High Bridge has the only such mountain bike trails in New Jersey
Located near the Nassau and Columbia trail networks, High Bridge – a borough with a booming downtown surrounded by the lush landscapes of Hunterdon County – has long been the epicenter of hiking, running and mountain biking.
However, the addition in early 2020 of two new mountain bike trails—the only free trails of their kind in the state—has made High Bridge even more of an outdoor destination.
High Bridge is home to the first free ATV-only downhill trails in the state, thanks to a collaboration between the borough, a nonprofit ATV group, and a trail design and construction company.
With these trails, mountain bikers climb about half a mile. Then they can ride the Green Flash or Blue Steel trails (the former is better suited for beginners), without having to dodge people doing other sports or mountain bikers going in the opposite direction.
The trails are more like a bike park than cross-country ski trails, said Ken Seebeck, executive director of the Jersey Off Road Bicycle Association, or JORBA, the nonprofit that helped fund the trails.
“The idea of a flow trail is that you’re going down and you don’t have to pedal, so it’s a really fun feeling,” Seebeck continued. “It’s this feeling of freewheeling, freedom and fluidity. Mountain biking is a tough sport – when you pedal, the reward diminishes.
However, Justin Lax, a Stockton resident and president of trail design and construction company Avid Trails, saw these kinds of trails across the United States – which inspired him to bring the trails to High Bridge.
“We travel all over the country working on projects — places where these trails are growing rapidly,” he said. “It works everywhere else, like Bentonville, Ark., which has a robust trail system…It’s all centered around one town and you can just grab a beer and a burger after your ride.”
As local residents know, it looks a lot like High Bridge.
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The 15-mile Columbia Rail Trail begins there, and the Nassau Trail System—which has 27 trails covering 10 miles—is also found here. Much like a downtown scene with restaurants, shops and a brewery.
“Like, I live two hours away so I’m not going to come just to do flow trail,” Seebeck said. “But if I know I can get through the day, hike the Nassau and Columbia trails as well, maybe have lunch in Circa afterwards, then that becomes a destination. High Bridge (a) the infrastructure for this outdoor experience.
Lax approached both the borough and JORBA with his idea to create the trails at High Bridge in 2019. JORBA then contributed $15,000, and Avid Trails and JORBA held fundraisers to raise the remaining $15,000. . Avid Trails donated labor, time, and design work to complete the trails.
When the pandemic hit New Jersey around the time the trails were scheduled to open in April 2020, it seemed dire. It quickly proved otherwise as people rushed to spend more time outdoors.
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“Our business came to an abrupt halt as the shutdown began, and two months later we became busier than ever before,” Lax said. “It was a perfect match for this huge increase in outdoor recreation out of necessity.”
People young and old come from all parts of the tri-state area to hike the trails, Laxsaid.
“We have as many local kids on budget bikes riding these trails, developing their skills and becoming passionate, as we have adults on $7,000 bikes,” he said. “When I go to the top of the hill and I see that person up there, who’s not jaded and deep in space but who’s just smiling ear to ear, I think that’s when- there that you realize it should be something happening elsewhere too.
Go: Parking is at 79 Main Street, High Bridge. More information is at trailforks.com/region/commons-flow-trails-37669/.
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member of the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, having become a blogger-turned-journalist after founding her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to his stories on eat, drink and have funplease subscribe or activate your digital account today.