – North from Lambertville to Frenchtown, and back.
D&R – Feeder Canal (NJ) with D&L (PA):
- D&R Canal – Lambertville to Frenchtown – North from Lambertville to Frenchtown, NJ, crossing over to Pennsylvania and returning via the D&L through New Hope.
- D&R Canal – Washington Crossing to Stockton – Quiet, pretty canal towpath on the PA side through New Hope then back to Washington Crossing, NJ.
- D&R Canal – Washington Crossing to Trenton – South from Washington Crossing to Trenton, over the Calhoun Bridge, then north from Morrisville, PA.
D&L – (PA):
- D&L Canal – Frenchtown to Riegelsville, PA – Scenic, easy biking and a covered bridge. Starts in NJ at Frenchtown but most of the route is on the D&L.
The Columbia Trail is a shady rail-trail that runs along the Raritan River and through scenic Ken Lockwood Gorge. It passes woods, farms, backyards and a few towns from High Bridge in Hunterdon County to Bartley in Morris County. Available miles: 15
Route info with trail maps, photos and videos:
- Biking: Columbia Trail – Ken Lockwood Gorge 2013
- Biking: Columbia Trail – Ken Lockwood Gorge 2012
- Biking: Columbia Trail – Ken Lockwood Gorge 2011
Columbia Trail Resources:
- Parking lot in High Bridge: N40 40.168 W74 53.781
- Columbia Trail Brochure and Map: Hunterdon County Section – High Bridge to Crestmoore
- Columbia Trail Map– entire trail
- Columbia Trail Map: Morris County Section
Sussex Branch, Paulinskill Valley, and The Great Valley Rail Trail
These three rail trails through rural Sussex County allow for a variety of out-and-backs or use the newer Great Valley Rail trail to create a rugged loop. For one of the best sections, park at Warbasse Junction and stick to an out-and-back on the Paulinskill Valley trail, the most maintained and easiest to ride of all three (but also the busiest).
- Sussex Country Trails map
- Trailink – Great Valley Rail Trail
- Trailink – Paulinskill Valley Trail
- Trailink – Sussex Branch Trail
Route info with photos:
- Biking: Sussex Branch, Paulinskill Valley, and The Great Valley Rail Trail (26 mile loop; rugged)
Henry Hudson Trail
The Henry Hudson Trail (North) is a paved trail on a former rail bed that runs from Keyport to the Atlantic Highlands, and can be connected to the Bayshore Bike Trail. Pass through shady forests and marshlands, past backyards, over boardwalks, with views of Sandy Hook Bay, the Verrazano bridge and the NYC skyline. Available miles: 12
The Henry Hudson Trail (South) is a paved trail in two sections that run from Freehold to Marlboro and Marlboro to Aberdeen. It is not recommended to connect the sections, as the route between them is on a busy road. Available miles: 5 per section.
NOTE: Storm damage has caused closures along the Henry Hudson Trail, check Monmouth County’s park site for the current status.
Route info with trail maps, photos and videos:
- Biking: Henry Hudson Trail (North) and the Bayshore Bike Trail
- Biking: Henry Hudson Trail (South) – Marlboro to Freehold
Henry Hudson Trail Resources:
- Henry Hudson Trail site
- Henry Hudson Trail (North) and Bayshore Bike Trail map
- Henry Hudson Trail (South) Trail Map
Lehigh Gorge State Park – D&L Trail
A few hours from New Jersey is a 25-mile stretch of the Delaware & Lehigh (D&L) rail-trail that runs above the Lehigh River in Lehigh Gorge State Park from Jim Thorpe to White Haven, PA.
Route info and photos:
Lehigh Gorge State Park – D&L Trail Resources:
- Lehigh Gorge State Park – website
- D&L Info (includes trail condition status): delawareandlehigh.org
- D & L Trail – Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail – Trailink
- Lehigh Gorge State Park Trail Map – shows mile markers, parking, and toilets
- Lehigh Gorge Rail-Trail Biking Map – detailed map from one of the bike operators
Recommended Book: Rail-Trails Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York
Old-Timey Fun: Delaware and Raritan Canal Historic Map – Circa 1976 but based on an 1866 geologic map. Also contains info about the canal’s creation. Via Rutgers Special Collection.