Saturday, September 5, 2015

Great Valley Rail Trail, NJ

Sussex County Rail Trails - Sussex County, NJ
Great Valley Rail Trail -

GPS Coordinates 41.08012, -74.77913
Parking lot on Plotts Road.

Rail Trail System - Sussex County, NJ (Not of much use for hiking the trail as there are no signs whatsoever and getting on and off the trail from Plotts Road is not obvious at all.)
Great Valley Rail Trail at EveryTrail

HIKE DISTANCE: 9.2 miles

Start by walking out the parking lot then turning left on Plotts Road.
This area is the Paulinksill River Wildlife Management Area South - although there are no signs that say this and it is not on the map. 
You'll be going under the Great Valley Rail Trail and turning left at the stop sign.
Then turn left at the horseshoe bend.
Looking back at the horseshoe bend after turning left.
Proceed beyond the barrier.  Here is where I thought I was on the Great Valley Rail Trail.  Turns out I was not.  But I think it is OK to be where I was.  I think.
Up to the right is what I thought would be the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail.
I found an access path up to the right and checked, and yes, this is the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail which is a more manicured trail but also a much busier trail.  Been there, done that, back to what I thought was the Great Valley Trail.
Down to the left was another trail which I thought I would take on the return route if I could find a way down there farther along.  It actually moved away and out of sight from where I was.  (Turns out, I later discovered, that is the Great Valley Rail Trail.)
Continuing on what I thought was the Great Valley Rail Trail.
Out of the WMA and into State Park territory, well, down on that lower trail to the left, that is.  I had zoomed in to take this picture.
There is that trail down to the left.  Starting to look more like a rail trail now.
Some ruins on the trail I was on.
Then we came to this open area with a woods road ...
... and a fawn to the left.
Not sure what to do, we continued straight ...
... and the "Private Property" sign pollution started.
Rail trail or gravel road?
Is the gravel road private property or not?
A little bit of a view in a power cut.
The end of the gravel road at Halsey Road.  And what does that sign on the gate say?
So, this is a public road with private property on either side?  I did not want to be trespassing and perhaps I wasn't.  I definitely knew at this point that I had not been on the Great Valley Rail Trail because it did not continue on the other side of Halsey Road.
But turn left down the hill and a short road walk brings to to that yellow barrier which is...
The Great Valley Rail Trail!  And yes, it continues back the way I had come, which was that lower trail I saw.
For now, onward to the end.
Going over Old Stagecoach Road with the Paulins Kill down below.
The trail starts to follow the Paulins Kill.
There are some access paths to go down to river level.
But I made someone stay on the trail and wait because it was too steep down for her.
Parking area at the Morris Turnpike crossing.
Repurposing an old pickup truck as a planter.  How innovative.
Some bikers on the Great Valley Rail Trail.
A parking area at the end of the Great Valley Rail Trail.
Standing in the parking area looking back the way we came, the Great Valley Rail Trail on the left, the Sussex Branch Trail on the right.  But no signs anywhere.
Heading back on the Great Valley Rail Trail.
Some glimpses of the countryside along the way.
I checked out a few more of the paths down to the Paulins Kill ...
... and found one easy enough for Shawnee to get down.
Now her hike is complete.
Back at the yellow gate on Morris Turnpike and ...
... crossing straight over to.  A sign on the gate?
Sigh.  Seriously, the State can't spring for a couple of signs on gates letting you know you what trail you are on that that it is, in fact, a public trail?
Horses to the right.
This is that clearing from earlier in the hike where the fawn was.
An inviting-looking road goes to the right and there is a bridge over the Paulins Kill.  It is the only place I did not see "Private Property" signs but it sure did look like private property so I only went in a few steps...
... to take a picture.  But later saw on the map that it looks like a road, not somebody's driveway.  I think.
Continuing on...
Looking to the left, a clear shot of the various levels.  Spirol Road is where I was at the on the way out.
Once things start getting overgrown ...
... and you can see your car down below in the lot ...
... you've probably missed cutting over to Spirol Road, which you need to do, because you can't get back to your car this way and end up on that overpass.
We backtracked a short distance until we found a side trail (where Shawnee is standing) back to Spirol road.  This picture is looking at Spirol Road with the trail coming in from the Great Valley Rail Trail.  In other words, if you wanted to directly access the Great Valley Rail Trail from the Plotts Road parking lot, you would turn left where Shawnee is standing.  Not knowing this at the beginning, we had gone straight, which is the more obvious path.
The you walk out by the barrier ...
... keeping to the right all the way back to ...
... where you need to be to get back to the parking area.


  1. Totally frustrating when there are no signs. I mean why even bother to establish a Rail Trail if it's going to be impossible to find. Seems like there is no coordination between the trail-makers and whoever is responsible to putting up signage.

    That being said, I'm usually not a fan of Rail Trails since they are almost always out-and back, unless I can figure out some other way to get back to my starting point. There's a nice one in Eastern Pa called Ironton Rail Trail which is a 5 to 8 mile loop depending how you do it. It's mostly gravel and blacktop, may be a little too "Paved" for you and Shawnee.

    1. When I got tired of waiting around for others to go hiking with me years ago and decided to venture out on my own, I started on rail trails because I could not get lost on them - thank goodness the Great Valley Rail Trail did not exist at that time, LOL! This one did appeal to me now because it was more of a footpath and I did actually make a lollipop loop out of it! And I needed to stay close to home and am running out of close to home places that I haven't been to yet.


  2. We did a loop including the Great Valley Rail Trail via bike and it certainly is an adventure that could use some signage!

    1. I read about that on your site, Dawn, and was thinking about you the entire hike. What I showed here is the cleaned up version. Poor old Shawnee got dragged around an extra mile trying to figure out where to go next, road walking, ending up in someone's driveway... Yes, nothing fancy, a little blaze or arrow here and there would suffice. At least they mow the Great Valley Rail Trail. Could be worse!